What Effective Readers Do When Reading (Part 2)

What We Learned in Part 1

In What Effective Readers Do When Reading (Part 1), we outlined what effective readers do differently when reading that separates them from poor readers.

In Part 1, we discussed how proficient readers use their background knowledge to help them connect to what they are reading.

We also discussed how strong readers use visualization strategies to help them understand what they are reading and picture in their mind how the story action is unfolding. They also visualize what the characters look like and how they feel as the story progresses.

In nonfiction, they may visualize processes or relationships between concepts.

Effective readers prioritize the importance of the ideas they are reading in the text. In order to summarize a text or make inferences about what they have read, students must first be able to determine what information is important in the text. They must be able to distinguish between important information and information that may be interesting but not essential for understanding of the concept.

In this post, we will continue to examine what research says about what makes the difference between good readers and poor readers.

Teens Enjoy Relaxing with a Good Book

Effective Readers Summarize Information

Effective readers have a deep and insightful understanding of the text that they are reading.

When they finish reading, they can synthesize or summarize what they have read into the key points. They can retell these main ideas to others in a logical and sequential manner. Good readers are able to retell the gist of a story they have read. They can also place the important events of the story into a proper sequence.

Proficient readers can talk about the text, construct thoughts or ideas about the content and mesh what they have learned with their own previous learning on the topic.

You can help your students improve their skill in summarizing information by asking students to stop and summarize what they are reading – either orally or in writing – at strategic points in the text. Ask, “Who can summarize what we have read in this part of the (novel, chapter, article, etc.)?” Once a student has provided information, ask other class members if they can add anything more to the summary.

Practicing these skills orally or in writing will increase student skills in summarizing.

Summarizing text helps students identify the important ideas from a text while discarding unimportant ideas. Summarizing key points helps students improve their memory about what they have read. It also helps them retain information longer and understand what they have read more deeply.

Strong, Effective Readers Synthesize What They Read

When students synthesize information, they use their background knowledge and their new learning from the text.

They develop insights about the text and form ideas and opinions of their own. When readers synthesize a text, they bring their own thoughts, ideas, experiences, and background knowledge to their reading. They make connections to “go beyond” the surface ideas presented in the text. Effective readers use their insights and analysis to explain how their thinking has grown or changed over time.

Ask students to talk about what they thought about the topic or information.

Ask them to think about how their thinking has changed or evolved as they read more information on the same topic. Use metacognitive strategies to help students answer questions like: “I used to think…… but now I think…..” to deepen their abilities to synthesize information. When students find conflicting information, ask them to consider the reliability of the information they have found – especially online – and to verify the facts with additional reliable sources.

Effective readers reflect on what they have read.

They talk to others to clarify their questions or confusions and sort out key information to add to their own storehouse of knowledge. They mesh new knowledge with existing knowledge to build a solid set of beliefs and understandings about various topics. Effective readers are able to summarize and synthesize information from multiple sources to form deeper levels of understanding about a topic.

Proficient Readers Have Expansive Vocabulary Knowledge

Proficient readers have an expansive vocabulary they can use to talk about text.

They can make comparisons between topics and characters because they have a good storehouse of adjectives to use when describing these elements. Students reflect on word meaning and seek to understand the nuances between different words. They notice words they hear and words they come across in their reading and add them to their word storehouses.

Help your students expand their vocabulary storehouse by teaching words in categories and helping them learn the multiple meaning of words.

Students can also expand their word knowledge by playing word games – both online and off line – that make vocabulary learning fun and engaging.

Identify the important prefixes, suffixes and root words that unlock meaning in your content area. Systematically teach these important affixes to your students as they connect to your content. By breaking apart unknown words into its word parts, the meaning of many more words can be unlocked.

Read: What Good Readers Do When Reading (Part 1)

You Might Also Like: How to Improve Comprehension with Self-Questioning

How to Improve Comprehension with Self-Questioning

Increasing Comprehension with Self-Questioning Before Reading a Text

Good readers use self-questioning before, during, and after reading to improve reading comprehension. Using self-questioning before reading helps readers predict what a text might be about. This helps them decide whether the content is something they want to read.

Getting an idea of the text content helps readers determine if the text will be useful or interesting to them. To preview the content, readers check the cover title and the author.

Girl reading a book to get better comprehension with self-questioning.
Reading and Self-Questioning Go Together

Then they think about whether or not they have read any books by this author. If they have liked the books from this author in the past, they may be more inclined to want to read the new book by the same author. If they do not recognize the author, they are likely to want more information about the book before they choose to read it.

Next, readers look over the information on the book jacket. This helps them consider if the book will be interesting or useful. This self-questioning process increases the likelihood that the readers will select a book that matches their interests.

Poor readers, on the other hand, may look only at the title or cover picture and not delve much deeper than the surface level. If the title and picture cover does not catch their eye, they may immediately put the book down.

Other weak readers may select a book based on the thickness or number of pictures in the book. Helping students use questioning to match a book to their own interests, can help students choose books that match both their interests and the reading purpose.

Increasing Comprehension with Self-Questioning During Reading

Skilled readers use self-questioning and are actively involved in understanding the content as they read. They use self-questioning to make judgements about the information.

Proficient readers question the information as it is read and ask questions like: “I wonder why the author said that?”; “What did the author mean here?”; “Do I agree with this?”; or “Why character X did that.”; or “How can I use this information?” and similar self-questions.

Self-questioning helps the reader to look for text clues that help them wonder about what they read. They can make connections to their own background knowledge or similar texts. This strategy also helps them keep reading to find answers to their own questions.

Since each person’s background knowledge is different, readers will wonder about different parts of the text. Readers will make different connections and will take away different things from their reading.

Girl hodling out a book.

Increasing Comprehension with Self-Questioning After Reading a Text

When effective readers like a book, they often try to find more books on the topic or by the same author. Poor readers do not always make connections based on the author or the topic. This is a helpful skill for less effective readers so they develop better comprehension while reading.

After reading, effective readers can retell the gist of the story or informational content in their own words. By helping our less capable readers retell the story or key ideas, we improve their self-questioning. Therefore, questioning also helps them connect to what they have learned.

Encourage less effective readers to ask questions like: “What did the author want you to think about in this book?”; “How did the author want you to view Topic X?”; “What are the most important things that happened in the book?”; “Can you list the most important things to remember from what we have read?” 

When readers use self-questioning better comprehension is the result.

You May Also Like: What Effective Readers Do When Reading (Part 1) and What Effective Readers Do (Part 2)

Using Non-Fiction Texts to Increase Reading Comprehension

As teachers move to meet the new demands of the Common Core, making a shift to having students read more non-fiction text is absolutely essential. A wealth of good, non-fiction text can be found on the internet.  For example, an excellent for good nonfictional text of all types is www.wonderopolis.org. This site, created by the National Center for Family Literacy was named by Time Magazine as one of the top 50 websites of the year. Every day, the site provides a new “wonder of the day” question that children can explore. The site includes a video about the topic, key information,vocabulary terms that are important to the text,  thought-provoking questions and even a clue about the next wonder of the day to promote anticipation. Some examples of recent questions are: Do Dragonflies Breath Fire? Where is the Hottest Place on Earth? and  How Hot is Lukewarm?  Students can chose to read about topics such as Animals, Oceans, Presidents, Space and many other wonderful topics on the site.  It is definitely a must-visit site for teachers.