The Threads of Reading – Karen Tankersley

girl reading on the lawn with an apple next to her.

Nothing is more important for a teacher than to know how to use good reading strategies and practices. Making a difference with our students is why we all became educators. Becoming strong and proficient readers and writers is critical for our students.

On my blog, you will find many new ideas and suggestions for becoming a masterful “weaver” of reading instruction in your own classroom.

The goal of my website is to help you create strong and effective readers in your classroom. I have gathered hundreds of tips, tricks, and reading strategies that will help you meet the literacy needs of your students.

Many of these ideas featured here come from my own work as a reading specialist, literacy coach and professional developer.

Other tips and reading strategies are from the successful instructional strategies of great reading teachers I have known over the years.  Other ideas are from important research being done in the field that translates into effective instruction.

I will also pass along good ideas from other literacy experts in the field that you might find helpful for your own classroom instruction.

Share Your Own Effective Reading Strategies and Tips

Feel free to leave suggestions on great reading tips you use with your own students as you read. Also, feel free to ask questions or comment on the ideas and suggestions found here.

Please be an active participant when you visit here.  Return again and again for ideas, teaching strategies, and inspiration. 

Teaching students to read well is not an easy job. The more we share great ideas and identify what works to improve student proficiency, the better readers our students become.T

Thank you for the work that you do every day!  You are valued and appreciated!

Karen’s Books on Teaching Reading

In addition to the information presented here, you may enjoy reading some of my books on teaching reading and working with struggling readers:

The Threads of Reading: Strategies for Literacy Development

Literacy Strategies for Grades 4-12:  Reinforcing the Threads of Reading

Tests that Teach: Using Standardized Tests to Improve Instruction

How to Help Your Child Become a Great Reader: Easy Literacy Games and Activities to Do at Home

Instructional Coaching Impacts Teacher Performance

Literacy Coaching for Reading Effectiveness

If you are a relatively new Instructional Coach or Reading coach in your school, then you may also enjoy reading my book on literacy coaching:

Coaching the Threads of Reading: Helping Teachers Build Reading Success

New Class for Literacy Coaches

Check out my new Literacy course, Coaching Heroes and Champions.

In this course, you will be able to improve your ability to inspire and coach the teachers in your school. You will be able to cultivate success as a literacy coach who facilitates adult learning that changes practice. You will understand how to build trusting and caring coaching relationships that enable teacher success. You will learn to use coaching strategies to increase student academic performance and facilitate student-centered practices that instill joy in the classroom.

Here is a list of what you will learn in Bringing Out the Heroes and Champions in Teachers: Instructional Coaching that Gets Results

Module 1: Clarifying the Coaching Role, Purpose and Vision for Success

Module 2: How to Differentiate Support to Meet Individual Teacher Needs

Module 3: Adult Learning, Mental Models and Teacher Career Stages

Module 4: Using Formative and Summative Assessment to Maximize Student Achievement

Module 5: Planning and Teaching for Maximizing Achievement

Module 6: Powerful Communications

I am currently looking for a small group of coaches who would like to be “beta testers” of the course to provide feedback. I will give the first 10 enrollees a discount of $200 off of the regular course purchase price of $279 in exchange for feedback on your learning and the course content.

If you would like to take the course as a beta tester, enter “beabeta” as the coupon code to receive your discount.

I would love to hear your feedback on what you like and how the course might be improved for future students!

What Good Readers Do When Reading (Part 1)

Connecting to Background Knowledge

Researchers have identified the difference between what good readers do when reading and what poor readers do differently. These insights can help us focus on the skills that struggling readers need to increase their reading performance. When they know what good readers do when reading, they can learn these strategies too.

Good readers use their prior knowledge and information to relate to the text while they are reading. They make predictions about what will happen next in the text. They think about what they might learn in the rest of the text. They make judgments about how the information fits together as a sensible whole.

Connecting with what we already know about a topic (background knowledge) is one of these things. When we connect what we already know about a topic, the easier it is for us to understand and process new information on the topic.

Effective readers are able to spot ideas that conflict with their own background knowledge or with ideas from other articles they have read. They understand that it is alright to disagree with an author’s position on a topic when they can cite evidence that shows inaccuracies. Good readers are able to stop reading and check other reference sources to see if the information is accurate and reliable.

In the age of instant information, helping students evaluate information and look for bias or self-interest is an essential skill.  Students must know that all information isn’t “created equal” and that misinformation and disinformation exist.

Proficient readers use their background knowledge to make sense of what they read. For example, think of the word bank.  This word could refer to a place where we place our money as in “I bank at the City Bank.”  The word could refer to  the sidewalls of a river as in “The water was rising higher on its banks.”  In another article, we might see the phrase, “The plane banked to the left as it rose.” In this case, the word bank would be referring to the movement of the plane.

By using our background knowledge about the topic, we are able to connect word meanings to the right meaning of the word being used in context. Effective teachers know this and help students activate relevant prior knowledge before asking them to read.

Students who do not have a rich storehouse of background knowledge or who come from a different culture, need to have greater levels of pre-teaching before being asked to read. Some ways that you can help your students connect to the texts they are reading include:

  1. using visuals,
  2. directly introducing to new vocabulary they will see in the text before reading,
  3. using graphic organizers to help students visualize and organize content,
  4. and using appropriate realia to enhance background knowledge prior to reading.

Good Readers Create Mental Images As they Read

Good readers create images of the characters in a story and the action taking place. They can do this by drawing pictures or creating and sharing mental images. Creating mental images is like seeing the “movie version” played out in their heads as they read.

Effective readers become emotionally involved with what they are reading. How many times have you been so emotionally involved with a good book you couldn’t put it down? That’s what good readers do when reading. They identify with the text and become emotionally involved in their reading.

Help your students think about the visual images they get while reading. Besides mental images, you can use graphic organizers to help students organize information and see meaningful relationships between and within concepts.

Good Readers Know and Use “Fix-Up” Strategies When Needed

Strong readers know that text should make sense as they are reading. They know when what they are reading makes sense and when it doesn’t.

They know how to use a wide variety of “fix-up” strategies when they lose meaning while reading. Some helpful strategies to use are: skipping ahead, re-reading, reading aloud, and slowing the pace of what is being read. Good readers also know how to ask questions about what they are reading to reconnect with meaning in the text.

Effective readers know they lose meaning while reading. They know that when this happens, they need to stop and figure out how to regain meaning before they continue.

Model the reading strategies you use for monitoring your own comprehension by reading aloud to your students. Stop at strategic places to model how to use fix-up strategies that are appropriate to the text. In this way, your students can hear your thinking and see what you do to reconnect to textual meaning.

Help your students understand that all readers lose meaning from time to time. Using effective strategies when meaning has been lost increases reading comprehension. It’s what good readers do when reading that poor readers do not know how to do.

Find more great ideas for building strong readers in my books:

The Threads of Reading: Strategies for Literacy Development (K-5) and

Literacy Strategies: Reinforcing the Threads of Reading (6-12).