Do you want to help your students become independent readers? If so, this blog post is for you! Teaching students to use reading strategies effectively is just one of the components of helping students read for meaning. Decoding strategies are what help students read the text. When students are able to decode, we can progress towards reading strategies that focus on text meaning, comprehension, and connections.
Where Do I Start?
Reading for meaning can look different in every classroom depending on where your students are in their reading. For example, older students who are able to read independently might be able to incorporate reading strategies on their own, whereas in the primary classroom, some of the texts will be read by the teacher. In that case, the teacher will be leading the discussion and guiding students through the reading strategies until they are comfortable using them on their own. That kind of modeled approach is so important and sets the foundation for students to be able to incorporate these skills independently.
In order for students to read for meaning, they must first be taught explicitly how to use reading strategies to understand and make connections to the texts they are reading. I strongly encourage teachers to start with whole class instruction when introducing and modeling these strategies. From there, you will be able to target specific reading strategies in smaller groups based on students’ needs. However, it is always a good idea to start by exposing all of your students to the reading strategy so that there is some familiarity for them when you go into more detail in guided reading groups.
Effective Reading Strategies for Teaching Reading For Meaning
There are many reading strategies that you can introduce in class but I tend to focus on the 8 most commonly used strategies: summarizing, asking questions, making predictions, making connections, inferring, making visualizations, combining ideas and determining importance.
When taught correctly, these strategies will not only help students understand what it is they are reading, but also question what they are reading and develop their critical thinking skills. It will allow students to apply their understanding in the real world and make connections to the world around them. When a student understands what they are reading, this helps create confident readers who might develop a joy for reading. From there, students are able to choose at-level books and texts that touch on their interests.
Is There An Order To Follow When Teaching Reading Strategies?
The order in which you choose to introduce the reading strategies depends on your students’ needs and long-range plans. However, I will share with you the order in which I usually introduce reading strategies in my class.
September is a transition month. I try to keep it light and simple. For that reason, I would start by introducing the concept of visualization. I do that because it is one of the least demanding strategies for students to grasp because it involves visuals. Many students enjoy demonstrating their understanding with pictures. It is also a strategy that is often used in lower primary grades, including kindergarten.
Next, I choose to teach students about making predictions. This is also another strategy that students are often taught at an early age. There isn’t a lot of pressure on students to get predictions correct. The focus lies mostly on their ability to use information or pictures from the text to make a good guess! Understanding how to use evidence from a text to make a prediction will help students down the road when you introduce other strategies that require more critical thinking.
Summarizing and retelling are two of the most common strategies that students are exposed to from a very young age. For that reason, this is one of the first three strategies that I recommend starting with. Students are often asked to retell what happened in a story or summarize story events. The concept of summarizing isn’t new to them. However, the goal of these units is to teach students HOW to write a good summary, starting with the most basic lessons and working our way up to paragraph writing. I created a set of reading strategies units that help teachers do just that. Each unit begins by introducing bits and pieces of each reading strategy and progresses in difficulty until students are able to do it on their own. This one requires a little more reading and writing so waiting a couple of months before introducing it is a good idea. This allows students to build up their writing stamina and their reading.This one requires a little more reading and writing so waiting a couple of months before introducing it is a good idea. This allows students to build up their writing stamina and their reading. This strategy requires a little more reading and writing. Therefore, waiting a couple of months before introducing it is a good idea. This allows students to build up their reading and writing stamina.
The next strategy that I like to introduce is the skill of asking questions before, during, and after reading. When students learn to ask questions they become critical thinkers. In this unit, we want to encourage students to ask good questions. These questions help students reflect on the text they are reading.
Having the skill to ask strong questions will help students better understand how to make deeper connections to the text they are reading. There are three types of connections that I introduce in class: text-to-self, text-to-text and text-to-world. I teach this strategy explicitly mid-way through the year because the goal is to help students move from making simple connections to deeper connections.
The last reading strategy that I teach in depth is making inferences. This one sounds a little similar to making predictions but they’re different in that making inferences is when students infer something about the text based on something that is not in the text. Students have to read between the lines while using evidence from the text and their background knowledge to figure out something that the author has not told them.
Reading for Meaning During Guided Reading
Often times, when we work with small guided reading groups, students are grouped based on their reading abilities. Your goal during your reading sessions will be to target the reading strategy that each group needs to work on. Using the reading strategies units, your students will become familiar with each reading strategy and have an easier time applying their learning in a small group with your guidance.
When our students are learning to read with meaning, it is beneficial for them to start by reading non-fiction texts about topics they are familiar with. This helps students predict what the text is about and make connections to what they are reading. Similarly, if they are reading a read-aloud or a fiction text, it is helpful to choose a story with a theme that students can easily relate to, such as kindness, friendship, courage, etc.
For example, here is a non-fiction text about physical activity. Students are always being reminded that physical activity is important for their health. They have a general understanding of physical activity. That is why they will be able to better decode this text and therefore understand the content.
Other Reading Strategies Resources
If you are interested in a set of reading strategies posters, these are the ones I use in my classroom. These are good visuals to keep posted in the class for students to reference when they are working on reading activities.
Before you go, make sure to sign up below to receive a free copy of my reading strategies flip book! This flip book is a helpful tool for students. This resource will help your students with their reading comprehension and understanding of how to use reading strategies to help them better understand a text or story.
Students can use it independently when they are reading or they can use it as a checklist to check for understanding. You could even use it during your guided reading program.
I also created a second flip book with one activity for each reading strategy. You can check that one out here!
I hope you found this blog post helpful and feel more confident about introducing these reading strategies in your classroom this year! If you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments below or send me an e-mail! I would be happy to chat!