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Reading Comprehension in Secondary Social Studies

Harry Olenick
Franciscan University of Steubenville

Reading comprehension or the intentional thinking during which meaning is constructed

through interactions between text and reader (Reutzel & Cooter, 2012, p. 259) may seem like an

abstract, inaccessible concept. Although a majority of elementary school teachers attempt to

incorporate reading comprehension instruction into daily language arts activities and lessons, a

disparity in the role, frequency, and use of reading comprehension emerges within secondary

content areas such as social studies (Ness, 2009). While many reports show that numerous

teachers develop negative and apathetic attitudes towards its inclusion in instruction, curriculum,

and activities (Brown, 2007; McCulley & Osman, 2015; Ness, 2009; Tejero Hughes & Parker-

Katz, 2013), research promotes the incorporation of reading comprehension instruction as a

means to improve student learning, understanding, and application of content knowledge

(Massey & Heafner, 2004; McCulley & Osman, 2015; Ness, 2009; Swanson, Wanzek, Vaughn,

Roberts, & Fall, 2015; Tejero Hughes & Parker-Katz, 2013). Therefore, secondary social studies

teachers must reflect and evaluate how proper structure, modeling, instruction, and integration of

various reading comprehension concepts, skills, and strategies can potentially increase student

knowledge and success.


While reading comprehension is an essential skill that is introduced and fostered within

early grades and supported throughout middle and secondary language arts curriculums, it is not

consistently promoted within secondary content area classrooms such as social studies. This

research will focus on the role of reading comprehension within social studies. The following

questions will be posed to further this research: How often do secondary social studies teachers

utilize and develop comprehension strategies within the classroom? What prevailing attitudes do

these educators have toward teaching comprehension? What are some effective activities and

methods through which reading comprehension can be promoted within social studies?

There are two main methodological approaches that will be utilized in answering these

questions. First, this research will examine empirical and non-empirical articles, journals, and

case studies. These resources may provide relevant and valuable information and statistics

regarding the frequency of and reactions to comprehension instruction in relation to social

studies content. Further, this information may yield suggested activities, pedagogy, skills, and

strategies designed to enhance and increase reading comprehension instruction. Second, an

observational case study will be conducted in a local high school civics class through the

Franciscan University Field Experience program. This research may generate similar information

and data as the empirical and non-empirical articles. However, these firsthand encounters and

observations may provide clarity and insight.

I hypothesize that this research will reveal that reading comprehension is widely

neglected or absent within secondary social studies classrooms; the frequency of instruction will

be low or nonexistent. Educators are likely pressed for time and worried about presenting content

rather than comprehension skills and strategies. I predict that these factors will translate into a

general apathy and perhaps pessimism. However, I believe that effective, meaningful activities

and techniques exist that can be easily integrated into social studies content. I postulate that their

implementation can increase student learning and achievement.

Review of Literature

Massey and Heafner (2004) identify a discord between promoting reading comprehension

and teaching social studies content; they suggest that many middle school educators believe it is

their sole responsibility to provide social studies content, not reading instruction. However,

Massey and Heafner counter argue that reading comprehension is a vital skill through which

students develop historical understanding skills- the ability to evaluate, analyze, and synthesize

historical evidence (p. 28). Therefore, using their own personal experiences, the authors suggest

six reader strategies and corresponding teaching techniques through which reading

comprehension can be fostered and promoted. These strategies and techniques are subdivided

into three categories: pre-reading, during reading, and post reading. Each are designed to help

students make connections to their own background knowledge; demonstrate the purposes and

structures of a variety of social studies text including primary and secondary sources, textbooks,

and fictional works; keep information and content organized while making connections to other

topics and texts; and monitor comprehension through questions, discussions, and the production

of meaningful artifacts.

This article is well written, carefully organized, and reader friendly; it clearly and

concisely outlines the suggested reader strategies, teaching techniques, and corresponding

rationale for their use. In order to add consistency and show the diversity of reading

comprehension within social studies, the authors use one main theme (the American Revolution)

to demonstrate pre-reading, during reading, and post reading applications for individual lessons

or whole units. While this article is an excellent source for individual and group reading

comprehension activities, it lacks concrete, quantitative evidence to support its claims; the

authors did not provide statistical results that these strategies and techniques enhanced reading

comprehension and overall learning. It would be beneficial to experiment with these strategies

and techniques in a scientific, systematic manner in order to gain a better understanding of their

impact and resourcefulness. Overall, this article discusses a valid educational concern while

providing useful tips and applications towards remedying the situation within ones own


Ness (2009) conducted an incredibly interesting case study that focused on reading

comprehension within middle and high school social studies and science classrooms. This

studys specific goal was to identify the frequency of reading comprehension instruction and to

explore teachers perceptions of and beliefs about its role in content area classrooms (p. 143).

