Reading Strategies


Reading is the process of constructing meaning through the dynamic interaction among:

the reader's existing knowledge,
the information suggested by the written language, and
the context of the reading situation.

Four general purposes of reading are:

to gain information
to perform a task
to experience and enjoy literature
to form opinions

1. Take inventory of what you will be reading.

Think about what you already know about the subject. Write down some notes on these thoughts. Look over the material you are reading - look for key words and phrases that may be in italics or boldface. Look for any graphs, captions, pictures or other graphics. See if there is a summary at the end or a set of comprehension questions. Most textbooks have summaries and questions. These can be very helpful to guide your reading. You should always read the summary and the questions before you read the text. These will give you a good idea of what to look for when you read. Remember: not everything in the text is equally important: read for the main ideas.

2. See the forest, not the trees!

There is an English idiom that says, "You can't see the forest for the trees." This means that a person cannot see the overall picture or idea because she/he is concentrating on the details too much. When you are reading, don't try to understand every word - get the overall idea.

3. Don't just read ---WRITE!

Take notes while you are reading. Sometimes notes can be words and phrases that help you remember main ideas. However, you can also draw pictures or diagrams of key ideas. It's like drawing a map with roads connecting different cities or locations. If each location is an idea, connect them together in your notes.

4. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

If possible, read the text more than once.

5. Don't be afraid to make guesses.

Try to guess at meaning by looking at the context. The sentences and words immediately before and after the point you are reading can give you good ideas.

6. Try to analyze the text.

Look for the introduction and conclusion. Look for the topic sentences in each paragraph.

7. Make connections.

Try to make connections between main ideas and supporting details. Well-written texts will attempt to make connections of their ideas in a logical way.

8. Summarize & Paraphrase.

When you have finished reading a paragraph or a portion of the text, stop and try to summarize in your own words what you have read. You can do this in your notes or you can explain it orally to someone else.

9. Talk with your friends.

Discuss what you have read with others who have also read the same text.


SQ3R....for students & teachers

When you read, it is important to have a strategy or a plan for reading effectively. If you do not have a plan, you may be easily distracted or may not focus on the right things in the text. As a result, when you are finished reading, you may not understand very much of what you have read. Also, you may not have developed your English very much, either.

When you read, you must be actively involved in the reading process in order to understand most effectively. The SQ3R method is one way to help you do this.

How does the SQ3R method work?


Survey means to scan the main parts of the text you are going to read. This includes looking at the title, headings of paragraphs, introduction and conclusion, first lines of each paragraph, and any extra information that may be presented in boxes on the page. Doing this gives you some basic understanding of what the text is about and helps you know what to expect when you read in more detail.


Questions are very helpful when you read a text. Most of the time, people read first, and then look at questions at the end of the text. However, this is not the best way to read. If possible, read the questions provided for you FIRST. This will help you know what specific information to look for. Questions (those that are provided with text and those provided by your teacher) are designed to focus on the main points. Therefore, if you read to answer these questions, you will be focusing on the main points in the text. This helps you read with a goal in mind - answering specific questions.

3 R's


Once you have some idea of what the text is about and what the main points might be, start reading. Do not be afraid if the text has many words you cannot understand. Just read!

Follow these suggestions:

Do not use your dictionary the first time through the text.
Try to understand as much as you can from the context.
Take notes as you go.
Make a note of places that you do not understand, or words that are unclear.
Go through the text a second time.
Try to answer the questions.


Studies have suggested that students remember 80% of what they learn, if they repeat the information verbally. If they do not repeat verbally, they often forget 80%. Writing down the answers to questions from the text and saying these answers will help you remember the information. One good way to do this is to discuss the information with a friend or classmate, or with the professor. Try to summarize the main points you have learned from the reading and add to your knowledge from the comments and responses of the person you are talking with.


Review means to go over something again. In order to remember information, you cannot simply memorize it one day and then put it aside. After you have read and discussed and studied your information, it is important to review your notes again a few days or weeks later. This will help you keep the information fresh in your mind.

(SQ3R was developed in 1941 by Francis Robinson)


Strategies for Teaching Reading Strategies


Different modes of reading offer varying levels of support for students, from having the teacher read the entire text aloud to having students read the text independently. It is frequently appropriate to combine several modes of reading at once. The combination provides a scaffold for learning that gradually releases responsibility to the students and helps them to become more proficient readers. Different combinations are used to meet the differing needs of students in relation to the materials they are reading.

Reading Aloud

The teacher reads aloud from a text that is too challenging for the students to read and comprehend alone. Usually the students do not have a copy of the text. The teacher may complete the text in one reading or may continue reading a longer text over a period of time. Reading aloud is used to develop background information, to make connections across texts, or for enjoyment.

