Strategies for Teaching Reading

Reading strategies:

SCANNING FOR SPECIFIC INFORMATION "Workers find dinosaur tracks in BC"
What is scanning?
• Scanning is a focused and rapid way of reading something to locate specific information
• Like reading a phone list to find your friend’s phone number or scanning a menu to find the price of drinks
• This is not the same as reading quickly to find the main idea (skimming)
• To help students to read text quickly and accurately in order to find answers to specific questions
• To help students find specific information in lists, manuals, advertisement, on a website, reading passages
Before scanning:
1. Know your specific question and understand it.
2. Preview the text to see how information is arranged. Where do you think the information you are looking for might be?
3. Create a mental image of the fact, word or phrase you are looking for.
4. Think of synonyms that might be used instead
5. Look for clues the author might give you
How to scan
1. Move your eyes in a scanning pattern
2. Don’t stop to read until your eyes see one of the key words you are looking for
3. Look for ways the writer organized the reading—headings, numbers, signal words, words in bold or italics
4. Use your finger to guide you down the page from line to line looking for your key words
• Palomar College. (n.d.). Power reading online. Retrieved Jan. 20, 2102 from:

HERRINGBONE (5Ws), "Climber loses 9 fingers"
• To help students pay attention to details in what they read
• To provide students with a visual framework that they can use to decide what is important information in what they read
• To help students think about the main idea, significant details, and the relationships among them.

Materials: fiction, nonfiction, and expository text
1. Select a text for students to read
2. Explain why it is important to pay attention to details when you read.
3. Discuss the 5W questions and demonstrate how to put the answers on the Herringbone chart.
4. Have students read and then work with partners to complete the chart.
5. Together they must decide on answers to each of the 5W questions on the chart (Who, What,
When, Why, Where, How). This may involve reading the passage several times and students should be encouraged to discuss possible answers and which are most important.
6. Students may use these details to retell the reading, either orally or in writing

From: docstoc:

• From: Haher, D. (1998). Reading strategies: What do good readers do? Retrieved Jan. 19, 2012 from:
• Campbell, P. (2003). Teaching reading to adults: A balanced approach. Edmonton: Grass Roots Press.

ACTIVATING PRIOR KNOWLEDGE "Canada's aboriginal population"
What is prior knowledge?
• Fluent readers usually bring to mind what they already know about a topic before and while reading
• Using what you already know when reading a text helps with both comprehension of the reading as well as remembering what was read
• As fluent readers read, they compare what they are reading to what they already know and use that to help with comprehension
• To help students identify what they already know about the topic of a reading passage
• To provide students with background information that they need to know before reading
• To help students make connections with background knowledge while they read
1. Explain how background knowledge helps reading and remembering
2. Think of ways for students to discover what they already know about a topic
• Previewing titles/headlines and discuss what Ss already know about these
• Look at photos/captions and discuss what Ss already know about this
• Brainstorm about the topic
• Ask students to think about what they already know about the topic
• Ask specific or general questions about the topic
3. Think of ways to build new background knowledge as needed
• Pre-teach vocabulary—as vocabulary in a topic related set will help students develop background knowledge
• Show, don’t tell—use demonstrations, videos, photos, field trips, guest speakers
• Christen, WL & Murphy, TJ. (1991). Increasing comprehension by activating prior knowledge. ERIC Digest. #ED328885. Retreived Jan. 20, 2012 from:
• Campbell, P. (2003). Teaching reading to adults: A balanced approach. Edmonton: Grass Roots Press.

SIGNAL WORDS / COHESIVE DEVICES "Legend of the dancing goats"
• To help students identify signal words and their purposes
• To help students preview the text structure by identifying signal words
• To help students become familiar with the organization of a text

What is a signal word?
• Phrases or words the show how the ideas in a reading passage are connected
• Show more information is coming or that you are moving to the next main idea: In addition, Furthermore,
• Show sequence: First, second, third, next, lastly, finally
• Show there is going to be a contrast: However, On the other hand, In contrast, But
• Show a result or effect: Therefore, Because
• Show a conclusion: In conclusion, As a result
• Show time: When
• Show location: Where
• Show comparison: While, Although

Before Reading:
1. Teach Ss the meanings of the signal words they will find in the reading passage
2. Explain the meaning of the words—what do they signal?
3. Have Ss scan the reading passage to identify signal words.
4. Have Ss group and sort the signal words according to meaning
5. Tell Ss that authors use signal words to help readers understand the “flow” of ideas
6. Ask Ss how these signal words show the organization of the text (cause/effect, sequence…)
7. Ask Ss how these signal words show the logic/argument of the text (furthermore—just adding more information; therefore—making a conclusion)
8. Ss can work in small groups
During Reading:
9. As Ss read, have them say to their partner what connection a signal word is making
After Reading
10. Could use a graphic organizer to show the organization
11. Use the signal words to “retell” the story orally, or in writing
12. Ask Ss to describe how signal words helped the understand the reading

• Ontario Ministry of Education. (2012). Think literacy: Cross-curricular approaches 7-12. Retrieved Jan. 20, 2012 from:

STORY MAP "Pi is lost for 26 days"
What is a story map?
• The organization of stories differs from culture to culture. A story map shows the steps in a story so that the reader can more easily comprehend the action of the story.
• A simple story might have these parts:
o Setting
o Event
o Complication
o Resolution
o (Moral)
• There are other ways of organizing stories. Readers Digest stories tend to use a flashback style of organization, for example.
• Making a story map is similar to identifying text structure in a reading such as cause/effect or comparison

• To help students understand the story structure of a reading so that they can predict and make hypotheses about the story as fluent readers do.
• To help students feel comfortable with the way the story is organized.
• To help students practice scanning to find the organization of what they read

Discovery method
1. Discuss the idea of a “story map”. What might it have in it? Help Ss with names of the different parts. Draw some kind of graphic organizer on board.
2. Have students do “noisy reading” and quickly read the story to see what parts they can identify.
3. Write possible parts of the story on the board and have Ss put in order.
4. Have students reread story more slowly to see if this story map is correct.
Deductive method
1. Give Ss a graphic organizer with the steps of the story in it
2. Explain what each might contain
3. Have Ss read the story and put the main parts in the graphic organizer

• Ontario Ministry of Education. (2012). Think literacy: Cross-curricular approaches 7-12. Retrieved Jan. 20, 2012 from:
• Farrell, T. (2009). Teaching reading to English language learners: A reflective guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

KWL "Climber loses 9 fingers"
What is KWL?
• This is a simple chart on the board for finding out what students already know about a topic, encouraging them to think about what they want to learn while reading, and to have them recall what they learned during their reading time.
• This is good with expository text
• To help students talk about the background knowledge they have
• To create interest in a reading before reading it
• To set a purpose prior to reading
• To help students reflect on what they have read
1. Write 3 columns on board: What we know, what we want to learn, what we learned
2. Ask students to brainstorm what they know about this topic based on the title
3. Ask students to come up with questions about the topic that they want to find the answers to.
4. Use these questions as a purpose for reading the text. Have students read the text quickly on their own or in pairs to see what the answers to these questions are.
5. During reading, students note the answers on their charts
6. After reading, go over answers in small groups or as a class.
7. Discuss possible resources for finding answers to unanswered questions

• Campbell, P. (2003). Teaching reading to adults: A balanced approach. Edmonton: Grass Roots Press.

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