The author began by discussing and defining the National Reading Panels (NRPs) eight reading

comprehension strategies, which served as a guide for observing authentic reading

comprehension pedagogy in the specified settings. Eight teachers representing both middle and

high school social studies and science content areas were chosen from a rural school. For phase

one of this study, these educators were observed for thirty minutes at a time for a total of five

hours. During observation, the educators were instructed to conduct class as they normally would

while the researcher quietly made notes, observations, and recordings. For phase two, the

teachers participated in an hour long interview in which they discussed what reading

comprehension was and entailed in addition to their personal views and uses of it. The articles

ultimate findings reported, In 2,400 minutes of instruction, a total of 82 minutes of reading

comprehension instruction occurred (p. 152) Furthermore, phase one revealed that instruction

occurred in middle school more often than high school and in social studies more often than

science. When this instruction did take place, it incorporated only three of the eight NRP reading

comprehension strategies. Phase two concluded that teachers did not implement these strategies

due to the following reasons: a focus on content and test preparation; belief that it was not a part

of their job duties as a content teacher; and a lack of knowledge, training, and experience with

reading comprehension instruction.


The article provides great detail as to who participated in the case study, how they were

chosen, the settings in which the observations took place, the duration and frequency of each

observation, the coding system and processes used to gather data, and the methodology used to

analyze the results. While explaining these components, the author provides thoughtful rationale

supporting her reasoning behind each decision. One can tell that she strived to make the case

study objective and thorough. However, as the author herself stated, this case study is far from

finished. For instance, this study narrows in on a fairly specific experimental group. The

experiment needs to be replicated on a broader scale in which teachers from all backgrounds and

contexts are observed. I believe the author should include intervention specialists. One should

observe the frequency and methods of and reaction to reading comprehension instruction in

inclusion and resource classrooms. The frequency and attitudes may be quite different than other

settings. The author also suggests areas for further research. For example, one may ask whether

the students knowledge and achievement rates will increase and improve if one integrates more

reading comprehension strategies into content area classes. Overall, this article provides useful

qualitative and quantitative data that can be used to gain a better understanding of the occurrence

and application of reading comprehension in social studies classrooms.

Tejero and Parker-Katz (2013) argue that content area educators must become familiar

with and use reading instruction and strategies to increase student comprehension, learning, and

overall achievement. This publication supports the widely agreed upon notion that general

education social studies courses lack reading comprehension instruction due to time constraints,

a primary focus on content, teacher apathy, and a lack of proper pedagogical preparation and

development. The authors state that the purpose of this present work is to provide examples,

resources, and tips for incorporating reading comprehension instruction, strategies, and skills into

everyday social studies curriculum. The authors acknowledge that this integration will benefit all

students; however, they continue, Students with LD [learning disabilities] are provided with

support to access text even when the special education teacher is not present in the classroom to

provide individualized assistance (p. 93). The articles resources, tips, and evidence-based

strategies are divided into convenient sections: prior to reading and engaged in the reading

process and post reading. These sections describe various reading comprehension pedagogies

through scenarios and examples of usage; the authors discuss the following reading

comprehension instructional methods and strategies: anticipation guides, LINK, reading keys

bookmark/interactive bookmark, pyramid diagrams, text-structure discussions, reading guides,

stop and process self monitoring, and question generation. At the close of the article, the

authors maintain that integrating these activities and strategies will increase learning for all

students, especially those with LD. The authors conclude by suggesting educators remain aware

of three criteria for the success of strategy instruction: teacher commitment to learn a range of

strategies, how well teachers can model their own strategic thinking and use of the strategies, and

how well students are convinced strategies are useful (p. 103).

This article provided a well-written rationale as to why students with LD can benefit from

increased reading comprehension instruction in content area classrooms such as social studies.

