1 simple & helpful strategy to teach reading for understanding

I am fascinated with exploring research-informed learning and teaching strategies that specifically target literacy.

If you do not want to read today, you can watch this video (2.50 seconds) which covers this blog post:

Researchers McTighe and Silver (2020) point out that reading for understanding is so central to learning and meaning making that its importance cannot be overstated; because the research on reading for understanding is so clear that students who are adept at it will always achieve at higher levels than their peers who are not; because teaching students how to develop this skill is so important that every teacher, regardless of grade level or content are, needs to make it a priority.

One strategy that can be employed to develop reading for understanding has a number of distinct phases.

Power Previewing

The first is power previewing. In this phase the student considers a piece of text and prowls for clues as to what stands out, what they think the text is about, what looks familiar and interesting. They may select visual information, summary lists, headings and captions within the text to help them with the power preview.

Scavenger Hunt

The second is a scavenger hunt. In this phase the student will search actively for key information. This could be factual information, central themes, points of view, strength of argument or style.

Single Sentence Summary

Next the student can move on to the third phase of the strategy which is the single sentence summary. Here the student writes about what they feel is most important about the text. They do this in their own words. The single sentence summary could also be employed next to each paragraph of the text if appropriate.

Reading Stances

The next phase of the strategy is called reading stances. The student is encouraged to consider the literal stance of the text, so they will think about what the text is about and select the key facts. The second reading stance is known as the interpretative stance. Here the student should consider what they can infer or conclude from the text.

Moving on, they adopt the personal reading stance asking themselves what the text says to them and how the text may be linked to something they have experienced. Finally the student adopts the critical reading stance here they question the author and text. They evaluate the usefulness, the comprehensiveness and the accuracy of the text.

My experience

I have employed this strategy with different levels of high school students. I constructed one lesson around all four phases of the strategy.

Starting with power previewing then moving on to the scavenger hunt, singe sentence summaries and reading stances.

For a different lesson I only used the reading stances phase. I plan to use the power previewing phase of the strategy as a flipped learning experience with one of my classes so that we can move rapidly to the scavenger hunt.

I tend to supplement each phase with Socratic questioning so that I am challenging my students while building up their confidence in communicating in large groups.

If you found any value in this I would really like to hear from you in the comments below.

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