This summer my students and I have been exploring the reading process and what good readers do to make sense of text. My students recently turned in their final projects; creating think alouds that highlight major comprehension strategies such as monitoring comprehension, visualizing, determining importance, inferring, etc. A think aloud, for those who aren’t familiar with the term, is a teaching tool where the thinking behind the process of making sense out of text is made explicit for learners.
As we explored the comprehension strategies and worked on creating think alouds I was reminded how difficult it is for good readers to be aware of what happens in their brains as they read. Making sense out of text is an active process; good readers are constantly asking questions, making connections, monitoring their comprehension, making predictions based on their schema, semantic knowledge, graphophonemic knowledge…..and doing many other things. However, for the most part this is unconscious. Part of teaching children to read involves working with these processes and strategies in conscious and deliberate ways–but how do teachers do that when they aren’t necessarily aware of how these processes and strategies work in their own reading?
So here’s a challenge: over the next few days think about what you do as you read. How do you make sense of text? As you read, be aware of what’s going on in your head. How do you figure out unfamiliar words? What do you do if you lose meaning? When do you speed up your reading or slow it down? How do you read fiction? Do you read nonfiction differently? The list of strategies and processes below will give you some ideas of the various things good readers do.
One note: this is very difficult. What often happens is that you will be aware of your reading for a paragraph or two, then the automatic and unconscious nature of reading will take over. However, keep trying. You’ll be amazed at all that goes on in your head as you read…and once you are aware of your own reading processes it will be easier to help children learn to read.
A Selection of Reading Strategies and Processes (In No Particular Order)
- Figuring out unknown words
- Making connections: personal, text-to-text, text-to-world
- Varying reading rate: speeding up or slowing down as needed
- Monitoring comprehension
- Making predictions
- Confirming/disconfirming predictions
- Using schema/background knowledge
- Determining importance
- Asking questions
- Making inferences
- Using phonics knowledge
- Using syntactic knowledge
- Looking at photos/images/illustrations to support meaning
- Deciding where to start and stop reading
- Summarizing/retelling what you’ve read so far
- Setting a purpose for reading
- Using your knowledge of how various genres are organized