This rationale was cleanly organized and presented throughout the article but two sections-

characteristics of students with learning disabilities and instruction in content area classrooms-

are worthy of note. The former explained why students with LD might struggle with social

studies content and nonfiction/expository text. The latter detailed the current methods,

approaches, insights, and possible difficulties in social studies. Both of these are relevant to the

present action research project. In addition, this article provides two incredibly useful charts. One

outlines four of the discussed strategies while the other is a guide for integrating comprehension

instruction into content area classrooms. The latter offers characteristics of expository text and

reflective questions for educators to consider when lesson planning. Both of these charts will be

included in this action research. This article is not perfect. The authors could include more

quantitative evidence to support their findings. While they use evidence-based strategies to

support their point, they do not discuss or evaluate the evidence. It would be beneficial to

conduct or include an objective case study or experiment through which student test scores and

learning can be quantifiably measured. In this way, the authors may solidify their argument that

the integration of reading comprehension instruction in social studies enhances learning. Overall,

this article is a useful rationale and resource through which one can study effective strategies and


Does reading instruction have a positive impact on learning and comprehension within

social studies classrooms? Which instructional methods are useful and beneficial for increased

student success? McCulley and Osman (2015) created a study examining the identifiable

deficiency between reading comprehension instruction, content instruction, and overall student

learning. The authors, in solidarity with so many others, argue that reading instruction is

sacrificed in content area classrooms as a result of an emphasis on content rather than reading

pedagogy; an inaccessibility of content from textbooks and primary sources due to advanced

reading levels and text elements; a reliance on lectures and empty reading tasks; a belief that

reading instruction is a wasteful use of time and effort; and an absence or improper

implementation of training or support in a teachers own educational career and coursework. The

authors state, The purpose of this synthesis is to extend the findings of previous syntheses and

report both descriptive data and quantitative effects of literacy interventions provided within

general education middle and high school social studies instruction on reading comprehension

and/or content learning (p. 185). In other words, this article is a compilation of previously

conducted quantifiable experiments and research; the authors want to examine these in order to

evaluate the effect of reading instruction on both reading comprehension and content knowledge

acquisition. The authors reviewed nearly two hundred and fifty articles; they selected eight that

fit their criteria and another four were discovered after sifting through references. These studies

examined the following reading instructions and activities: strategy-monitoring sheets, K-W-L

strategy, SQ3R (survey, question, read, recite, and review) strategy, hierarchical summary, CBI

(concept-based instruction), partner reading and activities, computerized study guides, MRT

(modified reciprocal teaching), RLH (Reading Like a Historian) curriculum, and direct text-

focused and reading skill instruction. The findings indicated, Implementing reading instruction

in general education social studies classes was associated with improved social studies learning

outcomes and reading outcomes (p. 191). The authors provided brief rationales as to why and

how each strategy benefits and aids the student in reading comprehension and learning outcomes.

This article was thorough and well organized. Each section logically progressed and

flowed into the next. One could easily see the authors thought process, purpose, and ultimate

goal. This article is useful in that it does a great deal of legwork; it conveniently compiles a

group of empirical, quantitative research and evidence supporting the inclusion of reading

comprehension instruction and activities in general education social studies classrooms. The

selected studies are systematically explained and include the use of treatment and comparison

(control) groups to add validity and reliability; the instructional method, reasoning, experiment,

and outcomes are presented. The authors include two extremely valuable tables summarizing

important information from these selected studies. One chart details the frequency and duration

of reading instruction and includes the reading material used; the other summarizes the type of

instruction or activity, the outcome measured, how it was measured, and the findings. The

authors recognize that limitations exist within the findings and state, more rigorous quantitative

research is needed to further understand the causal effects of literacy practices in social studies

settings (p. 183). While the article is well written, there are sections with which the average

reader will struggle. For instance, the methodology and codifying parts use large amounts of

technical jargon, research specific terminology, and formulas. This information is necessary but

without a more detailed explanation, it is not beneficial. Further, the official scores and results of

each study are not meaningful to the average reader. One understands that reading instruction

improved the test scores of the treatment groups, who outperformed the comparison group.

However, the quantified evidence itself carries little meaning without a subsequent explanation.

Overall, this article is an excellent resource that summarizes a disparity in social studies

curriculum, steps for remedying the problem, and evidence to support their implementation.


