School-Wide Strategies for Managing Reading


The ability to read allows individuals access to the full range of a culture's artistic and scientific knowledge. Reading is a complex act. Good readers are able fluently to decode the words on a page, to organize and recall important facts in a text, to distill from a reading the author's opinions and attitudes, and to relate the content of an individual text to a web of other texts previously read. The foundation that reading rests upon is the ability to decode.   This issue of The Practical Teacher provides number of instructional strategies to promote word decoding, reading decoding, and reading comprehension.

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The ability to read allows individuals access to the full range of a culture's artistic and scientific knowledge. Reading is a complex act. Good readers are able fluently to decode the words on a page, to organize and recall important facts in a text, to distill from a reading the author's opinions and attitudes, and to relate the content of an individual text to a web of other texts previously read. The foundation that reading rests upon is the ability to decode.   This issue of The Practical Teacher provides number of instructional strategies to promote word decoding, reading decoding, and reading comprehension.

Emergent readers require the support of more accomplished readers to teach them basic vocabulary, demonstrate word attack strategies, model fluent reading, and provide corrective feedback and encouragement. Newly established readers must build fluency and be pushed to exercise their reading skills across the widest possible range of settings and situations.

As the act of decoding becomes more effortless and automatic, the developing reader is able to devote a greater portion of cognitive energy to understanding the meaning of the text. Reading comprehension is not a single skill but consists of a cluster of competencies that range from elementary strategies for identifying and recalling factual content to highly sophisticated techniques for inferring an author's opinions and attitudes. As researcher Michael Pressley points out, reading comprehension skills can be thought of as unfolding along a timeline. Before beginning to read a particular selection, the skilled student reader must engage prior knowledge, predict what the author will say about the topic, and set specific reading goals. While reading, the good reader self-monitors his or her understanding of the text, rereads sentences and longer passages that are unclear, and updates predictions about the text based on what he or she has just read. After completing a text, the good reader summarizes its main points (perhaps writing them down), looks back in the text to clarify any points that are unclear, and continues to think about the text and its implications for a period of time.

Reading comprehension can also be thought of as a bundle of interdependent skills that range from basic to more advanced. Teachers should ensure that students understand and appropriately use simple comprehension strategies (such as looking back in a text to clarify factual information) before teaching them advanced comprehension strategies such as SQ3R ('Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review'). Ultimately, reading is a competency that is continually honed and improved over a lifetime. The teacher's goal is to build students into independent readers whose skills improve with self-guided practice. Below are a number of instructional strategies to promote word decoding, reading decoding, and reading comprehension.

? Independent Practice: Set Up Reading Centers (Florida Center for Reading Research, 2005). When students have mastered a reading skill, they can work independently at reading centers to practice and become more fluent in that skill under the watchful eye of the teacher. The reading center is set up with fun and engaging activities designed to extend and reinforce literacy content presented by the teacher. Students work on independent reading-related activities individually or in pairs or groups. As examples of reading center choices, students may listen to taped books, read alone or to each other, use magnetic letters to spell a specified list of words, or create storyboards or comic strips that incorporate pictures and words. Each reading center activity is tied to specific student literacy goals. The activities in reading centers may change often to give children a chance to practice new skills and to keep the content of these centers fresh and engaging.

