I remember when I first started teaching I fantasized that I would have a gaggle of kids sitting at my feet while I read books aloud to them and we would marvel at the literature (of Kindergarten???) and have deep conversations about the meaning of the literature and connect the text to the world and basically just live out every English teacher’s fantasy (or at least THIS English minor’s teaching fantasy!)

And then my students showed up.

And I cried.

And my mom had to come and help me.

Like moms do.

And then I pulled it together!

So what do I mean by “pulled it together”?

I got real about what my students needed and what I would have to do to provide it to them.  Gone were the sitting at the teacher’s feet for hours on end, discussing the deeper meaning of Goodnight Moon and onto really teaching these kids WHAT good readers do and HOW to do what good readers do.

I came to understand much more clearly what reading strategies are for and why I needed to start teaching them – especially in Kindergarten!

So, here’s what I’ve learned and incorporated into my practices in Kindergarten and upper elementary, middle school and high school classrooms – these are ideas that work in REAL LIFE classrooms!

  1. Reading strategies (like compare and contrast, prediction and inference, summarizing, etc.) are solely for the purpose of boosting comprehension of the text.
  2. Reading strategies are super important to teach because by teaching them we show students how good readers think.  This is so important because learning to read is NOT a natural process.  If it were, we wouldn’t have such high illiteracy rates!
  3. Reading strategies need to be modeled, modeled, modeled to kids of all ages before they become automatic.  Just like you wouldn’t give a car to a 15 year old learning to drive, you don’t hand over comprehension of text to students without lots of hand holding!
  4. Reading strategies are a process, not a check on a checklist.  Prior to reading ANY text, you should model and think aloud for students how you, as a successful reader, approach and attack the text.  Things like “Hmm…this has me thinking that I’m a little confused, let me use my reading comprehension strategy of re-reading to see if I can make more sense of this.” Think-alouds like this give kids permission to ask questions about the text.
  5. Reading strategies give kids TOOLS to figure out difficult text – this is the whole point!  Teaching reading comprehension shouldn’t been a shot in the dark – we need to ARM kids with the big guns (proven reading comprehension strategies) to be able to take on new text with lots of new vocabulary and lots of new content knowledge. 
  6. Reading strategies give kids confidence.  Have you ever seen a strong, confident reader cower at the thought of difficult text?  Probably not!  They go rip-roarin’ into the text because they’re thinking, “I’ve got this!” – and what you see is them regularly and appropriately applying reading comprehension strategies!

So, what are reading strategies?

Reading strategies are flexible tools designed to help facilitate text comprehension.

And why are they so important for all kids?

Reading strategies are critical to develop in order to boost comprehension, confidence and clarity while reading text.

So, where do you start with all of this?  Start by reflecting on your lessons from last year – did you make assumptions that kids already knew/had the reading strategies?  Were there multiple opportunities each day in different kinds of text where you modeled the strategies?  Where do you see obvious opportunities to model next year?

Now, I’ve got to go and get back to prepping my Proust lesson for my kindergarten demo tomorrow.  *wink wink*