Teacher-Directed Interactive Reading

Using grade level materials which may include magazine or newspaper articles, poems, charts, or other forms of print, the teacher provides direct, supported reading of text to the whole class. The text is read in a variety of ways.

The teacher introduces the text and sets a purpose for independent, silent reading of a part or all of the text.

The teacher reads the text or part of the text aloud while students follow the reading in their own texts. The teacher pauses for predictions, clarifications, and questions. A summary of what was read is developed orally or in writing with the class.

Students are paired for buddy reading of the text.

Small groups of students read the text together using reciprocal teaching strategies.

The teacher reads the text aloud to a small group of students while the rest of the class reads the selection independently, with a buddy, or in a small group.

Groups of students or the whole class may read the text together as a choral reading activity.

Guided Reading

The teacher provides small group instruction using materials at the instructional level of the group. The teacher supports the development of effective reading strategies for processing new texts at increasingly challenging levels of difficulty. This progression of difficulty must be in increments small enough to allow the reader to bridge the gap without being frustrated. Therefore, the best materials for guided reading are sets of books that have the progression built in. For elementary school students whose instructional reading level is close to grade level, the grade level basal may be used to provide guided reading instruction.

During Guided Reading, the teacher works with a small group of students who use similar reading processes and are able to read similar levels of text with support. The teacher introduces a text to this small group and works briefly with individuals in the group as each student reads to him/herself. The teacher may select one or two reading strategies to present to the group following the reading and may have students participate in extension activities. Basic to Guided Reading is that the text is one that offers the reader a minimum of new concepts to learn so that students can read the text with the strategies they currently have, but it provides an opportunity for new learning.

Structured Independent Reading

Students build reading fluency, practice strategic reading skills, and increase their vocabularies by spending sustained periods of in-class time engaged in independent reading. Books may be self-selected or teacher assigned, but are at the students' independent reading levels. Time for this fluency practice must be built into the school day and must include a daily homework assignment.

Students in Kindergarten should spend a minimum of 15 minutes each day in developmentally appropriate independent reading behavior. Students in grades 1-12 must spend 30 minutes each day on in-class independent reading. All students, K-12, must read 30 minutes each night as daily reading homework. Activities which support and strengthen independent reading include:

drawing a picture of a favorite part of the book;
discussing the book/chapter read with a partner or a small group;
keeping a record or log of each book completed;
writing a brief summary of the content;
making a personal response to the reading in a log or journal;
writing dialogue journals to the teacher about the independent reading material; and/or
taking the Accelerated Reader test.

Working With Words

Students receive daily explicit, systematic instruction in one or more of the following as appropriate:

phonemic awareness, students are taught the sounds of the language;
phonics instruction, students receive instruction in letter/sound matching;
blending and segmenting sounds, and decoding;
graphophonic instruction, students learn to use letter/sound correspondence to write;
syntactic, students learn word patterns and spelling, prefixes, suffixes, root words, etymologies; and
vocabulary, students learn word meanings, analogies, usage, and cognates.

Reciprocal Teaching

Students are taught to become strategic readers through an active dialogue with a teacher/leader and other students. Working in small groups, students practice the following critical reading strategies:

making predictions based on titles, captions, pictures, prior knowledge, etc.;
formulating good questions based on the text (e.g., writing test questions);
seeking clarification of words, phrases, or concepts not understood;
summarizing, getting the main idea; and
forming visual images while reading.
Questions and Discussion

Critical to reading comprehension is the ability to ask and answer higher order thinking questions about text and to defend or challenge answers using information and details from the text to support positions. Students at all levels and in all subject areas must have daily opportunities to raise questions to be used in group discussions about texts. Student-generated questions should be used to formulate teacher-made tests.

Read and Retell

Retellings are powerful tools because they serve authentic instructional and assessment purposes. Students retell, orally or in writing, narrative or expository text. In the retelling, they use the same form, style, and language of the original text. This strategy aids comprehension of text, expands vocabulary, and provides good models for students to transfer to their personal writing. Retellings provide insights into the thinking, organization, and comprehension levels of the readers. In primary grades students may use drawings in combination with oral retelling.

Learning to Write, Writing to Learn

Writing and reading are reciprocal skills which strongly support one another. It is important that students receive daily instruction in effective writing and that they use writing to demonstrate what they have learned. Writing is thinking made visible. It supports students in learning to construct meaning and become proficient readers. It involves many activities including:

exploring different modes of writing;
mini-lessons that include modeling; and
engaging students in meaningful interactions with text.

Critical Reading

Critical reading means learning to look through texts rather than at them; it means reading beyond and beneath surface meanings to the assumptions, arguments, and strategies behind them. Critical reading means learning about how texts work: how they make their meaning, how they appeal to your emotions and intellect, how they present arguments that are explicit and implicit; how they reason with readers and manipulate them.

