So, here you have it folks – after all this time, all this reading, all this study, all this data, all this research, I’m here to tell you what you’ve all been waiting for: the silver bullet, the answer of all answers!
What is the #1, Can’t-Live-Without Reading Strategy? Stamina.
Huh? That’s all you got for us, Jackson? I can hear you saying that already!
Let me explain.
There are a lot of experts, programs and studies that will tell you that particular strategies trump all others and that if you would only teach this particular strategy, you’ll solve the world’s problems…or at least your students’ problems.
What I know after reading all those studies and working in thousands of classrooms in hundreds of schools is that the students who perform well on each and every task that calls them to comprehend text are those students who have the ability to ‘hang in there’ during reading. Even when it’s difficult.
ESPECIALLY WHEN IT’S DIFFICULT!
So……..I bet you’re thinking…….how do I build stamina in my readers? What reading strategy do I teach? What reading strategies will get the best results?
I have 3 Easy-To-Implement Techniques for YOU
Technique #1: Give kids lots of difficult text to work through
Students will learn to do difficult things by doing difficult things. The cool by-product of doing difficult things? Confidence!
What does this look like in the classroom? Lots of varied text – beef up your informational/expository text and daily teach and practice how to navigate the features of that informational text. It’s pretty common that kids get lots of practice with narrative text, so they tend to be better at navigating it. So get them caught up by doubling up on text that informs and is factual.
Don’t shy away from challenging your students with above grade level material. Tell them, “This is going to be a challenge for us, but we are going to work through it together and the more we practice, the better we’ll get!” Then do just that!
Technique #2: Make sure you pre-talk the reading to give students ideas as to how to manage the text
Prior to reading through any text, walk-through with the students how you, as a reader, manage that text. You might say things like, “Hmm…right here is where I KNOW I’ll have to reread because I see lots of bigger words that I’m unfamiliar with” or “Guys right away I know that I’m going to have to take notes through this part of the text because there’s lots going on and I don’t want to get confused, so I’ll set up my reading journal right now”.
We empower kids by not teaching them a million strategies for reading, but teaching them a few powerful techniques that will span content areas and grade levels.
SHOW THEM how you hang in there when you’re really confused in a piece of text – make it informal so that they can relate…don’t be robotic here!
Technique #3: Reread text to find different information
This is a widely under-modeled reading strategy in the classrooms that I visit. Think about how automatic it is for you to read something once and think to yourself, “Um, I have no idea what I just read!” or “Geesh, I need to read that paragraph, I was really distracted.” We so automatically and unashamedly go back and reread and reread and reread until we better understand.
The cool thing about rereading is that it also builds fluency! So, we’re getting better at decoding swiftly while we’re actually becoming better comprehenders. That’s so cool!
The bottom line? Stamina (or the ability to hang in there when the going gets rough) is a skill that should be taught and PRACTICED, PRACTICED, PRACTICED.
My question to you is, are you shying away from difficult text or text that requires high comprehension because you don’t want your students to struggle too much? Do you get frustrated when they struggle a bit through text, so you change the task or text for them?
If so, consider at least 1 time per week that you will present some tricky reading or a challenging passage to your kids and then HELP THEM THROUGH IT.
Not only will the stamina be solidified, but you’ll have a bunch of confident readers on your hands.
And that’s an awesome thing in a reading strategy!