You often find that the world around adults can disappear as they read. While reading we are making connections, predicting, critiquing and contextualizing, already plotting how we may use any new information or insights we find. It’s probably surprising to realize we do all that just when we read.

Active reading strategies

As teachers, it’s our job to train our students in these various skills when they are young. Recently, a study into a second-grade classroom where 70 percent of instructions were given in English and 30 percent in Spanish, analyzed ways to engage children with reading.

In the study, the students would sit around on the floor and the teacher would pause every few minutes to allow them to ask questions. Every student would begin their comment by saying, “I would like to make a text-to-self connection, or I would like to make a text-to-text connection”. This specific analytic skill had been taught to them from a young age. They have been given a language and strategy, a way to phrase their thoughts, that allowed them to delve deeper into the text and this was from children who were still learning to read, which is impressive.

The message is clear: Regardless of their age, children need a structured opportunity to engage with the text in a deep and meaningful way regardless of if they are in the learning to read stage or the stage of reading.

Below are some really good strategies to build those active reading skills:

1. Check text and vocabulary

Before beginning to read, look at subheadings, titles, charts, graphs, and captions. Speak out loud as a group, and encourage your students to make predictions about what they are going to read. Ask students to point out various phrases or words that look new to them, or they are curious about.

Consider the structure of the text, is the context sad, funny? Is it a poem, story, fiction? And how do we know these things? By providing your students with knowledge of the text structure and the various features associated with them, then students begin to identify the author’s intent or goals and begin their analysis.

2. Don’t read passively

This particular strategy confronts the passive reading approach. Instead of instructing your students to “just read”, you should say “When reading, tackle this mission…Look for”. They will read closer in search of the author’s purpose, humor, use of various literary devices (things such as imagery, foreshadowing), confusion, facts and much more.

3. Mark text

You can use these steps for marking the text:
  1. Number paragraphs
  2. Circle words, names, phrases, dates that stand out
  3. Underline important information and the author’s claims
  4. Teach students how to write in the margins (for example by asking questions)

4. Link text

You can teach students the text-to-text, text-to-self, or text-to-world strategy that was mentioned previously. Read as a whole group and model it often. This means linking it back to something personal, for example, “this reminds me of a poem, a birthday party, etc.

5. Summarize

Often we expect students to summarize without actually providing the necessary models or support. Consider how hard it is to summarize for adults, then think about the students who are still in the decode stage. Below are two strategies that are effective with both adolescents and children Magnet Summary and Sum it Up. Don’t forget to model these summarizing tools during class then follow this with guided practice, before asking your students to summarize on their own.

One of the main ultimate goals for all teachers is to prepare their students to read critically and deeply on their own: just like adults.

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