While the majority of the research for this study comes from empirical and non-empirical

articles, the present methodology also includes an observational case study conducted through

Franciscan Universitys Field Experience program. The following is a description of the program

provided by Franciscan University of Steubenville (2015):

[It] is a field-based experience for students to begin to address the competencies of the

specific licensure area sought (early childhood, adolescent to young adult, or

mild/moderate intervention specialist and multi-aged license)Students are provided

with the opportunity to study and become directly involved with curriculum materials and

technology, diagnostic and prescriptive procedures, and methods of instruction that are

developmentally appropriate for the licensure area sought, and to ensure increased

proficiency in teaching responsibilities as outlined by the specific ODE [Ohio

Department of Education] curriculum models. (p. 145)

Each student enrolled in this program is placed within a local school according to his or her

licensure. Over the course of one semester, the student is required to complete 60 hours of

observation and interactive experience including the writing, planning, and instruction of two

lesson plans. These hours are divided into two visits per week over the course of 10 weeks. In

other words, students spend an average of three hours in the classroom two times per week for 10


In my personal situation, I was paired with an intervention specialist in a nearby high

school. Within the timeframe of my visits, my cooperating teacher taught one intervention civics

and two intervention language arts courses and had his planning period. Each high school student

within these classrooms had an individual education program or IEP; the class as a whole

received modified instruction and assignments according to Ohios curriculum and the Common

Core standards. Within 60 hours of observation and experience, an average of 1,000 minutes

(approximately 17 hours) was spent within the civics classroom; the remaining time was

dedicated to the planning and language arts periods.

The observed civics periods were analyzed to determine the frequency and amount of and

response to explicit reading comprehension skills and strategies instruction. This information

was collected through note taking and personal reflection of the field experience program. This

methodology will aid this research as a comparative artifact; the findings will either support or

diverge from the claims and conclusions of the selected literature.


The findings presented are compiled from the referenced literature and the observational

case study. The findings will be organized into three parts, each addressing one of the proposed

questions: How often do secondary social studies teachers utilize and develop comprehension

strategies within the classroom? What prevailing attitudes do these educators have toward

teaching comprehension? What are some effective activities and methods through which reading

comprehension can be promoted within social studies?

Ness (2009) conducted a case study examining reading comprehension within both

secondary social studies and science settings. One major goal of the study was to examine the

extent to which secondary teachers included explicit comprehension strategies in routine

classroom instruction (Ness, 2009, p.146). The participants for this research included four

middle school and four high school instructors; each grade band contained two social studies and

two science representatives (Ness, 2009). The ultimate findings concluded, In 2,400 minutes of

instruction, a total of 82 minutes of reading comprehension instruction occurred. Thusreading

comprehension instruction comprised only 3% of classroom observations (Ness, 2009, p. 152).

Figure 1 depicts the total time committed to reading comprehension instruction in comparison to

other instructional approaches.


Figure 1 Percentage breakdown of classroom instruction by Ness (2009)

However, this pie chart represents reading comprehension across both the social studies

and science disciplines. In order to analyze the frequency of reading comprehension instruction

within social studies alone, one needs to examine the individual results of each observational

setting. Table 1 summarizes these findings according to the number of minutes each teacher

dedicated to the inclusion of explicit non-comprehension and comprehension instruction. Table 2

provides an explanation of the code used to represent the variety of non-comprehension and

comprehension instructional strategies, activities, and modeling represented in Table 1.

The highlighted columns in Table 1 indicate the middle and high school socials studies

teachers. By using the code system, one can see that only Teacher 4, one of the middle school

social studies teachers, incorporated reading comprehension instruction into her classroom. In

the 300 minutes of observation conducted, Teacher 4 dedicated only 60 minutes or 20% of her

time to direct reading comprehension instruction (Ness, 2009). Within the 1,200 minutes of

observation conducted in all the social studies settings, explicit reading comprehension

constituted a mere 5% of instruction (Ness, 2009). Overall, these findings imply a relative

absence of reading comprehension instruction within secondary social studies.

Table 1 Breakdown of classroom instruction across eight participants by Ness (2009)

Table 2 Classroom observation coding system by Ness (2009)


In my own observational study conducted through Franciscan Universitys Field

Experience program, a total of 1,000 minutes was spent within a secondary social studies setting.