To be a critical reader, you need to learn how to "slow down" your reading. Slowing down your reading doesn't mean you ought to read more slowly; it means that you need to read in such a way that you learn to be aware of a text's various parts and processes. Running your eye over the words on the page it is easy to think of any piece of writing as a smooth and solid object. But all writing -- whether a short story by a famous writer or a paper by one of your classmates -- is the result of a process and the product of a context. Both the process and context that produce a piece of writing are reflected in various ways in a text's parts and layers. When you learn to slow down your reading you will be able to see that all writing is made up of parts and layers that come together in the writing process to make something that seems whole.

Critical Reading Classroom Environment

For active, critical reading to occur, teachers must create an atmosphere which fosters inquiry. Students must be encouraged to question, to make predictions, and to organize ideas which support value judgments. Two techniques for developing these kinds of critical reading skills include problem solving and learning to reason through reading. Flynn (1989) describes an instructional model for problem solving which promotes analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of ideas. She states that, "When we ask students to analyze we expect them to clarify information by examining the component parts. Synthesis involves combining relevant parts into a coherent whole, and evaluation includes setting up standards and then judging against them to verify the reasonableness of ideas."

Beck (1989) adopts a similar perspective, using the term "reasoning" to imply higher order thinking skills. Comprehension requires inferencing, which plays a central role in reasoning and problem solving. For Beck, children's literature has the potential to engage students in reasoning activities.

When literature is approached from a problem solving perspective, students are asked to evaluate evidence, draw conclusions, make inferences, and develop a line of thinking (Riecken and Miller, 1990). According to Flynn (1989), children are capable of solving problems at all ages and need to be encouraged to do so at every grade level. (See, for example, "Using Fairy Tales" 1991 for young children; Anton 1990 for elementary children; Johannessen 1989 for middle school children.) Teachers may want to experiment with a particular children's book and plan a lesson which places reasoning at the center of instruction.

Wilson (1988) suggests that teachers re-think the way they teach reading and look critically at their own teaching/thinking processes. She cautions against skills lessons that are repackaged in the name of critical thinking but which are only renamed worksheets. She points out that teaching students to read, write, and think critically is a dramatic shift from what has generally taken place in most classrooms.

According to Wilson, critical literacy advocates the use of strategies and techniques like formulating questions prior to, during, and after reading; responding to the text in terms of the student's own values; anticipating texts, and acknowledging when and how reader expectations are aroused and fulfilled; and responding to texts through a variety of writing activities which ask readers to go beyond what they have read to experience the text in personal ways.


Mastering these strategies will not make the critical reading process an easy one, it can make reading much more satisfying and productive and thus help students handle difficult material well and with confidence.

Fundamental to each of these strategies is annotating directly on the page: underlining key words, phrases, or sentences; writing comments or questions in the margins; bracketing important sections of the text; constructing ideas with lines or arrows; numbering related points in sequence; and making note of anything that strikes you as interesting, important, or questionable.

Previewing: Learning about a text before really reading it. Previewing enables readers to get a sense of what the text is about and how it is organized before reading it closely. This simple strategy includes seeing what you can learn from the headnotes or other introductory material, skimming to get an overview of the content and organization, and identifying the rhetorical situation.

Contextualizing: Placing a text in its historical, biographical, and cultural contexts. When you read a text, you read it through the lens of your own experience. Your understanding of the words on the page and their significance is informed by what you have come to know and value from living in a particular time and place. But the texts you read were all written in the past, sometimes in a radically different time and place. To read critically, you need to contextualize, to recognize the differences between your contemporary values and attitudes and those represented in the text.

Questioning to understand and remember: Asking questions about the content. As students, you are accustomed (I hope) to teachers asking you questions about your reading. These questions are designed to help you understand a reading and respond to it more fully, and often this technique works. When you need to understand and use new information though it is most beneficial if you write the questions, as you read the text for the first time. With this strategy, you can write questions any time, but in difficult academic readings, you will understand the material better and remember it longer if you write a question for every paragraph or brief section. Each question should focus on a main idea, not on illustrations or details, and each should be expressed in your own words, not just copied from parts of the paragraph.

Reflecting on challenges to your beliefs and values: Examining your personal responses. The reading that you do for this class might challenge your attitudes, your unconsciously held beliefs, or your positions on current issues. As you read a text for the first time, mark an X in the margin at each point where you fell a personal challenge to your attitudes, beliefs, or status. Make a brief note in the margin about what you feel or about what in the text created the challenge. Now look again at the places you marked in the text where you felt personally challenged. What patterns do you see?

