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Reading Strategies Across the Curriculum

Below are some practical ways you can incorporate important reading strategies into your classroom, no matter what subject you teach! Think about how you can use the different activities with your specific curriculum.


Introduce vocabulary terms before beginning a unit or lesson. Discuss how the root word, prefix, or suffix offers a "clue" to the meaning of the word.

Have students guess the meaning of the list of words on a sheet of paper. Next to their guess, ask them to write down the "clue" that helped them determine the meaning. Next, pass around a handout that gives students the correct definition of each word along with the "clue" or "clues" (prefix, suffix, or root word). Allow students to share their meaning and "clue" for each word, then share the actual definitions. To add a fun element to the activity, offer peppermints or red tickets (incentives) for students who get the definition correct. You could also offer a prize to the student with the most creative definition, logical reasoning, or creative "clues" for each word. This will encourage students to take risks in guessing the meaning and show them that you reward effort as much as correctness.

If you feel that students need to write the word and definition to help with understanding, have students write the definition for each term in their own words and apply it in a sentence for homework or an assignment due at the end of the week.

In the beginning students will be confused and may resist for fear that they are "wrong", but the more you do this activity, the more comfortable students will become and you should see an improvement in their guesses throughout the year.

Create a word-wall for important terms. You can keep the word wall up all year, or change it for each unit of study. Another option is to create portable word walls for each unit using tri-fold display boards. These can be moved around the room easily or folded up and put away when not needed. Upper-level teachers may have one board for each course they teach. A permanent word wall might include terms that are needed all year while portable word walls would show the important terms for a specific unit.

A word wall is easy to create. Simply divide a section of your classroom wall or the display board into columns for each letter of the alphabet. You might need several rows to accommodate all 26 letters. Then, using Velcro or sticky-tape, place a laminated card with each letter in the appropriate column/row. As new terms are introduced, write them on laminated construction paper or cardstock and stick them under the appropriate letter. Older students could keep a vocabulary notebook with a "word-wall" of their own inside.

Clap the syllables of each new word to help students remember it. Another way to help students remember a word is to either rap it or sing a song with it. A neat site that has more information about singing to remember words is Jazzles.

Reading a Textbook

Use reading objectives to help focus the purpose of student reading

(Locate information from a non-fiction reading - such as a textbook chapter or subchapter) Create a scavenger hunt of questions for students to answer when reading through a chapter or subchapter of a textbook. Students can work in groups or pairs, reading aloud (quietly) and helping each other locate the answers or individually. A scavenger hunt is also a fun homework assignment.

Alternative for older students: Have students read through a subchapter or section of the chapter as a group, in pairs, or individually and create their own scavenger hunt questions. Compile the questions for the entire class to complete. The Scavenger Hunt also works well for a take-home assessment activity.

ACTIVITY: (Sequencing)
There are several good sequencing activities that you can use in the classroom. When learning a scientific procedure or math equation, students can write out the steps to completing the procedure/solving the problem and then write a "How To" essay explaining the specific steps.

When reading about a historical era or events, students can create an illustrated timeline to show the correct sequencing of events during that time. Another fun way to present this information is through a storyboard. A storyboard utilizes more illustrations than words, but can incorporate both.

After students read a chapter about a scientific procedure, math equation or historical time period, give students (or student groups) an envelope with the events, steps, etc. on slips of paper. Have students close their books and put the events/steps in correct order. This can also be done with large butcher paper or sentence strips.

ACTIVITY: (Fact / Non-fact)
After students read a chapter or section in their textbook, have students create two to four statements. Two of the statements should be true and two statements should be false, but not outrageous. For example: a) Whales are mammals (T/F). b) Whales are related to fish (T/F). Students will have to have paid attention both to write the statements and to answer them correctly. You might want to allow students to do this activity in groups the first time, in pairs the second time, and individually the third time. This gives them the opportunity to help each other and learn from one another the first two times and then apply what they have learned individually. Encourage students to try to "trip up" the rest of the class with their statements. This will motivate them to read and listen more carefully. Additional incentives would further spice up this activity!

ACTIVITY: Word of the Day
Write a word of the day on the board for students to read and memorize. Before reading the chapter, say the word aloud with the class. Have the class say the word aloud together. Instruct students to keep an eye out for this important word during reading. You can do several different "activities" with this word. Erase the word off the board.
  1. Whenever students see the word while reading aloud, the entire class shouts out the word of the day.
  2. Whenever students see the word while reading aloud, students raise their hand (those who raise their hand get a ticket)
  3. Whenever students see the word while reading silently they raise their hand. You can recognize this by going to their desk to check it and give them a ticket if they get it correct.
  4. Whenever students see the word while reading aloud they clap their hands twice
ACTIVITY: Jig-saw reading
Students get into small groups to read a section of the chapter. They read their section together. The small groups then gather into large groups with one or two people from each small group. Each person (or pair) shares what they learned from their section. The others take notes. A pop-quiz the next day (or some other individual activity) should be given to hold students accountable for reading and/or listening.

Read our article entitled "Reading Across the Curriculum".

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