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Ken Lackman

Teaching Reading Strategies


Before Reading
Pre-reading Tasks
While Reading
While-reading Tasks
Post Reading
Post-reading Tasks
Lesson Framework for any Text

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Teaching Reading Strategies


Most classroom reading materials use some basic strategies to help

students improve their reading skills. Most typically the first task is one to
get students to think about the topic using any knowledge they already
have (activate schemata). Following that there may be a quick read to get
the overall gist (skimming) and then a set a comprehension questions to
answer. Those questions are usually of three type, reading for main points,
reading for details and reading between the lines. However, extensive
research into reading habits of native speakers has identified a myriad of
reading strategies that they use to help with comprehension of reading
material. Most existing ELT materials focus primarily on the aforementioned
strategies and have adapted them for students. For example, the activate
schemata tasks comes from studies of readers who displayed a better
grasp of the material because they thought about it before they read it. The
way this real-world strategy was adapted to the classroom was to supply
questions to prompt students to think about the topic and usually discuss it
with others.
One of the problems with trying to approximate the reading strategies used
by native speakers is that the classroom is an artificial environment and
students who practice the skills there often dont take them into the outside
world. The reasons for this could be that the student is not aware of the
actually skill they are practicing; the strategy itself is difficult or impossible
to transfer to the real world or, in the case of skills that can be transferred,
the student has no idea how to adapt it for outside use. For example,
nobody in the real world is going to hand the students comprehension
questions before they read something. In addition, nobody will give them a
question before they read to get them thinking about the topic. Yes, this
particular strategy is easy to adapt and transfer. The students can use
titles, photos or a quick skim to determine the topic of a text and then they
can spend a few minutes thinking about it before they do a intensive read of
the text. Therefore, it is imperative that teachers make students aware of
the skill that they are practicing and, taking it one step further, the teacher
either explains to students how they can transfer or translate the skill to the
real world, or, as in the case with many of the activities in this collection, the
students are guided through a process of taking a skill and making it
independent of the classroom setting.
The activities in this collection are designed to get students to practice the
many strategies that are associated with proficient native speaker readers.
Many of the activities have suggestions on how the skill can be transferred
to the real world. Typically, in the real world, proficient readers use
strategies before they read and while they are reading. ELT has added the
post-reading stage, where the students can explore the topic more or look
for useful language in the text. The activities in this collection are broken
down into those three stages.

Teaching Reading Strategies

Before Reading.

Pre-reading strategies are of three types, those that draw attention to

linguistic features of the text, those that give student information to prepare
them for conceptual or cultural aspects of the text and those that get
students to activate knowledge or opinions they may already have about
what will be presented in the text.
Linguistic Conceptual Activate

Pre-reading Strategies

Predicting content of text based on titles and visuals

Predicting content based on knowledge of topic

Predicting content based on knowledge of genre

Reading or listening to background information

Brainstorming vocab that might appear

Discussing ideas that appear in the text

Learning the meaning and use of discourse markers

Pre-teaching vocab in text

Skimming the text for gist comprehension

10 Scanning the text for specific information

11 Reading comprehension questions to answer

Pre-reading Tasks
Strategy 1.

Predicting content of text based on titles or visuals.

Students can use the title, headings, photos or other visuals to predict what
they are going to read about. Regardless of whether they guess correctly or
not, studies have shown that if readers (native speakers or language
learners) have predictions in mind when they are reading, their
comprehension is greatly improved.
Try putting students in groups and have each group predict the content of
the text. You can tell the class it is a competition to see who can guess the
content most accurately. Elicit their ideas (put then on the board, if you
want) and then get students to vote on whose ideas seem most likely to be

Strategy 2.

Predicting content based on knowledge of topic

There will be times when the students will already have enough knowledge
about the text topic or text type to make predictions about what they will
read about. If the text topic is not evident from the title of the text, you can

Teaching Reading Strategies

let them know what it is about and then have them discuss what they know
about the topic in pairs or small groups. You can ask them to make
predictions while they are doing this or you could get feedback from each
group just on what they know about the topic and once all groups have
spoken, ask the groups to consider what theyve heard and then make
Strategy 3.