Outlining and summarizing: Identifying the main ideas and restating them in your own words. Outlining and summarizing are especially helpful strategies for understanding the content and structure of a reading selection. Whereas outlining revels the basic structure of the text, summarizing synopsizes a selection's main argument in brief. Outlining may be part of the annotating process, or it may be done separately (as it is in this class). The key to both outlining and summarizing is being able to distinguish between the main ideas and the supporting ideas and examples. The main ideas form the backbone, the strand that hold the various parts and pieces of the text together. Outlining the main ideas helps you to discover this structure. When you make an outline, don't use the text's exact words.

Summarizing begins with outlining, but instead of merely listing the main ideas, a summary recomposes them to form a new text. Whereas outlining depends on a close analysis of each paragraph, summarizing also requires creative synthesis. Putting ideas together again -- in your own words and in a condensed form -- shows how reading critically can lead to deeper understanding of any text.

Evaluating an argument: Testing the logic of a text as well as its credibility and emotional impact. All writers make assertions that want you to accept as true. As a critical reader, you should not accept anything on face value but to recognize every assertion as an argument that must be carefully evaluated. An argument has two essential parts: a claim and support. The claim asserts a conclusion -- an idea, an opinion, a judgment, or a point of view -- that the writer wants you to accept. The support includes reasons (shared beliefs, assumptions, and values) and evidence (facts, examples, statistics, and authorities) that give readers the basis for accepting the conclusion. When you assess an argument, you are concerned with the process of reasoning as well as its truthfulness (these are not the same thing). At the most basic level, in order for an argument to be acceptable, the support must be appropriate to the claim and the statements must be consistent with one another.

Comparing and contrasting related readings: Exploring likenesses and differences between texts to understand them better. Many of the authors we read are concerned with the same issues or questions, but approach how to discuss them in different ways. Fitting a text into an ongoing dialectic helps increase understanding of why an author approached a particular issue or question in the way he or she did.


Critical thinking implies that a reader is actively and constructively engaged in the process of reading. The reader is continually negotiating what s/he knows with what s/he is trying to make sense of. The role of background knowledge and the student's ability to draw upon it are essential to critical thinking/learning.

It is not an easy task to incorporate higher level thinking skills into the classroom, but it is a necessary one. For students to participate in the society in which they live, they must have experiences which prepare them for life. In order to become critical thinkers, it is essential that students learn to value their own thinking, to compare their thinking and their interpretations with others, and to revise or reject parts of that process when it is appropriate.

A classroom environment which is student-centered fosters student participation in the learning process. Learning that is both personal and collaborative encourages critical thinking. Students who are reading, writing, discussing, and interacting with a variety of learning materials in a variety of ways are more likely to become critical thinkers.


Teachers who encourage pre-reading discussions to help readers activate prior knowledge or fill in gaps in background knowledge set the stage for critical reading. They help students identify purposes for reading, formulate hypotheses, and test the accuracy of their hypotheses throughout the reading process. In addition, asking students to examine their own reading and learning processes creates the awareness necessary for critical reading.

Post-reading activities that extend texts provide an opportunity for teachers to check for learning. Transforming ideas from reading into artwork, poetry, etc. is an evaluative, interpretive act that reveals the student's level of understanding. Critical readers are active readers. They question, confirm, and judge what they read throughout the reading process. Students engaged in such activities are likely to become critical thinkers and learners.

How Do I Sharpen My Critical Reading Strategies?

Reading critically does not mean that you are criticizing the writer's message but rather that you are assessing the validity and reliability of the writer's material. Critical readers are also aware that they bring their beliefs, values, experiences, and prior knowledge to the reading process. Critical readers ask questions about themselves, the writer, and the writing. Below is a set of questions to sharpen your critical reading strategies.

Menu of Critical Reading Questions

1. Reader's Background and Value Assumptions

What do I know about the topic?
What are my beliefs and values regarding the topic?
What is my purpose for reading this material?

2. Writer's Background and Value Assumptions

What is the writer's background?
How might it affect the writer's approach to the topic and the selection and interpretation of the evidence presented?
What are the writer's value assumptions regarding this topic?

3. Writer's Argument, Conclusion, and Evidence

What is the topic of the writer's argument?
What is the writer's conclusion?
How has the writer limited the scope of the argument through definitions of key terms and the use of qualifying words and phrases?

4. Writer's Use of Evidence to Support the Conclusion

Are there any logical fallacies?
What sort of evidence does the writer use to support the conclusion(s)?
Does the evidence offer adequate support for the writer's conclusion?
Are the sources creditable?
If the writer uses research studies as evidence, does the research satisfy these conditions:
Is it timely?
Is the sample group representative of the target population?
Who conducted the research? What was the purpose of the research?
Has the research been replicated?
Are the statistical findings and writer's conclusion focused on the same topic?
Do the graphic illustrations represent the data in a truthful manner?
Do the various physical dimensions of the graphic accurately portray the numerical relationships?
What is the source of the data in the illustration?
Are the statistical findings and the writer's conclusion focused on the same topic?

