Introducing the 3 stages of the reading cycle to high school students

Did you know that in reading 1+1=3? Well neither do my high school students, until I show them why.

Secondary students who struggle with reading don’t understand that reading isn’t something that just happens and that it isn’t something that you are innately good at.

Teachers have to work hard to get these students to buy into the fact that reading is a skill that can be learned, practiced and improved.

The first thing I do, when teaching my high school students about the reading process, is talk to them about why they may be struggling with their reading. I then show them that they are in fact struggling by giving them their Weschler reading test results.

1+1=3 Anchor Chart

The 3 Stages

Next explicitly teach them that there are 3 stages to the reading process:

Stage 1: decoding (sounding out the words)

Stage 2: analyize the text (understand the facts)

Stage 3: synthesize the text (use the facts+a reading strategy=to help you generated new info about the text)

The interconnected processes of reading

Application Activity

We apply this new knowledge through a kinesthetic/role play activity:

I pretend to be an alien archaeologist who has found a puzzle in a bag (no box means no picture or instructions). I have my students (my assistants) try to figure out what this artifact is and how to use it.

The puzzle box image (no title)

I write their instructions on the board and then we discuss what they think the picture is of (I project it so it is easier to see). As there is no title on the picture the students have to figure out what the picture is without any help from the puzzle maker.

We list the different parts of the picture and guess what the picture is supposed to be.

We then label the notes as either a strategy, an analysis or a synthesis.

The puzzle activity debrief


By the end of the activity students should understand that readers, like puzzlers, are only quick at what they do if they practice (increase fluency: the speed at which they decode, understand and think about what they are reading).

Readers and puzzlers also use different strategies to complete the activity. Puzzlers innately: match the pieces based on shape, color or picture element and focus on the corners, sides or middle. Just like in puzzling, there are innate strategies that readers use (summarizing, visualizing, questioning, connecting, predicting, inferencing). Both puzzlers and readers need to switch between strategies, throughout the process, when what they are doing is not working.

Unlike with puzzeling, the purpose of reading however, is not just to complete the task (the puzzle) but to think more deeply about what one is reading. Readers do this by first understanding what they are reading (analysis) so that they can think critically about the text (synthesis).

These two processes often start with analysis and then move into synthesis but can go in the opposite direction: an analysis can lead to a synthesis or a synthesis can be supported by an analysis.

Interested in learning more about adolescent literacy read:

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