When we speak of “teaching reading,” often we think that should occur for students in Kindergarten through 3rd grade. For students in grades 4 and up, “teaching” reading means supporting student meaning making through higher level thinking tasks. The following four teaching suggestions will help you to ensure students understand information that’s contained in academic reading.
1. Preview critical vocabulary. Choose a small set of critical words to introduce to students prior to reading. A small set would be 5-8 words, depending on age group and text complexity. Say each word aloud at least three times. Students benefit from hearing the pronunciation. While reading silently, we hear the words we are reading. Your voice may be the one they hear when making sense of new words. Also, explain what each means as simply as possible and why each is important to the topic being read. Model ways to remember what each means. Example: catastrophe = my cat makes a massive mess.
2. Set a purpose for reading. We know a student who is looking for nothing in a reading assignment usually finds it. Clear expectations of what students need to know and also be able to do with that information should be set from the beginning. Reading to become familiar with information is a different kind of reading than reading to apply it, compare it, or combine it with additional sources.
3. Make thinking count. Reading is a complex thinking process, from the comprehension of the material, to higher level applications. Because students do not get to hear how others think while reading, it is good to talk about not only what was confusing, but how students reasoned through materials and how they are going to remember it. Having students talk about their own connections (to their own experiences or to media), examples, and ways they used to understand and retain information will benefit all students. Set up a place for students to record their thoughts, such as two-column notes, so students will “get credit” for the process and the product.
4. Tap into technology. In order for students to learn how to get what they need for understanding, they need to know there is more than one source of information. With the Internet available even on smartphones, it is important to make students responsible for finding additional sources of information on the topic. This can be a webpage or video which students can share with you, explaining why they thought their additional material was helpful. This will also help you to stock your resources on the topic, now and for future.
For students requiring special accommodations, check out our tips on creating an iep plan.
Have you used any of these strategies, or are there other strategies you would recommend? We’d love to hear about it in the comments area below.