If the classroom is truly the training ground for life, it only makes sense that we would use reading strategies that mimic the way we read outside of the classroom, doesn’t it? This is essentially the crux of Rachel McCormack’s and Susan Lee Pasquarelli’s argument in Teaching Reading: Strategies and Resources for Grades K-6 (2009). We found it to be an engaging text and thought we’d share a few of their reading strategies:
Reading Strategies that Transcend the Classroom
Allow students to read silently before reading aloud
Students are often asked to read aloud; less often are they given the opportunity to silently read the text first. This might be worth reconsidering.
If you’ve ever agreed to read publically, chances are that you requested the opportunity to review the text before you stood in front of an audience. Why? Because you didn’t want to stumble over words or make silly mistakes. Naturally, our students feel the same. Most real-world reading happens silently, so doesn’t it make sense to allow our students the opportunity to read silently before shining the spotlight on them?
Not all texts are read the same
How we read varies with the type of text and the purpose for reading it. In life outside of the classroom, we find ourselves in a myriad of reading situations. McCormack and Pasquarelli give the example of a reader who is waiting for a dentist appointment. Most likely, the reader will pick up a magazine to pass the time—or to take her mind off of the impending root canal! The reader knows the dentist is not going to give a reading quiz, so she skims, looks at pictures and often abandons articles for new ones.
This same reader would approach a recipe, a science text book, or an instruction manual designed to help her install a hot water heater very differently. Likewise, students should always consider the type of text they are reading, the overarching purpose for reading it and adjust the way the approach the text accordingly.
How would you read an unfamiliar and difficult text?
Over the years, we’ve picked up reading strategies and use them so often that we’re no longer even aware that we’re using them. Because of that, it’s easy to forget how beginning readers experience texts. Here’s a simple exercise that will help you see reading from a student’s perspective and reacquaint you with your own reading strategies.
- Find an unfamiliar text on something that is not particularly engaging to you—or even better, find something that is challenging: a scholarly article or Ulysses, for example
- Open it up at random and start reading with a pencil in your hand
- What’s happening to you? What words or phrases did you circle? Why? Is your mind wandering? Do you have to reread sections to comprehend them?
- Now take note of how you refocus your attention and regain your footing. Did you backtrack to the beginning of the chapter? Did you search for bolded or italicized words? Did you read the author’s biography?
Readers improve when they struggle
Learning something new is intimidating for many of us because we fear failure. As much as we want to challenge our students, we often worry about the effects challenges may have on a struggling reader’s self-esteem. It’s wise to allow students to choose their own reading materials sometimes, but don’t take away opportunities for your students to take risks, stumble and pick themselves up again. To struggle is to grow.