The majority of that time was spent on non-comprehension instruction and activities such as

PowerPoint presentations, note taking, and review games. When taking notes in the typical class

period, students copied bolded or highlighted text directly from the PowerPoint onto pre-made

note sheets. However, at the request of the school administration, my cooperating teacher

implemented Cornell Notes, which encourages students to analyze, question, distinguish key

terms and concepts, and summarize. He took away the bolded and highlighted text on the

presentation and explained to his students the setup, process, and reasoning behind the Cornell

Notes method. This lesson comprised 50 minutes of explicit reading comprehension instruction

within the total 1,000 minutes spent observing the social studies setting. Thus, this study, in

solidarity with Ness (2009), produced a 5% rate or occurrence of explicit reading comprehension

instruction within secondary social studies (J. Leasure, personal communication, September 9,

2015). Figure 2 represents this finding.

5% (50 min)

95% (950 min)

Figure 2 Pedagogy frequency observed in the Franciscan University Field Experience

After conducting their own studies or analyzing existing findings, many researchers

suggest numerous reasons for this general absence of reading comprehension instruction within

secondary social studies (McCulley & Osman, 2015; Ness, 2009; Tejero Hughes & Parker-Katz,

2013). Research indicates that secondary social studies educators focus more on content

knowledge transmission and acquisition than reading comprehension pedagogy (McCulley &

Osman, 2015; Ness, 2009; Tejero Hughes & Parker-Katz, 2013). It is argued that broad,

extensive content standards and rigorous state standardized testing contribute to a pessimism or

indifference toward reading comprehension instruction (McCulley & Osman, 2015; Ness, 2009).

These factors push secondary social studies educators to consider themselves content experts or

specialists, whose primary instructional responsibility is to cover the standards not reading

comprehension strategies and skills (McCulley & Osman, 2015; Ness, 2009). In the interview

portion of Ness (2009), Teacher 8, one of the high school social studies participants, stated,

Content area teachers don't have time to teach students how to read. We have to get them to get

the content. As long as they can read and answer the questions on the SOL test [Standards of

Learning test for Virginia], I don't worry about reading (p. 157).

Moreover, research implies that many secondary social studies instructors lack the

foundational training, knowledge, and confidence to implement reading comprehension

instruction within their classrooms (McCulley & Osman, 2015; Ness, 2009; Tejero Hughes &

Parker-Katz, 2013). It is suggested that secondary social studies undergraduate programs provide

inadequate emphasis on or complete omission of formal reading comprehension coursework,

study, and discussion (McCulley & Osman, 2015; Tejero Hughes & Parker-Katz, 2013). The

interview portion of Ness (2009) supported this point; one of the middle school educators

offered, My students have to be able to read. However, I'm not qualified to teach them how to

read. In my training, I didn't learn to teach children to read. I never felt comfortable working with

reading" (p. 157). McCulley and Osman (2015) added that the minimal reading comprehension

theory and pedagogy introduced in pre-service programs might be deemed an inefficient means

to teach content knowledge once the candidates become practicing teachers (p. 184). Tejero

Hughes and Parker-Katz (2013) continued that this exclusion might result from a belief that

[reading comprehension] strategies may not appear to align with the tenets and structures of

their discipline (p. 95).

Finally, research indicates that complex text features, structures, and reading level

contribute to a reluctance to incorporate reading comprehension into social studies curriculum

(McCulley & Osman, 2015). Jones (1988) reported that in social studies, approximately up to

95 percent of content comes directly from textbooks (as cited in Tejero Hughes & Parker-Katz,

2013, p. 94). While many teachers rely on this source, Tejero Hughes and Parker-Katz (2013)

noted that students struggle to learn from textbooks as a result of above-grade level readability,

new text structure and organization, poor background knowledge, and dense technical jargon and

academic language. Although it contains a special emphasis on intervention and success for

English Language Learners, Brown (2007), in agreement with Tejero Hughes and Parker Katz

(2013), suggested that syntax, readability, vocabulary, and complicated contextual clues cloud a

students comprehension of textbooks. This issue is further aggravated when students are

required to examine and utilize a variety of primary sources that feature archaic language,

syntax, and writing style (Massey & Heafner, 2004). With the demanding, inaccessible nature of

both textbooks and primary sources in mind, McCulley and Osman (2015) proposed, many

secondary social studies teachers may rely on lecture and avoid regular use of text, or simply

assign reading tasks to students with little regard for students abilities to comprehend it (p.

184). Thus, secondary social studies educators may avoid challenging text and explicit

instruction of reading comprehension in favor of non-comprehension strategies that aid in

presenting content knowledge and covering standards (McCulley & Osman, 2015).

