Helping students comprehend what they are reading can sometimes be a challenge when we are working with non-fiction or informational text. A great way to help students deeply think about what they are reading and “visualize” the information and the relationships in the content is by using visual texts. Ask students to read two or more articles or pieces of informational text on the same topic. Once they have completed this task, ask them to summarize the information they have learned into one visual text graphic. For example, students might create a flow chart to explain a cycle or how something works. They might create a diagram to show the relationships that exist in the material. They could create a time line to show where key events occurred over time. They could create a table to categorize various items from the text or even create a story map to summarize the key events or main points of the texts. We have all heard the old saying, “A picture is worth a 1,000 words.” Students love to create visual texts and having them create visual representations of their understandings is a great way for students of all ages to show what they know.
A good way to help students think about what they read and increase their comprehension of the text is to use a method called Questions into Paragraphs. Developed by McLaughlin (1987) the QuIP procedure helps students think about text both before they read as well as after reading. Students develop or are given 3 related questions on the topic. They then respond to each question using at least two sources of text using an appropriate graphic organizer. Once information for each question has been gathered, students then synthesize the information and write one coherent paragraph summarizing the information. Once students are used to gathering, synthesizing and summarizing information to questions that the teacher provides, they should then be encouraged to identify their own related questions and complete the research, synthesis and summarization processes on their own. This is a great higher order activity that promotes not only deep understanding but higher level thinking as well.
Want to get your kids thinking more about what they are reading and processing that text at deeper levels? Then a technique called Facts, Questions and Responses created by Harvey and Goudvis (2000) might be just the strategy you need. Kids of all ages can use this technique to think about and process the text they are reading. Students begin by reading a selected nonfiction text and then generating the facts they have identified in their reading. They write these facts on a 3-column chart with the headings “facts” “questions” and “responses” as labels for the columns. After writing down the facts learned, ask students to list some questions that they have about this fact or things that they wonder about. These questions are listed in the center column. In the third column, students write about their responses or reactions to the facts that they have learned. This strategy can not only help students think about what is important in a selection, but it can also help them process the information and think about related questions that they might still have about the information in the text. While older students can process this information on their own or with partners, younger children can also use this strategy when guided by the teacher as a whole class activity.