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Building Literacy in Social Studies: Strategies for Improving Comprehension and Critical Thinking


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Preparing students to be active, informed, literate citizens is one of the primary functions of public schools. But how can students become engaged citizens if they can't read, let alone understand, their social studies texts? What can educators—and social studies teachers in particular—do to help students develop the knowledge, skills, and motivation to become engaged in civic life?

Table of contents


Fostering Engaged Learning in Social Studies Classrooms

Teaching Vocabulary to Older Students

Organizing a Classroom for Democratic Engagement

About the authors

Donna Ogle is Professor of Reading and Language at National-Louis University (NLU) in Chicago, Illinois. She is involved in research and staff development projects in the U.S. and abroad, in Asia, South America, and Eastern Europe. She is currently directing two middle school literacy projects, Project ALL—Advancing Literacy for Learning and the Transitional Adolescent Literacy Project in Chicago Public Schools. Donna has served as a consultant to the NLU's Adventures of the American Mind Project, the Teaching American History grant (Creating A Community of Scholars) and Picturing Chicago, an NEH funded grant. She served as president of the International Reading Association 2001–2002, and as executive officer from 1999–2001. She is the author of several books and many professional articles, chapters, and student materials. She is perhaps best known as developer of the K-W-L learning strategy.

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Ron Klemp has been with the LA Unified School district since 1973. He taught reading, English, and social studies in the inner city of Los Angeles at a junior high and a high school. He was a dean of discipline for 10 years at two middle schools and was a facilitator at the district's Secondary Northridge Practitioner Center, a professional development program for new and continuing service teachers. He has presented cooperative literacy in several states at local and national conferences. He has taught at California State University, Northridge, since 1986 and also at Cal Lutheran University, and was an associate professor at National University. He served two terms as a member of the National Middle School Association Research Committee, and has published in the Middle School Journal, The Reading Teacher, and various state middle school journals. He created the Middle School Peace Institutes in Los Angeles, California, and in Jackson, Mississippi. Recently he has contributed to two books on reading for secondary students. Ron can be reached at

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Instructional Strategies

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