We all love reading. The fact you are reading this now is a symptom of it. But what you’re doing is the result of years of practice, dedication, mistakes and successes to make you “read fit” – you are an athlete and reading is your discipline. I have this conversation with many of my students who can read, but are still on their journey to becoming “read fit”. For now it can be a struggle and sometimes it’s not very enjoyable at all. Here are some methods I use in whole lessons, small group intervention sessions or even just conversation to get students to think in more depth about what they reading.
When we read we are predicting what will come next – and as successful readers we love it when we’re surprised. This is a great habit to get into as it prepares you for where the text is going and increases understanding. Ask a student to read the title, picture or the first couple of lines of text – can they predict based on this what is going to happen? Stop again halfway through, has their prediction been correct so far? Would they like to make another one?
Now I assume that while you are reading this you can understand what it means, if you don’t understand something you can go back and read it again (maybe my syntax has thrown you off – or aggressive use of punctuation!) However, a reader in training may not do this – they may continue, thinking that going back is a failure. Show them this is not the case. If reading aloud I’ll often stop and say, “I’m going to repeat that paragraph, as I didn’t really understand it”.
What we are reading should challenge us – all of us! That means we will need to clarify things afterwards, just to clear up any confusion. This can be done quickly or in detail, for a quick approach I’d say, “here’s some words I didn’t know first time I read this.” For a more detailed approach in a small group each reader could offer the definition of a word someone else might not know first, before asking for the definition of one they are not clear on.
As people who are “read fit” we are always asking questions of the text, often without realising it. Who’s not read a thriller without actually shouting “why are you doing that” at the book. After reading, structure questions to get readers used to questioning themselves when reading alone. If working independently I use the grid below to help readers with the questions, the closer you get to the bottom right corner the more difficult they get.
You know when someone asks you what the novel you’re reading is about, you think for a while and actually can’t answer? This hard because you have to recall a lot of information and condense it into a few words – if you can do this then you understand it well. If that chapter was a Facebook status or newspaper headline, what would it say?
I hope this has been useful – shout if you have any questions!