Although a formal, extensive interview was not conducted in my own study through

Franciscan Universitys Field Experience program, general attitudes regarding reading

comprehension instruction and Cornell Notes were observed. The cooperating teacher was

clearly reluctant to introduce the new note-taking method because his students were comfortable

with the current routine and procedure (J. Leasure, personal communication, September 9, 2015).

Furthermore, he remarked that the methodology seemed tedious, redundant, and meaningless to

content knowledge acquisition; he preferred his normal, non-comprehensive approach of

presenting a PowerPoint while the students copied bolded terms and concepts (J. Leasure,

personal communication, September 9, 2015). In this instance, these observations supported the

empirical and non-empirical articles conclusions that secondary social studies teachers shy away

from reading comprehension instruction in order to focus on content knowledge and standards (J.

Leasure, personal communication, September 9, 2015).

While a shortage of reading comprehension instruction and corresponding general

negativity or indifference towards its inclusion exists within secondary social studies, researchers

outline several methods, activities, strategies, and skills that can benefit comprehension and

overall student learning (Massey & Heafner, 2004; McCulley & Osman, 2015; Swanson,

Wanzek, Vaughn, Roberts, & Fall, 2015; Tejero Hughes & Parker-Katz, 2013).

For instance, Massey and Heafner (2004) summarized the Scaffolded Reading

Experience (SRE) framework, in which teachers scaffold, model, and practice reading

comprehension instruction with the students until students become independent


learners[who] are able to monitor their own comprehension (p. 27). This guiding principle

helped to establish six reading strategies for students with related teacher methodologies

designed to support their instruction and incorporation (Massey & Heafner, 2004). Table 3

condenses these suggested reading strategies according to pre-reading, during reading, and post

reading categories. Table 3 also includes the teaching technique associated with each skill.

Swanson, Wanzek, Vaughn, Roberts, and Fall (2015) conducted a study to determine the

effect of explicit reading comprehension instruction on the learning outcomes of middle school

students with disabilities. The following experiment used the Promoting Acceleration of

Comprehension and Content Through Text (PACT) intervention which centers on improving

comprehension through text reading, connecting new text-based learning to prior learning, and

applying new knowledge to unique problem-solving activities completed in cooperative groups

(Swanson, et al., 2015, p. 427). The following reading comprehension activities associated with

PACT intervention were used within this study: comprehension canopy, essential words, warm-

up, knowledge acquisition, and team-based learning including comprehension checks and

knowledge application (Swanson et al., 2015). Ultimately, the findings indicated, Students with

disabilities who participated in general education social studies instruction implemented using

PACT practices demonstrated significantly higher content knowledge than students with

disabilities who participated in typical-practice general education social studies instruction

(Swanson et al., 2015, p. 439). Thus, reading comprehension instruction within social studies

increased student learning and achievement (Swanson et al., 2015).


Table 3 Reading comprehension strategies and methodologies by Massey and Heafner (2004)

After reviewing 239 article abstracts, McCulley and Osman (2015) selected 12 existing

studies that focused on determining the efficacy of reading comprehension instruction in social

studies. Six studies examined the effect of utilizing reading comprehension strategies within

social studies instruction on content knowledge acquisition; four studies surveyed the effect on

reading comprehension outcomes; and two studies measured the impact on both content

acquisition and reading comprehension (McCulley & Osman, 2015). In all 12 studies,

information and data gathered from observation, assessments, carefully designed activities, or

comparison groups determined that students using reading comprehension strategies and skills

increased their content knowledge, reading comprehension, or both content knowledge and

reading comprehension (McCulley & Osman, 2015). Thus, reading comprehension instruction

had a positive impact on student learning within social studies (McCulley & Osman, 2015). The

following is a list of the reading comprehension pedagogies, strategies, skills, or activities

examined: self-questioning, strategy monitoring worksheets, KWL (Know, Want to know,

Learned) Strategy, SQ3R (survey, question, read, recite, review) Strategy, hierarchical summary

activities, concept-based instruction (CBI), partner activities and discussion, heuristic-focused


instruction, GeoLiteracy for English Learners lessons, computerized study guides, modified

reciprocal teaching (MRT), Reading Like a Historian (RLH) curriculum, and adapted team-based

learning activities (McCulley & Osman, 2015).

