Part 3-Teaching Reading Strategies

Missed a part of the “How to Teach High School Students how to read,” 5 part, blog series: See end of post for links

Why teaching reading strategies is important

However, ultimately students need to understand that the purpose of reading is not to simply decode (sound out the words) but to understand and interact with the text. It is not just the act of decoding that is the goal but the ability to think about and use of the information. Students who struggle with reading, read solely to summarize, never moving beyond this to analyzing or synthesizing what they have read. The missing ingredient is the act of wondering which encourages questioning and connections.

The more students wonder about, think about, and interact with the text, the more interested they will become in what they are reading and the more they will remember. This is important, especially in English class, as we read large texts and students need to remember what they have read over long periods of time in order to apply what we are learning to the text e.g theme or characterization.

Although reading is the surest way to improving reading ability I fully believe, with struggling readers, that the content is the vehicle to skill development. I use balanced literacy and gradual release of responsibility as my starting points for planning.

The setup

The first unit in my applied English class is a reading strategies nonfiction unit. I focus on nonfiction because nonfiction is what they read in the majority of their other courses. This is the unit setup: I teach the students what the strategy is, I model how to do it and we practice as a class, they practice in groups with at level texts (while I support their attempts, guided reading), and then they practice on their own. I conference with them about their individual attempts and give them suggestions on how to improve.

Finding leveled texts for guided reading

There are many different resources you can use for reading material. I am a fan of as it has current events or subject specific articles written at a variety of levels. I use articles – identified and segmented by levels – during guided reading as my goal is to assess their ability to apply the reading strategy rather than to assess their comprehension. Students read an at level text (levels determined by Wechsler) so that they understand almost all of the article. I do allow them to change the article if they feel an adjust is necessary. With you can download or print articles at the different levels or sign up and create a class and have students access the levels online. There is a paid version however, the free version has pretty extensive access.

Making connections

We start the reading strategies unit by wondering: what does this text have to do with my life? We make connections, in order to infer which, according to research, is the most effective strategy in helping students improve their reading. Some students struggle with making connections simply because they have not been exposed to similar situations and have not figured out how to make connections to things that are not obvious (e.g., I am not an Earthling on Venus so can’t connect to that but perhaps I have been picked on by others and can therefore infer that Margot feels sad) – example refers to Ray Bradbury’s “All Summer in a Day.”

Teaching students how to make connections, especially when the connections do not seem obvious, is the best way of encouraging students to enjoy what they are reading, which they can then apply to even the most boring of texts. The more of themselves that students put into their reading (connections to their own lives, what they have read before and what they know about the world), the more they see how whatever they are reading can apply to them, and the more likely they are to read it and hopefully come to enjoy it. The ability to make something that at first seems boring applicable and enjoyable can have a huge impact on how well they do in text based classes.

Asking Questions

We then move on to wondering by asking questions. We practice asking questions in order to infer as well as judge the text. Example questions: Why did the character react the way they did? ( inferential questions), Did the author make believable characters? (evaluative questions).

The rest of the year

These strategies (making connections and asking questions) will be practiced and reinforced throughout the rest of the units. We read a novel as a class and at the end of the year students demonstrate what they have learned by reading a guided reading/book club novel on their own (with necessary supports).

students poll: students prefer choosing the class novel they read
Some options used for book clubs

NEXT? Read part 4 of this article: How to teach high school students to read: Part 4-Fostering a Love of Reading


NEED TO CATCH UP? Read posts below:

Why Can’t my High School Students Read? outlines the need for the program

Read part 1 of this article: Part 1-Overview: How to teach high school student’s how to read: 5 Part blog series

Read part 2 of this article: Getting Them to Buy in

Read part 3 of this article: Teaching Reading Strategies

Read part 4 of this article: Fostering a Love of Reading

Read part 5 of this article: The positive impact of teaching high school students how to read

If your interested in how to teach high school teachers how to read or you have questions or comments please feel free to leave a comment or contact me.


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