“Active reading strategies” is a lame name for a something magic.
Diving into a book we love is so fun, it’s almost naughty. Think of one of your favorites. The one you have that beautiful copy of. Or a loved battered copy. The story you save for a special time, like a treat.
I love To Kill a Mockingbird. That’s my summertime treat book. Harper Lee somehow captured a childhood summer and put it on paper. How many of us can do that?
When you read your treasured book, you’re automatically using all the active reading strategies. Without even thinking about it.
A few lucky kids stumble upon these active reading strategies on their own. And many of them need to be taught. But once they know them, they’ve got ’em for life.
Every kid deserves the chance to open up a new dimension of living.
And so, we teach them.
Connect (to the story!)
First we activate their prior knowledge. The blurb on the back of the book tells us what it’s about. So we ask kids before we start reading The One and Only Ivan, “Where do you think they find the animals they put in zoos?” Get them thinking about the book before you even crack it open.
Then when they do take in the story, they’re primed.
Then we teach them how readers connect to stories. Fourth graders are masterful at this. Mention any subject and they have a connection.
When someone shares at Morning Meeting that they got a dog, and another students raise their hands to say they have dogs too? Point out that they’re making self connections!
Does the story remind them of another story they’ve read or that you’ve read aloud? Boom — you’ve got text to text connections.
Connections mean that you’re letting the story into your life. It’s becoming part of you. And when they realize they’re already doing it? They feel pretty smug.
Of all the active reading strategies, this one may be the most fun!
We’re showing kids that you can create your own little world in your mind using the words from the author.
As you read aloud, ask students to draw a picture of what Auggie’s graduation looks like. Or what Lucy sees when she walks through the door.
You can ask them to turn and talk to describe what they see in their imagination when Harry crawls into his cupboard? What’s in there? (Find out how Turn and Talk is like diamond earrings here.)
What kind of music do they play at Cair Paravel?
Teach them the incredible fun of tuning out the world and creating their own mental Spielberg production.
Clarifying is understanding the basic structure of the book.
Can they understand the main points of the story?
Are they able to summarize it for someone?
Particularly useful is mapping out the arc of the story using a story arc template. They’ll see that story arcs have a pattern and they’ll transfer that to their writing.
This is where we up the ante, and they become reading experts. They starting spouting off terms like “theme,” and “exposition.” And you beam at their newfound love of literature.
Predicting is the most common of the active reading strategies.
- What do you think will happen next?
- What do you think Chase did before the accident?
When we predict, it’s like making a bet. And it’s a bet we often lose, but those are the best bets as far as reading goes. We want to be surprised. We want the rug pulled out from under us! ‘Cause if we can predict a book’s ending? Then we probably need to be reading something more challenging.
This is the easiest for us to model. When you’re reading aloud a story, admit when you find something confusing. Go back and reread. Show kids that this is what great readers do.
So often, they feel like going back in the text is the same as admitting you’re not a good reader. When the character does something unexpected, stop and share your confusion: “I’m surprised Rose acted that way. That doesn’t seem like her. What do you guys think? Why do you suppose she did that?”
When they see you do this, they’ll copy you. (In fact, you’ll find yourself trying not to giggle when you hear your words parroted by students later.)
This is where readers make inferences about what’s really going on. (Inference anchor charts can help with this.)
This is where students can judge the story. Or the actions of the character. Where they can empathize.
Becoming a reader for life starts with people modeling for you what that looks like.
When you, the teacher, use these active reading strategies, they will notice. They may not use them immediately. But they will remember them. And ultimately use them.
When you think about it, asking them to read is really weird. We stare at old pieces of tree, sometimes for hours. And imagine stuff. Sometimes we have to sell that to them.
But the result is so worth it. Wouldn’t you agree?
More Active Reading Strategies You Might Like
Ready to learn other active reading strategies?
- Why Turn and Talk is Like Diamond Earrings
- Text to Text Connections (and Swimming Pools) in 4th Grade
- Prior Knowledge in 4th Grade: Why Build on Sand?
Now It’s Your Turn!
Tell us in the comments below:
- How do you make active reading strategies come alive for your students?
- OR Which of these strategies will you focus on this week during read aloud?
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