Becoming “read fit”

I think every teacher I’ve ever spoken to loves reading. I think it’s part of the job. 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.


Some people go missing, others choose not to come back. KATHMANDU, my first novel out JULY 2019. Tap to read the first two chapters now.
Some people go missing, others choose not to come back. KATHMANDU, my first novel out JULY 2019. Tap to read the first two chapters now.


Here are some methods I use for whole class groups, small group intervention sessions or even just conversation to get students:


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 afterward, just to clear up any confusion.

This can be done quickly or in detail, for a quick approach I’d say, “here are some words I didn’t know the 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.

Ask questions

As people who are “read fit” we are always asking questions of the text, often without realizing 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.

question matrix


Have you ever struggled to summarise the novel you’re reading?

That’s because summarising something is hard. You need to recall a lot of information and condense it into a few words. If that chapter was a Facebook status or newspaper headline, what would it say?

If a student can do this, then they’ve understood the text well.

How do you test your students’ comprehension?


Teach creative writing? Get my free scheme of work... click here.
Click here to download my free creative writing scheme of work.


Photo by freddie marriage on Unsplash

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