|What do we do when we read?
We read in different ways, depending on our goals. We may
Note that intensive reading is not common outside of school, except when
we are reading instructions. It is in some ways unnatural...
scan through a text for a specific piece of information (When is
the movie on?).
skim a text to get a general idea of its content (as with many newspaper
practice rapid, extensive reading (as when we read a novel).
practice slow, careful, intensive reading (as when we study a poem
or a short passage).
Except when we scan, the aim of reading is not to understand individual
words or even sentences but to construct a global meaning for a text.
In doing this, we use not only the words in the text, but our previous
knowledge of the subject (bees, or winter, or war...) and of the way
the type of text (recipe, novel, editorial, joke...) is put together.
As we read, we construct hypotheses about the meaning, modifying
them as we proceed. We use strategies to cope with unknown
words or concepts, build up our representation of the meaning of the text
and monitor our understanding.
How can reading be taught?
The suggestions for activities which follow are arranged in four columns,
corresponding to four different moments of instruction.
(1) Preparatory work is done without reference to a specific
text. It can include general work on vocabulary and syntax, the teaching
of reading strategies, and exercises to increase reading speed or word-recognition.
(2) Pre-reading activities activate previous knowledge so the
information in the text can be understood more easily, generate hypotheses
about the text which the reader seeks to confirm, and motivate the reader
by giving a reason to read.
(3) While-reading activities take place as the learner is going
through the text.
(4) Post-reading activities confirm understandings, and consolidate
knowledge gained during reading (vocabulary, syntax) by reusing it, perhaps
in writing or speaking situations.
following activities are presented according to where they are most likley
used in the reading .Please note that some will fall into more than
one category, such as "Predicting", which may begin before text is read,
continue during reading and have a final component after reading is finished.
(Prepared by Maija MacLeod, Adapted
from Campbell, K.(1991) Hands-on English, in ERIC Doccument
374 686 )
In this activity, before reading,
students will generate and organize vocabulary they know about a topic,
into meaningful categories, taking the form of a "map" or web.
This activity will activate students'
prior knowledge about a topic and its vocabulary, helping them to
categorize the ideas into a context they will be able to use when
they read . Grouping the words into categories makes them easier to remember
and understand . The map itself will help to explain new concepts
encountered during the reading by showing them in relationship with
1. Before introducing the
reading passage identify, in one or several words, the main idea.
2. Divide the class into small
groups, giving each one a large piece of paper, telling groups to
appoint one student as secretary to record their ideas.
3. On a large piece of paper,
write the topic you have identified, in the center with a circle around
it. Tell students they will have 10 minutes to list as many words as they
can about this topic.
4. When students are finished
their lists, ask them to tape them onto the wall.
5. Pointing to the lists,
ask students. "What groups do we see here?" When they find a category,
write it on the large paper, joining it to the center with
a line. Add the specific words in that category as extensions
of that group. The "map" will take the shape of a web. If students have
difficulty at first you can suggest a category and ask which words fit
into it. As students use the words from their lists, cross them off
6. When complete, the map
is a diagram of the students' combined knowledge of the subject. They will
be encouraged by how much information they already have and that with so
many words grouped into categories, the material in their reading
may be less overwhelming.
7. The students are then ready
to read the passage. As they read, encourage them to add any new words
they encounter to the map on the large paper. Try using a different color
for the new information. Another option would be to have each student copy
the class "map" and add to it on their own.
(Prepared by Maija MacLeod,
Adapted from Mikulecky,
B. (1984) Reading Instruction in ESL, ERIC document 274 185)
In this activity students work
with the teacher and then on their own, to find out what a reading passage
may be about by looking only at the title, pictures and diagrams, sub-headings,
first and last paragraphs and the first line of each paragraph.
This activity will develop
reading comprehension by making the reader familiar with the basic
content and organization of the text and activating prior knowledge .
By previewing a text, students
begin to guess at the content and begin to match up what they see in the
preview with what they already know about the content. They begin to make
assumptions about what they will find and are motivated to read to seek
answers to their questions.
1. Tell students that in this
activity they will be "planning " the reading they will be doing. By having
an idea of what is to come, they will be able to make more accurate guesses
about what they read and find it easier to understand what they have
2. Using a chapter or
shorter passage to read, go through the following steps with the
a) Read the title.
b) Look at any pictures or
c) Read any sub-headings.
d) Read the first paragraph,
or first sentence in a shorter passage.
e) Read the first line of
f) Read the last paragraph,
or last sentence in a shorter passage.
3. Ask students, "What
do you think this pasage is going to be about?
Copy some of the ideas on
4) Give the students a short
summary. Often students will have been quite accurate, which will give
them a good deal of confidence.