? Reading Comprehension: Activating Prior Knowledge (Hansen, & Pearson, 1983). The instructor demonstrates to students how they can access their prior knowledge about a topic to improve comprehension of an article or story. The instructor first explains the benefit of using prior knowledge. The instructor tells students that recalling their prior experiences (“their own life”) can help them to understand the content of their reading--because new facts make sense only when we connect them to what we already know. Next, the instructor demonstrates the text prediction strategy to the class by selecting a sample passage (displayed as an overhead) and using a “think-aloud” approach to illustrate the strategy steps: STEP 1: THINK ABOUT WHAT AND WHY: The teacher connects the article to be read with the instructor's own prior knowledge about the topic. The teacher might say, for example, “I am about to read a short article about [topic]. Before I read the article, though, I should think about my life experiences and what they might tell me about [topic]. By thinking about my own life, I will better understand the article.” STEP 2: SELECT MAIN IDEAS FROM THE ARTICLE TO POSE PRIOR-KNOWLEDGE AND PREDICTION QUESTIONS. The teacher chooses up to 3 main ideas that appear in the article or story. For each key idea, the instructor poses one question requiring that readers tap their own prior knowledge of the idea (e.g., “What are your own attitudes and experiences about [idea]?”) and another that prompts them to predict how the article or story might deal with the idea (e.g., "What do you think the article will say about [idea]?"). STEP 3: HAVE STUDENTS READ THE ARTICLE INDEPENDENTLY. Once the teacher has primed students' prior knowledge by having them respond to the series of prior-knowledge and prediction questions, students read the selection independently.

? Reading Comprehension: Anticipation Reading Guide (Duffelmeyer, 1994; Merkley, 1996). To activate their prior knowledge of a topic, students complete a brief questionnaire on which they must express agreement or disagreement with 'opinion' questions tied to the selection to be read; students then engage in a class discussion of their responses. The instructor first constructs the questionnaire. Each item on the questionnaire is linked to the content of the article or story that the students will read. All questionnaire items use a 'forced-choice' format in which the student must simply agree or disagree with the item. After students have completed the questionnaire, the teacher reviews responses with the class, allowing students an opportunity to explain their rationale for their answers. Then students read the article or story.

? Reading Comprehension: Building Comprehension of Textbook Readings Through SQ3R (Robinson, 1946). Students grasp a greater amount of content from their textbook readings when they use the highly structured SQ3R ('Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review') process. (1) SURVEY: Prior to reading a section of the textbook, the reader surveys the selection by examining charts, tables, or pictures, looking over chapter headings and subheadings, and reading any individual words or blocks of text highlighted by the publisher. (2) QUESTION: In preparation for reading, the reader next generates and writes down a series of key 'questions' about the content based on the material that he or she has surveyed. (3) READ: As the reader reads through the selection, he or she seeks answers to the questions posed. (4) RECITE: After finishing the selection, the reader attempts to recite from memory the answers to the questions posed. If stuck on a question, the reader scans the text to find the answer. (5) REVIEW: At the end of a study session, the reader reviews the list of key questions and again recites the answers. If the reader is unable to recall an answer, he or she goes back to the text to find it.

? Reading Comprehension: Conversing With the Writer Through Text Annotation (Harris, 1990; Sarkisian, Toscano, Tomkins-Tinch, & Casey, 2003). Students are likely to increase their retention of information when they interact actively with their reading by jotting comments in the margin of the text. Students are taught to engage in an ongoing 'conversation' with the writer by recording a running series of brief comments in the margins of the text. Students may write annotations to record their opinions of points raised by the writer, questions triggered by the reading, or vocabulary words that the reader does not know and must look up. NOTE: Because this strategy requires that students write in the margins of a book or periodical, text annotation is suitable for courses in which students have either purchased the textbook or have photocopies of the reading available on which to write.

? Reading Comprehension: Mining Information from the Text Book (Garner, Hare, Alexander, Haynes, & Vinograd, 1984). With ‘text lookback’ the student increases recall of information by skimming previously read material in the text in a structured manner to look that information up. First, define for the student the difference between ‘lookback’ and ‘think’ questions. ‘Lookback’ questions are those that tell us that the answer can be found right in the article, while ‘think’ questions are those that ask you to give your own opinion, belief, or ideas. When faced with a lookback question, readers may need to look back in the article to find the information that they need. But readers can save time by first skimming the article to get to the general section where the answer to the question is probably located. To skim efficiently, the student should (1) read the text-lookback question carefully and highlight the section that tells the reader what to look for (e.g., “What does the article say are the FIVE MOST ENDANGERED SPECIES of whales today?”), (2) look for titles, headings, or illustrations in the article that might tell the reader where the information that he or she is looking for is probably located, (3) read the beginning and end sentences in individual paragraphs to see if that paragraph might contain the desired information.

