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Reading is Like Baseball - Strategies for Reading Textbooks

You might be thinking, how in the world is reading anything like baseball? Look at it like this:

Even kindergarteners can have a basic understanding of the game of baseball: there's the good team (RRHS Dragons, for example) vs. the other team (Stony Point We've got one guy who stands in the middle of the diamond and pitches to the batters. The batters try to hit the ball, and if they do, then the outfielders try to throw them out. If a batter makes it around the bases and steps on home plate, then he scores a point. The team at the end of 9 rounds with the most points wins. So you can say, on a basic level, kindergarteners "understand" baseball. But...beyond kids are missing the signs from the coach and how an outfielder cheats to one side or the other when he knows what type of pitch will be thrown. They'd misinterpret that a sacrifice fly is really a good thing, and all those other extra clues that help experienced baseball fans understand the sport on a deeper level.

Reading can be like that. Sometimes when you're reading something, you get it...but you don't really get it. You've read what the words are saying, but you haven't put everything together for the deeper meaning of the text, the whole picture of the concept.

Gallagher, Kelly. Deeper Reading: Comprehending Challenging Texts, 4-12. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers, 2004. 2-3. Print.

Why is it so hard to read and understand our textbooks?

• You may not know much about the subject, such as foreign cultures, people, places, and previous eras.

• Textbooks cover a lot of information. A typical high school textbook includes 800 to 1,200 pages of facts, statistics, questions, activities, and graphic images. This makes it hard to decide on what to focus.

• Textbooks use academic vocabulary—content-specific terminology with meanings specific to the subject. For example, when you read in Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution that a state may not make gold or silver tender, you may think that states can’t make money that is soft or easily crushed. In this situation, tender really means something to be used for payment/money.

• Social studies texts, tests, and standards often require students to analyze and synthesize much information—a skill that they may not have been explicitly taught and that assumes comprehension of the material.

• Somestimes it seems like there is TOO much visual information—such as maps, graphs, and charts.

Strategies to use BEFORE you start reading

  • Survey the textbook features to understand the context of the reading task.:

    • Headings

    • Subheadings

    • Vocabulary words in bold type

    • Information in the sidebars

    • Pictures

    • Maps

    • Graphs

    • and Charts

Strategies to use DURING reading

  • Recognize the signal words that show various text structures, and then make a graphic organizer in your notes:

    • Concept Map

    • Timeline

    • Cause & Effect

    • Statement & Example

    • Time-Sequence

  • Monitor comprehension, recognize where and when comprehension is lost, and reread for clarification.


Strategies to use AFTER reading

  • Return to the text to reread difficult passages or graphics and clarify their meaning.

"Reading Social Studies Texts." Building Literacy in Social Studies: Strategies for Improving Comprehension and Critical Thinking. Donna Ogle, Ron Klemp, and Bill McBride. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2007. 3-15. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale. ROUND ROCK ISD - ASCD. 26 Aug. 2010 <>.