5. Reader's Reaction to the Reading

Do I accept the writer's evidence as reliable and valid support of the conclusion?
To what degree do I accept the conclusion?
How does the conclusion relate to what I already know and believe about the topic?
How has the writer's argument changed my views on this topic?


Reading Error Analysis

Reading Errors-- Language

Lack of prior knowledge
Lack of vocabulary
Lack of figurative comprehension
Difficulty with syntax
Difficulty with pragmatics

Reading Errors-- Visual Processing

Loses place when reading
Reversal of words, letter order, or letters
Omissions, insertions, or substitutions
Omits visual details--punctuation, word parts

Reading Errors-- Word Attack Skills

Mispronounces words
Failure to attack new words
Difficulty with phonetically regular words

Reading Errors-- Sight Words

Miscalls words
Miscalls familiar, service words
Miscalls phonetically irregular words

Reading Errors--Comprehension

Errors that aren't corrected
Errors which change the meaning
Errors which change the structure
Lack of phrasing or intonation
Word-by-word reading
Omits punctuation


Cognitive Reading Strategy Theory

The "information transmission model" that underlies so many discussions of journalism describes readers as receiving and decoding information that arrives through a medium after begin encoded into a message by a sender. Information is moved around like canned goods, packaged by the sender, opened by the receiver. Writers and editors are accustomed to thinking that they way the write something determines its meaning. The new theory emphasizes how readers construct meaning.

In the new view, readers are far more active and unpredictable. They make decisions about what to read, how to read it, how to think about what they read, what to remember, what other information to remember it with. They bring context, approach, bias, and personal experiences to what they read. They interpret, they skip, they misread, they misunderstand, they understand in their own way. Their reading is not reactive but strategic; they read with purpose, meaning, and goals. When the society column mentions that a prominent local family will be going abroad for the summer, that information is read very differently by their friends, by the owner of a lawn maintenance company, and by a burglar.

Readers are said to use two levels of strategies:

Cognitive strategies enable the reader to understand written text.

Metacognitive strategies govern the use of cognitive strategies--enabling one to manage the process of reading.

It is under the heading of "metacognition" that researchers discuss motivation, focusing attention, managing time, deciding what to read, along with methods for reading (such as reading the conclusion first, looking for key words and summaries, reading for main ideas, identifying the structure of text, self-questioning, and reading to remember ).

In practice, the two levels of strategy work together. Studies have demonstrated that better readers and learners go about the task more strategically than others do, which means they have greater conscious control over what and how they read.

Note that "literacy," in this view, is defined to include more than the ability to decode the alphabet and recognize vocabulary words. Literacy includes:

usefully structured background knowledge,
skill in handling the different ways text is commonly organized, and
the ability to apply appropriate strategies to the task of reading.

In cognitive theory, there is nothing passive about reading, and the activity of reading goes far beyond the "decoding" step of the information-transmission model. Vaughn epitomized this view with his statement: "Reading is thinking stimulated by print." Readers engage nearly every kind of thought process during reading. Researchers describing reading have included:

comparing and connecting and organizing ideas
filling blanks in their knowledge structures
evaluating evidence
arguing with what they read
passing and withholding judgment
hypothesis testing and modification
clarifying, generating questions
agreeing, disagreeing, anticipating
learning new concepts
deciding what is important
making unexpected connections
reflecting, reviewing, comparing
analyzing, synthesizing
looping back
strategies for comprehending words, sentences, segments of text, conventions of writing and organization.

The strategic activities of readers are not only highly active and interpretive, they are recursive and non-linear. Although there are surely times when readers start with the first word of a piece and read through sequentially, researchers have emphasized the extent to which readers (especially of non-fiction) scan, select, skip, pause, loop back, and do a considerable amount of rooting around the page. Indeed, readers not only adopt strategies toward what they read ("I'll just skim this."), they test and modify those strategies as they go ("Oops, this is too important to skim.")

Readers make ready use of nonverbal cues with they read. They interpret pictures, graphics, color, charts, symbols, decorations, cartoons, typography, rules (lines and boxes), spatial relationships (such as indentation and over/under), recurring positions and patterns, and other spatial cues.

Paivio and many others have argued that readers carry on different modes of thinking simultaneously ("multitasking," to use the current computer term), at least including visual and linguistic modes of thought. A person's knowledge structure--though described by many researchers in terms of linguistic propositions--is sure to contain spatial modes of organization.