? Reading Comprehension: Previewing the Chapter (Gleason, Archer, & Colvin, 2002). The student who systematically previews the contents of a chapter before reading it increases comprehension--by creating a mental map of its contents, activating prior knowledge about the topic, and actively forming predictions about what he or she is about to read. In the previewing technique, the student browses the chapter headings and subheadings. The reader also studies any important graphics and looks over review questions at the conclusion of the chapter. Only then does the student begin reading the selection.

? Reading Comprehension: Question-Answer Relationships (QAR) (Raphael, 1982; Raphael, 1986). Students are taught to identify 'question-answer relationships', matching the appropriate strategy to comprehension questions based on whether a question is based on fact, requires inferential thinking, or draws upon the reader's own experience. Students learn that answers to RIGHT THERE questions are fact-based and can be found in a single sentence, often accompanied by 'clue' words that also appear in the question. Students are informed that they will also find answers to THINK AND SEARCH questions in the text--but must piece those answers together by scanning the text and making connections between different pieces of factual information. AUTHOR AND YOU questions require that students take information or opinions that appear in the text and combine them with the reader's own experiences or opinions to formulate an answer. ON MY OWN questions are based on the students' own experiences and do not require knowledge of the text to answer. Students are taught to identify question-answer relationships in class discussion and demonstration. They are then given specific questions and directed to identify the question type and to use the appropriate strategy to answer.

? Reading Comprehension: Reading Actively (Gleason, Archer, & Colvin, 2002). By reading, recalling, and reviewing the contents of every paragraph, the student improves comprehension of the longer passage. The instructor teaches students to first read through the paragraph, paying particular attention to the topic and important details and facts. The instructor then directs students to cover the paragraph and state (or silently recall) the key details of the passage from memory. Finally, the instructor prompts students to uncover the passage and read it again to see how much of the information in the paragraph the student had been able to accurately recall. This process is repeated with all paragraphs in the passage.

? Reading Fluency: Listening, Reading, And Receiving Corrective Feedback (Rose & Sherry, 1984; Van Bon, Boksebeld, Font Freide, & Van den Hurk, J.M., 1991). The student ‘rehearses’ a text by first following along silently as a more accomplished reader (tutor) reads a passage aloud; then the student reads the same passage aloud while receiving corrective feedback as needed. The student and tutor sit side-by-side at a table with a book between them. The tutor begins by reading aloud from the book for about 2 minutes while the student reads silently. If necessary, the tutor tracks his or her progress across the page with an index finger to help the student to keep up. At the end of the 2 minutes, the tutor stops reading and asks the student to read aloud. If the student commits a reading error or hesitates for longer than 3-5 seconds, the tutor tells the student the correct word and has the student continue reading. For each new passage, the tutor first reads the passage aloud before having the student read aloud.

? Reading Fluency: Paired Reading (Topping, 1987). The student builds fluency and confidence as a reader by first reading aloud in unison with an accomplished reader, then signaling that he or she is ready to read on alone with corrective feedback. The more accomplished reader (tutor) and student sit in a quiet location with a book positioned between them. The tutor says to the student, “Now we are going to read aloud together for a little while. Whenever you want to read alone, just tap the back of my hand like this [demonstrate] and I will stop reading. If you come to a word you don’t know, I will tell you the word and begin reading with you again.” Tutor and student begin reading aloud together. If the student misreads a word, the tutor points to the word and pronounces it. Then the student repeats the word. When the student reads the word correctly, tutor and student resume reading through the passage. When the child delivers the appropriate signal (a hand tap) to read independently, the tutor stops reading aloud and instead follows along silently as the student continues with oral reading. The tutor occasionally praises the student in specific terms for good reading (e.g., “That was a hard word. You did a nice job sounding it out!”). If, while reading alone, the child either commits a reading error or hesitates for longer than 5 seconds, the tutor points to the error-word and pronounces it. Then the tutor tells the student to say the word. When the student pronounces the error-word correctly, tutor and student resume reading aloud in unison. This tandem reading continues until the student again signals to read alone.

