6 Techniques for Building Reading Skills

As avid literature lovers, teachers often want to impart all their knowledge of popular texts to their students. This is not just an ELA topic – other disciplines often focus on the content of texts. However, teaching reading literacy in English courses and all subjects is almost a surefire way to help students retain content. Unfortunately, the tendency to focus on content is the real enemy of the ultimate goal of developing reading skills.

Without a set of reading strategies that apply to any text, a student’s education will fail. To teach students to read effectively, teachers need to ensure that they are not only providers of specific textual information but also teaching skills that develop reading skills. Here are some ideas for incorporating reading literacy lessons into your curriculum.

Teach Close Reading Skills

Instruct students to comment, instruct them to do more than just highlight or underline. Students are encouraged to take notes on the text as they read to engage in the conversation – this keeps students engaged and often increases understanding. Notes can include:

  • define new words
  • ask questions
  • Code repeating words and themes
  • Build a personal reference to the text
  • Quote current events
  • Highlight title and subtitle
  • Summary paragraph
  • Split
  • Classified information
  • Numbering and order
  • draw

The list of possibilities is endless – it’s about students developing themselves as they approach the text. However, don’t be afraid to provide students with specific annotation guidelines, such as “Annotation Authors’ Representation Techniques” or “Finding . . . ” to help them focus.

Annotations can also help students determine which strategies work best for them when trying to process and understand information.

Awaken The Senses

While reading is the work of the mind, involving the senses provides additional reinforcement for students who are still expanding their abilities. Reading paragraphs aloud and verbalizing the questions you will be asking in your mind as you read is of great benefit to students. Students often don’t know how to ask questions, what types of questions to ask, or how often to ask questions, so modeling this skill is invaluable. This can be amplified, especially for visual learners, by using a document camera or projector to write questions, highlight keywords and phrases, and interact with the text. And, as always, students are encouraged to read with a pen or pencil in hand.

Instruct Students To Set Goals

While writing objectives are frequently used in the classroom, students are not regularly assessed on their reading skills. Start the year by having students write a reader biography to gain insight into their reading habits, struggles, and accomplishments. This is the basis for discussions about setting reading goals. After reading a novel, non-fiction, short story, or poetry unit, help students assess their reading skills: Are you confident in reading the text? Why or why not? What parts of the text do you find difficult? Can you use a different strategy to make the text easier to read? Students should regularly assess their goals and create new ones based on their needs and growth.

Change Text Length

When approaching a particularly difficult piece of text, break it up and deliver it in shorter chunks. Long essays that require intense concentration often discourage students. Giving smaller pieces allows students to digest large chunks in chunks, gain academic vocabulary, and build confidence. 

Provide A Way To Choose To Read

Simply put, the best way to improve reading is to read, and students are more likely to read when they have choices in their reading. Newsela and CommonLit have a wide selection of nonfiction articles (CommonLit also includes fiction); both sites contain articles across grades and multiple disciplines. A classroom library built from donations, a flea market, and a thrift store encourages students to bring books to read. Ask students about their interests and make suggestions. Happy reading develops transferable content reading skills and should be encouraged, including in the classroom.

Evaluate Content and Ability

Students should be able to demonstrate their assessment skills, whether formal or informal, formative or summative. Recall and comprehension questions are a good way to check basic comprehension, but teachers should move on to the more difficult how and why questions. Choose activities that require students to delve into the text, such as:

  • Encourage Socratic discussion.
  • Create playlists for characters.
  • Write a formal essay.
  • Create memes for characters.
  • Present a mini-TED talk on text-inspired research.
  • Create mind maps, 3×3 literature formats, or infographics.

Most teachers already incorporate some level of skill-building into their classrooms; however, competency development remains at the forefront of learning if you take the time to discuss and actively engage students in the process. The result will be that students not only make progress in reading but also understand how to become better readers.

About the article

As avid literature lovers, teachers often want to impart all their knowledge of popular texts to their students. This is not just an ELA topic – other disciplines often focus on the content of texts. In this article, we discussed 6 Techniques for Building Reading Skills in any subject.

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