5) Distribute a second passage
of about 400 words. Give students two minutes to preview the text as was
done in the demonstration. After the time has elapsed, have them
put the reading away.
6) Hand out about ten questions,
asking about the general meaning of the passage, for students
to answer, without looking back at it.
7) Discuss the answers with
the students, impressing on them how it was not necessary for them to have
read all of the text to be able to understand its meaning .
- Enquiry Strategy
(Prepared by Maija MacLeod ,
Adapted from Williams, E. (1984) Reading in the language
classroom, p. 119-120)
In this activity, in response
to a picture or keyword prompt about a text to be read, students
generate facts and questions about its topic. Once motivated
to find confirmations to their statements and anwers to their questions,
students read the text .
This activity will involve students
in determining themselves what information they need about a text they
are about to read. This
makes more motivating reading than if the teacher generates the questions
they are to find answers to.
1. Using a visual or key word,
introduce the topic of the reading, one that should be of interest to the
2. As a whole-class activity,
ask students to give several facts about what they know
about the topic. You may want to record these in one column of a chart
labeled "KNOW". This is a the first step in a common technique called
KWL (Know - Want to Know - Learned) .
3. Often when the facts are
being generated there may be some disagreement by students as to the validity
of all of the facts. This leads nicely into the next step of asking
the students to work in groups to generate two lists. One will be of facts
about the topic that they are sure about and the other,
facts they are not sure of or do not know and would like to know.
Have students form these facts into questions.
4. Once students have
generated the two lists, have representatives from each group report back
to the whole class what ideas they came up with. Facts that the class may
not be sure of or want to know can be recorded on the chart
in the column labelled "Want to know".
5. Have students read the
passage, checking for the accuracy of the statements made in the "Know"
list and for the answers to the questions in the "Want to Know: column.
- Asking Questions
(Prepared by Maija Macleod, Adapted
from Manzo, A.V. (1969) The ReQuest procedure, Journal of Reading
In this activity, small chunks
of text are revealed a piece at a time. Students predict what a text will
be about, from viewing the title. They read piece by piece,
asking the teacher and responding to, higher-level questions about
the portion just read until the main idea is formed. Students continue
to read on their own to the end and revise their initial predictions.
This activity involves students
in predicting what may happen next in a story, by asking themselves
high-level questions. High-level questions are unlike low-level ones
which require only recall and recognition of facts. High-level questions
require interpreting, extrapolating, applying, inferring, analysing, synthesizing
and evaluating information in the text. Once students see how a text
is being organized, they can make a reasoned guess at what might happen
next. Students may be motivated to read further in the text to confirm
their guesses. This activity helps them to see the larger picture.
1. Choose a short reading passage.
Using one that has a "suprise ending" may have an even greater impact as
students will be even more pleased if they have guessed what will
happen correctly. You may want to recopy the passage so that each sentence
you want to focus on is on a separate line and can be obscurred with a
paper until ready to go to the next.
2. If using the overhead,
it is easy to control what portions will be seen by students. If you wish
students to have copies of the passage, or if a projector is not available,
instruct students to use a cover sheet so as to reveal only one line or
paragraph at a time.
3. To begin with, reveal only
the title. Ask students what they think the text will be about.
4. Record students predictions
on the board.
5. Explain to students that
in this activity they will read one line at a time, silently, and then
have the opportunity to ask you any questions they have about the text.
6. After giving students the
chance to ask questions, ask them some, modeling good questioning
techniques. The following acronym may be useful: FIVE.
questions - requires finding answer directly in the passage
questions - requires a guess
questions - reveals knowledge of words in the text, or lack of it
questions - calls on students to draw on their background knowledge
7. Give appropriate feedback
to students' questions, modelling the process of the thinking that may
happen with an inference question.
8. Continue having the students
read the text, line by line or paragraph by paragraph until the main idea
of the text is revealed. Ask students to finish reading silently
on their own.
9. Once students have finished
reading , revise the predictions that were recorded at the beginning. If
a surprise ending has been provided it often makes students realize
that not all predictions are "bad".
- Understanding Sequence
(Prepared by Maija Macleod, Adapted
from "Mystery Clue Game", Richardson & Morgan (1994) Reading
to Learn in the Content Areas, p. 172-173)
In this activity students work
together to approximate the sequence of events in a passage before
reading it. Reading clue cards, they attempt to sequence events that
happen, to solve a problem or perform some task. They then read with the
purpose of checking their predictions.
This activity will allow students
practice in identifying the sequence of events within a text. Having identified
the organizational pattern in this prereading activity, students will find
it easier to read the passage.
1. Choosing a passage with a
sequence of events, identify each of the events