? Reading Fluency: Repeated Reading (Herman, 1985; Rashotte & Torgesen, 1985; Rasinski, 1990). The student increases fluency in decoding by repeatedly reading the same passage while receiving help with reading errors. A more accomplished reader (tutor) sits with the student in a quiet location with a book positioned between them. The tutor selects a passage in the book of about 100 to 200 words in length. The tutor directs the student to read the passage aloud. If the student misreads a word or hesitates for longer than 5 seconds, the tutor reads the word aloud and has the student repeat the word correctly before continuing through the passage. If the student asks for help with any word, the tutor reads the word aloud. If the student requests a word definition, the tutor gives the definition. When the student has completed the passage, the tutor directs the student to read the passage again. The tutor directs the student to continue rereading the same passage until either the student has read the passage a total of 4 times or the student reads the passage at the rate of at least 85 to 100 words per minute. Then tutor and student select a new passage and repeat the process.

? Word Decoding: Drilling Error Words (Jenkins & Larson, 1979). When students practice, drill, and receive corrective feedback on words that they misread, they can rapidly improve their vocabulary and achieve gains in reading fluency. Here are steps that the teacher or tutor will follow in the Error Word Drill: (1) When the student misreads a word during a reading session, write down the error word and date in a separate “Error Word Log”. (2) At the end of the reading session, write out all error words from the reading session onto index cards. (If the student has misread more than 20 different words during the session, use just the first 20 words from your error-word list. If the student has misread fewer than 20 words, consult your “Error Word Log” and select enough additional error words from past sessions to build the review list to 20 words.) (3) Review the index cards with the student. Whenever the student pronounces a word correctly, remove that card from the deck and set it aside. (A word is considered correct if it is read correctly within 5 seconds. Self-corrected words are counted as correct if they are made within the 5-second period. Words read correctly after the 5-second period expires are counted as incorrect.) (4) When the student misses a word, pronounce the word for the student and have the student repeat the word. Then say, “What word?” and direct the student to repeat the word once more. Place the card with the missed word at the bottom of the deck. (5) Error words in deck are presented until all have been read correctly. All word cards are then gathered together, reshuffled, and presented again to the student. The drill continues until either time runs out or the student has progressed through the deck without an error on two consecutive cards.

? Word Decoding: Tackling Multi-Syllabic Words (Gleason, Archer, & Colvin, 2002). The student uses affixes (suffixes and prefixes) and decodable ‘chunks’ to decode multi-syllabic words. The instructor teaches students to identify the most common prefixes and suffixes present in multi-syllable words, and trains students to readily locate and circle these affixes. The instructor also trains students to segment the remainder of unknown words into chunks, stressing that readers do not need to divide these words into dictionary-perfect syllables. Rather, readers informally break up the word into graphemes (any grouping of letters including one or more vowels that represents a basic sound unit—or grapheme--in English). Readers then decode the mystery word by reading all affixes and graphemes in the order that they appear in that word.

? Word Decoding: Teach a Hierarchy of Strategies (Haring, Lovitt, Eaton & Hansen, 1978). The student has a much greater chance of successfully decoding a difficult word when he or she uses a ‘Word Attack Hierarchy’--a coordinated set of strategies that move from simple to more complex. The student uses successive strategies until solving the word. (1) When the student realizes that he or she has misread a word, the student first attempts to decode the word again. (2) Next, the student reads the entire sentence, using the context of that sentence to try to figure out the word’s meaning--and pronunciation. (3) The student breaks the word into parts, pronouncing each one. (4) If still unsuccessful, the student uses an index card to cover sections of the word, each time pronouncing only the part that is visible. The student asks ‘What sound does ___ make?, using phonics information to sound out the word. (5) If still unsuccessful, the student asks a more accomplished reader to read the word.


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Reprinted with permission from Jim Wright from

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