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7 Strategies to Help Your Students Read for Information

Reading for information is a life-long skill.  Students who have strong reading comprehension skills understand what they read (and know when they do not!).   Learners require direct instruction of comprehension skills in order to improve.  We want our students to think about their thinking before, during, and after reading.  Whether you're not sure how to support your students, or you're looking for some fresh new ideas, this post is for you!

1) Annotate

We learn best by doing.  The simple act of reading with a pencil or pen in your hand and taking a few notes helps readers to better remember the text.  Have your students use symbols to help trigger their memory later.  For example:
    • Adding a checkmark to symbolize something you already knew
    • Writing a question mark over a word you don't understand
    • Placing an exclamation mark over a surprising fact

2) Highlight

Similar to annotating, you can ask students to highlight key words or phrases.  This takes some modelling and discussion around what qualifies as an important word.  If done correctly, you should be able to gather all that is important to remember from the highlights.  This is a great strategy to use before using strategy 7.

3) Use graphic organizers

Graphic organizers are a great way to help students visually organize new information.  Maps, webs, graphs, charts, frames, and clusters are all names of common graphic organizers.  They can help students to examine and show relationships in text.  Graphic organizers are also a great step in having students write detailed, concise summaries of text.

4) Turn and talk

During reading, pause students and have them orally share with a neighbour. You can have them:
  • Question the text
  • Make connections to the text
  • Predict what comes next
  • Summarize
  • Generate main ideas
  • State which information is unnecessary
  • Recall 3 interesting facts
Orally sharing comprehension is not only a great assessment piece for you, but it also takes the pressure off for those with lower writing output.  Strategy 5 provides a natural place for students to turn and talk!

5) Read in chunks

Talk to your students about how text is structured.  Work with them to find natural breaks in the text.  Teach them to pause at each chunk and mentally summarize what they read.  If they can't do it, they need to go back and reread.  As time goes on, they should be able to independently break the text apart into chunks.

6) Preview vocabulary

Especially with content area reading, students need to have pre-exposure to vocabulary words.  The article may contain words they don't know, or words that are used in a different context than they are used to.  In my experience, if they don't know them they will choose to glaze right over.  One of my favourite tasks for this is something I call "Word Graffiti".  I've already written a blog post specifically on this topic. Click here or on the image below.


7) Summarize the text

Summarizing is an essential skill for having students determine what's most important in a text.  If your students are new to summarizing, it's best to provide them with a framework.  Ask:
  1. What's most important to remember in this text?
  2. What vocabulary is essential for readers to understand?
  3. Is there anything in this text that is irrelevant or unnecessary?
  4. Are there any supporting details readers need to know to better understand the main idea?

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