What looks from one perspective like words on a page becomes (when it enters the life of a reader) an integral part of a rich, multimodal, imaginatively elaborated inner world. And because every reader translates the written message into such a world, we can never know information as information alone, but only as as it is reflected in a particular, lived system of meaning.


Schema Reading Strategy Theory

In reading as in all visual perception the eye is selective. Look at this block of text:


Most people notice the letter 'P' almost immediately. But some readers don't notice the 'O'. This is a simple but powerful illustration of the selectivity of vision: we usually tend to see what the general context suggests as most likely to be present. We rely a great deal on such expectations to guide our reading.

In the act of reading the eye of the experienced reader does not simply start at the beginning of the text and proceed from word to word until it reaches the end (see separate illustration). It jumps around the page as the mind searches for organizing patterns which make the task of reading easier. We are forever drawing on our past experiences to guide the ways in which we interpret our present experiences.

The word schema (plural: schemata or schemas) is used by cognitive psychologists to refer to a kind of mental template (also called a 'cognitive structure' or a 'knowledge structure'). Schemata are stored in long-term memory and are employed when we interpret our experiences. Many psychological experiments have shown the importance of our expectations in making sense of new experiences. Schemata embody such expectations. According to contemporary schema theory, perception, comprehension, interpretation and memory are mediated by schemata. Extremely readable introductions to the general importance of expectations and theories in perception and reading can be found in Frank Smith's various books on reading.

In interpreting situations we observe or read about, schemata provide general outlines of phenomena usually associated with similar situations: typical acts, preconditions, roles, motives, 'props' and results. According to schema theory, interpreting events involves mapping the available information onto an appropriate schema which is already stored in memory (this applies whether the situation involves buying something in a shop, reading a story, watching TV, or whatever). We derive these schemata from our past experience. Ulrich Neisser provides a simple cyclical diagram of the general function of schemata (see separate illustration).

Schemata can be diagrammed as hierarchical networks of concepts and links. Some commentators refer to a 'frame', and a schema for events is often referred to as a "script." Schema theorists refer to a schema being activated when a feature in a situation appears to match part of the schema. This activation involves 'slots' in the schema being 'instantiated' or 'filled in' with - explicit features of the specific situation, or - 'default values' where some features are not explicit. Where particular features are not explicit, the schema offers those which one would normally expect in such circumstances (filling in the slots by inference).

These activities can help students to:


Examine the cover illustration (if there is one) and read the title of new book. Ask child to predict what it might be about based on either the cover picture, the title, or both. If the title and illustration are not helpful in giving the student a sense of what the story is about, you can provide a brief summary of the book. For example, when looking at a book with a picture of a cat on the front, you can say: "This story is about a cat that moves to a new house and has some adventures while trying to make new friends."

Activating Background Knowledge:

Ask the student to tell you what he or she knows about the subject of the story or if he or she has had similar experiences, or heard or read a story like this or by same author. "You said you have a cat. Tell me what your cat does all day and who its friends are. What kind of friends do you think the cat in this book might find?" If the topic is totally unfamiliar, reconsider book choice, or take extra time to build the necessary background knowledge through some kind of concrete experiences. For example, if you choose a book about a farm and the student has never been to a farm you may want to begin by looking at pictures of farms and farm animals, and having a brief discussion about what kinds of things happen on farms: what animals live there, what things grow on farms, etc.

Conducting Picture Walk:

With Emergent and Early readers conduct a "Picture Walk" through the book, or chapter, by covering the print, and encouraging or guiding the student in a discussion of what could be going on based on the pictures. If there is vocabulary that may not be familiar to child such as "cupboard" or "bonnet" point the words out and explain them in connection with the pictures and the context of the story. "You're right, in this picture the teeny tiny woman is putting on her hat, except in this book it's called a 'bonnet' (pointing to the word) which is another word for hat. She is putting on her teeny tiny bonnet. Do you think she is getting ready to go somewhere? " In your discussion of the pictures, be sure to use as much of the actual book language as possible, especially if there are repeated patterns or refrains.

Noticing Structure of the text:

Where appropriate, point out or help the child notice the structure of the text and connect it with other similarly structured texts heard or read. "Yes, this is a fairy tale. We've read several fairy tales together. What do you know about fairy tales? What have you noticed that is the same about the three tales we read?"

Forming Purpose for Reading:

Formulate and encourage the student to come up with two or three predictions or questions before reading. "This is a story about a boy who wants a dog, but his mother won't let him have one. What do you think he is going to do first? Why do you think that?" "You already know a lot about dinosaurs. What are some things you want to find out about them when you start reading this book?"