Finally, Tejero Hughes and Parker-Katz (2013) asserted that teachers must be prepared to

differentiate instruction, meet the needs of every learner, present content, and teach students how

to learn. Therefore, in order to assist teachers that lack knowledge or feel ill equipped and

unprepared to integrate reading comprehension instruction with content area curriculum, Tejero

Hughes and Parker-Katz (2013) suggested multiple strategies and activities commonly used by

experienced secondary social studies teachers. Figure 3 (found in Appendix A) summarizes four

main instructional activities and approaches used to teach reading comprehension within social

studies courses; it briefly explains the purpose and essential information of each (Tejero Hughes

& Parker-Katz, 2013). Tejero and Parker Katz (2013) categorize each according to its place in

pre-reading or during and after reading instruction. In addition to text-structure discussions, the

anticipation guides can be utilized as pre-reading comprehension activities (Tejero Hughes &

Parker-Katz, 2013). During reading and after reading comprehension strategies and lessons

include stop and process strategies, question generation, reading guides, LINK (list, inquire,

note, and know), interactive readings key bookmark, and pyramid diagrams (Tejero Hughes &

Parker-Katz, 2013). Tejero Hughes and Parker-Katz (2013) also provided Figure 4 (found in

Appendix B), which is designed to aid teachers in differentiating instruction and continuing

professional growth and development. Tejero Hughes and Parker-Katz (2013) further explained

the purpose of Figure 4:

We provide information about two major elements central to comprehension of

expository text: learning text features and learning text structures. We offer questions

teachers might ask themselves as they plan their instruction and questions they might ask

themselves while they teach students about particular expository text elements (p. 96-97).


While the current research is not universally conclusive, there is an identifiable

deficiency in the frequency, implementation, and attitudes regarding reading comprehension

instruction within secondary social studies courses. It is the suggestion of this research that a

more detailed review and analysis of the presented findings and literature occur. The selected

articles and references provide more useful information, tips, strategies, and insight into reading

comprehension instruction within social studies than was utilized for this research; one may read

the selected works to further his or her knowledge or pedagogy, personally check for validity, or

examine one claim or conclusion more closely.

It is also the suggestion of this research that one examines additional articles, journals,

experiments, and case studies. This research is not an exhaustive compilation of all the published

studies and theories. One may wish to examine different viewpoints, findings, and conclusions. It

is recommended that one surveys and studies the references cited and used in the selected articles

in addition to searching for new literature. While this present research introduced the topic, more

information is needed to determine the frequency and reception of reading comprehension

instruction within secondary social studies. By conducting further research, one may gain better

insight into the types of reading comprehension strategies, skills, and modeling that exist and

their respective impact and effect on student content knowledge acquisition and learning


Moreover, the observational case study conducted through the Franciscan University

Field Experience program had limitations. First, the case study lacked an extensive look at

reading comprehension instruction within social studies; it only considered one instructional

setting. This research may benefit from a larger experimental sample including a variety of social

studies courses, multiple grade levels within the secondary grade bands, and different types of

schools such as rural, suburban, urban, public, and private. Second, this methodology lacked a

formal, detailed interview to establish the cooperating teachers attitudes and reactions toward

the inclusion of reading comprehension instruction. While notes were gathered regarding these

aspects, the cooperating teacher should be interviewed to determine his foundational

understanding, educational background, professional experience, and personal interpretations.

Interviews should be an integral part of observational case studies or experiments. Finally, the

Franciscan University Field Experience observations omitted a formative measurement or

evaluation of the impact of the Cornell Notes implementation. It is proposed that future research

consider the overall influence and effect of reading comprehension instruction on student

learning through quantifiable, measurable activities, assessments, and evaluations of

experimental and comparison group performances.

In conclusion, it is the ultimate suggestion of this research to continue the study of the

frequency, role, and efficacy of reading comprehension instruction within secondary social

studies. By following the above advice, educators may further their knowledge, pedagogical

understanding, and professional development. All secondary social studies teachers should

reflect on their own practice by considering evidence-based reading comprehension skills,

strategies, and modeling and their effects on student learning. Thereby, instruction may be

differentiated and student success and achievement may increase.



Brown, C. L. (2007). Strategies for making social studies texts more comprehensible for English

language learners. Social Studies, 98(5), 185-188.

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Appendix A

Figure 3 Reading comprehension activities by Tejero Hughes and Paker-Katz (2013)


Appendix B

Figure 4 Structure and Features of Expository Text by Tejero Hughes and Parker-Katz (2013)