Reading for Understanding

– A little structure goes a long way in Science

How often do you ask students to read some information – maybe from a textbook or article – only to find that they look at the pictures, read the title and then wait for you to tell them what they should know? Perhaps it’s a consequence of the internet age, where information is written to be skimread, and pictures and pop-up ads vie for attention. Or maybe students have always struggled with this.

In order to try and find some strategies to help students become a little more independent in their reading I turned to the PEEL website. There I found an activity called “What do I know?” which encourages students to read and reread text.

To start the activity I give the students 3 questions that I want them to answer using the passage. In their books they make a grid with the questions at the top. I try and make one of the questions a little trickier so that they have to apply what they have read.

Quite often the answer to Q1 is “I don’t know” and that is fine.

The students then read through the passage, with the questions in mind. I give them a short time to do this using the countdown timer in ActivStudio. I then ask them to close the book or cover it up and have another go at answering the questions. Again, they have only a short time to do so. The students can now judge how much information they have actually picked up, and what they should be looking for.

They then read through the passage with that in mind. Again, I limit the time to a few minutes. After the second reading they fill in another row.

Depending on the complexity of the text, and how well the students are doing you can then either give them another read of the text or get them to pair-share their answers.

Quite often students are surprised at the extra information that they can find out by re-reading the text.

Some students find this activity very helpful and make a really good attempt. Others are less happy and ask if they can just make notes. However, as I point out to them, this activity means that they don’t just copy large chunks of text, and they have to be selective.

This picture shows the first two stages of the process.

And this picture shows after the second reading.

Carol Davenport


One thought on “Reading for Understanding

  1. kristianstill says:

    Like you I’ve been trying to get students to read more purpose for their GCSE English. To broaden their language and also to improve their comprehension skills. One way to encourage reading has been to our students to circle words they don’t understand. We then lookover passage and I ask them what keywords mean, if they have it circled I don’t push them on their answer and ask another pupil.

    Of course the point is if it circles and I are certainly don’t know they’re not embarrassed because I simply ask someone else. When we find the answer, they know and another student gets praised.

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