Questioning Strategies
To Enhance Interest and Comprehension

Engaging students in a dialogue about something they are about to read can clarify their thinking and help you find out what they already know or expect from the material. Questions and discussion also clarify unerstanding during and after reading. One way to begin this dialogue is through asking questions that elicit responses reflecting the student's thoughts and understandings about the reading.

Too often questions are used only at the end of reading, asked by the teacher or tutor to check comprehension. In fact, successful readers ask themselves questions throughout the reading process. Beginning readers need modeling and practice to learn how to do this.

Effective questions encourage real thinking, not just yes or no answers. Notice too that different kinds of questions require different ways of finding the answer:

Factual or "right there" questions can be answered with a single word or phrase found right in the story: "When did the story take place?" "It was midnight, the 25th of October..."

Inference or "think and search" questions require finding and integrating information from several places in the story and relating one's own knowledge as well. "When did the story take place?" "The harvest moon hung high in the sky, shining on the field of ripe orange pumpkins waiting to be picked for Halloween..." Using our background knowledge of concepts like "harvest" and "Halloween" as well as the words "ripe pumpkins" we figure out that this story takes place one night in late October, even though those words aren't used in the text.

"In the head" or "On my own" questions require bringing in one's own information, (background knowledge). These can be answered without reading from the book. "We have read a lot of fairy tales, what kinds of things usually happen in fairy tales?" Or, "You told me you have a cat. What might happen in a story called Puss in Boots? Do you think it could be true?"'

Remember to focus on the positive aspects of the child's responses to encourage future attempts.

Questions before reading should help the reader:

Make connections between background knowledge and the topic of the book: "This book is about Anansi the Spider: do you remember the other Anansi book we read? What kind of character is Anansi? What kinds of things did he do in that story? How do you suppose he will behave in this book?"

Set a purpose for reading: "Here is a new book about sea turtles. What are some things that you would like to learn about these creatures?"

Make predictions: "The title of this book is The Missing Tooth, (Cole, 1988). Who do you suppose the two boys on the cover are, and what do you think this book might be about? What happens to you when you lose a tooth?"

Questions during reading should help the reader:

Clarify and review what has happened so far: "What are some of the things that made Arlo and Robby such good friends?"

Confirm or create new predictions: "Now that one boy has lost a tooth, so they aren't both the same, what's going to happen? I wonder if they will stay friends:"

Critically evaluate the story and make personal connections: "Could this really happen--that two good friends could have a fight because one of them had something the other wanted? How would you feel if you were Robby? What would you do?"

Make connections with other experiences or books: "Does this remind you of another story / character, what happened in that story? Could that happen here?"

Monitor the student's reading for meaning and accuracy: "Did that word 'horned' make sense? What is a 'horned toad'?"

Questions after reading will help:

Reinforce the concept that reading is for understanding the meaning of the text, and making connections: "In this story about Amy's first day in school how did she feel before going into her classroom? How did you feel on your first day?"

Model ways of thinking through and organizing the information they have taken in from reading a text: "What did Amy's teacher do when she walked into the classroom? How does Amy feel now? How do you know that?"

Encourage critical thinking and personal response: "What do you think might have happened if the teacher had not done that? Why do you think the author decided to write this story? Would you have done what Amy did?"

Build awareness of common themes and structures in literature: "What other story or character does this sound like? What parts are the same? What parts are different?"
The most important thing, however, when talking about a story with a student is to let them know that their ideas about what they have read are important and that you value what they have to say.

* These questioning suggestions are adapted from: R. Huntsman, 1990; L. Rhodes and C. Dudley-Marling, 1996.


Cueing and Self Monitoring Systems

Successful independent reading involves integrating three sets of cues. Efficient readers use all three to predict, confirm and self correct as they read.

Meaning or Semantics: Readers use their background knowledge of vocabulary and word understanding. They also use the context of the sentence, the paragraph or the whole text to figure out what the text is about, and what would make sense. Readers continually evaluate the information they take in, asking: "Does this word make sense as I read it?" "Does this sentence make sense as I read it: 'The girl was a dog running'?"

Syntax or Language Structure: Readers use their knowledge of English grammar to make sense of text. Does the sentence sound like real language? ("She went into she house") Does this word fit grammatically in this sentence?

Visual information or graphophonics: Readers use information in the text including pictures and print and other knowledge of print conventions including:
-format details -details and shapes of letters and words
-directionality -voice / print match
-punctuation -letter / sound associations

Helping a Reader Who is Stuck or has Miscued

Beginning and struggling readers often substitute their own words for those in print. While we want readers to eventually become accurate readers, that should not be the primary goal. Making sense and getting meaning from the text is more important.

Even expert readers sometimes make errors or substitutions in the text without realizing it. Unless those substitutions change the meaning, you don't have to worry about them. Instead of calling them mistakes or errors, we call them Miscues. A miscue is any deviation from the text.

Some things for you to keep in mind:

If a miscue doesn't change the meaning, or changes it only slightly, you can ignore it. "He rode his bike in /on the road." Try not to jump in too quickly; wait and give the reader a chance to self-correct or problem solve. Show confidence in the child's ability and be available to help.

Some things readers can be encouraged to do when they are trying to figure out a word or get stuck:


Direct reader to look at the picture, or to close eyes and imagine what is happening.


Suggest rereading the sentence or phrase to clarify the meaning so far. This can help in predicting the upcoming word, giving the reader more time to access it.


Ask the reader if what he or she just read made sense; use this information to help the reader predict what words would "make sense" or "sound right" in a sentence. Then help the reader check the print to confirm the prediction.


Beginning readers can be encouraged to skip over the unknown word and read to the end of the phrase or sentence, substituting a grunt in place of the mystery word. "I never ['mmm'] what to give my mother for her birthday. " This helps readers use the meaning (context) of the surrounding words, and sometimes the initial letter(s) to figure out the problem word.


Ask if reader has seen a word that looks like the troubling one; or write a similar word, i.e. if the hard word is "fright", point out or write down "night. " (Be sure to use a word that you are sure the child will recognize.) Helping the child see that a word part is similar to another known word can help too. A fluent reader can think "If I know 'her' and 'taps,' I can figure out 'perhaps'" (assuming she or he has heard and understands the word).


Tell or ask the child to notice the word's parts: play-ing; out-side. Help the reader cover the appropriate part of the word.


Sometimes beginning readers recognize that they've seen a word somewhere else. Looking back or identifying the former context can help the reader recall the word.

After the student figures out a difficult word, or after he or she self corrects, be sure to encourage him or her to ask: "Does this make sense? Does this sound right? Does this look right?" Once the child is satisfied that the sentence does make sense, give specific praise for using good strategies to figure out words. Encouraging students to constantly ask themselves "Does this make sense?" when reading reinforces the purpose of reading: we read to understand the meaning of the text, not simply to translate the printed letters into spoken words.

Reading Interventions: SORT

Select--materials, level
Organize--preview, skill development
Read--decoding, comprehension
Test--applied behavior analysis, charting progress


More Reading Strategies
from Breaking Reading Barriers in Grades Four to Twelve
© 1998 by Hicks & Simpson

PURPOSE: To find the structure of a passage, aid comprehension, and analyze helpful clues.

PREPARATION: Newsprint, Markers, RDP sheet, Checklist, Post-It notes

Before reading:

At the beginning of the unit, the instructor creates a list of ten subheadings found in the assigned passage. The instructor writes each subheading at the top of a large piece of newsprint, followed by two columns labeled with the following statements: "What helped my understanding (+)" and "What hindered my understanding (-)." Each group of four students is assigned at least eight paragraphs to read in the text.

Additionally, the instructor provides each student with a checklist with the following guidelines printed on it:

Keep the author's purpose in mind.
Use clues that tell the structure of the passage (e.g.transitional words)
Break sentences down and understand the parts before the wholes.
Look up any words that keep you from understanding the author's message.

During Reading:

The students number their assigned paragraphs in the passage from one to eight. As they read, three concepts about which they have background knowledge and three unknown concepts are found and are marked with Post-It notes in the text.

After Reading:

The groups of four convene and put their combined concepts on the char under the positive or negative column, depending on whether or not they had prior knowledge about this concept (+) or whether they did not have any prior knowledge (-). After the charts are complete, the groups discuss the teens and collectively decide on the author's purpose for their assigned passage. Each group then writes one finished statement on an overhead transparency that states the author's purpose and the issue in question.


The + and - terms written on the newsprint and the author's purpose are shared with the whole class. Criteria is set for grading clarity (precision of explanation) and completeness (extent of content covered).


Another Perspective ....Reading strategies

Cognitive strategies

Anticipating information in the text
Looking at the 'big' picture
Looking at the title
Examining the format
Accepting approximate meaning of words
Looking for familiar words
Looking at grammatical endings
Finding the subject of the sentence
Considering the organization of the text
Looking for discourse markers
Looking for words that refer to other words

Metacognitive strategies

Rereading segments of the text
Jotting down unfamiliar words
Looking up words in a dictionary
Continuing to read on with partial understanding
Deciding how well the text needs to be understood

RAP Strategy

Read a paragraph.
Ask yourself "what are the main ideas in the paragraph?"
Put the main idea and details in your own words.


Materials--vocabulary control
Language Experience (self-selected)
Whole Language (naturally ocurring)
Basal Readers (standard English)
Linguistic (phonics-whole to part)
Synthetic Phonics (phonics-part to whole)