3. Predicting content based on knowledge of genre

For texts of specific genres, clarify for the students what the genre is and
then put them in pairs or small groups and have them make a list of
characteristic content of that particular genre that they would expect to find
in the sample they are about to read. For example, if the genre was a film
review, they would expect to get a synopsis of the plot, a description of the
main characters, some mention of the visual aspects of the film, an
assessment of the quality of the film, and so on. You can list their ideas on
the board and eliminate any that are not characteristic of the genre. Its a
good idea to use the genre aspects they chose as a task for a gist read.
They read the text to see if the features they expect to be there are there.
Then check with them how many they found in the text.

Strategy 4.

4. Reading or listening to background information

In some cases, learners may lack the cultural knowledge to understand
crucial aspects of the text. If native speakers would have this knowledge
before reading, then it is unfair to expect a language learner to understand
important points in the text that a native speaker would. So, it would make
sense to try to give them that cultural knowledge before they read. Once
the cultural information has been explained to them, the best approach
would to have them discuss in small groups how the background
information might be involved in the text. This not only serves to increase
comprehension when they read, but it also makes sure that they tie the
background information to the content of the text

Strategy 5.

5. Brainstorming vocab that might appear

Put students in groups and get each group to brainstorm words that they
think might appear in the text based on the title, headings, visuals and/or
your brief synopsis. You can make this more motivating for students by
making it competitive. Award a point for each word they come up with.
When they are finished, find out who got the longest list, get them to read
the words out and ask other groups to listen and afterwards add whatever
other words they had to the list. You can also make this part competitive
also by awarding second place to the group that has the most words that
the first group didnt have.

Strategy 6.

6. Discussing ideas that appear in the text

With some texts, the students may not need any extra background
information but a discussion of the ideas that will appear in the text will

Teaching Reading Strategies

activate any knowledge they already have on the topic. This is commonly
known as activating schemata. The usual way to do this is to prepare one
or more questions for students to answer relating to the topic of the text.
They can discuss the questions in pairs or small groups. Another good idea
is to use a survey. For example, if the text is a film review, students could
survey each other on what aspects of film they enjoy or appreciate (e.g.,
acting, special effects, soundtrack, etc.). Although learners may never do
these tasks in the real world, its important to remind them that thinking
ahead about the topic of what they are about to read will improve their
reading comprehension.
Strategy 7.

7. Learning the meaning and use of discourse markers

Making students aware of discourse markers may prove useful before they
read certain kinds of texts. For texts such as essays, discourse markers
(firstly, on the other hand, in conclusion) may give students valuable
information about how the text is organized. Knowing that will help them
comprehend certain information and how it relates to the rest of the text.

Strategy 8.

8. Pre-teaching vocab in text

Although pre-teaching of vocabulary has been frowned on for quite some
time now, it is justifiable when certain unknown words would impede the
learners ability to understand the text as a whole, or crucial elements of the
text. Generally, the thinking has been that pre-teaching vocabulary takes
the words out of context and doesnt allow the students to practice the
supposedly important skill of determining meaning from context. However,
recent studies in learner reading comprehension have suggested that
students do not effectively process meaning of unknown words when
reading for comprehension. Taking that into account, it still makes sense to
not do extensive (if any) pre-teaching of vocabulary as students should get
practice in understanding as much as possible without worrying about the
meaning of unknown words. Afterwards, they can go back over the text, or
passages in the text, and try to deal with the unknown words, either by
inference or by use of a dictionary.
If one is to pre-teach vocabulary, the following method is suggested as it
still encourages the student to use the skill of determining meaning from
context. Simply take the words out of the text and re-contextualize them, or
in other words, plant each word in a sentence similar to the context in the
text. Then students can still guess the meaning from the context. Its a good
idea to have them do this in pairs or groups as the discussion about the
words will give them a better chance of coming up with the correct meaning
but also help them to remember the words and their meanings. For
students who may have problems determining meaning from context, you
could supplement the contextualized words with a list of definitions to match
them to. They will make determining meaning from context easier,
especially for lower level students.

Teaching Reading Strategies

Strategy 9.

9. Skimming the text for gist comprehension

The gist task is designed to get the students to read the text quickly to get
just a general idea of what it is about. Gist reading is important as it has
been proven to increase comprehension for the
second reading, even in ones native language. The important thing with the
gist task is that it is a very quick read and that the task should encourage
the students to read the entire text and to think about the question(s) all the
way through the reading. For this reason, the best gist questions are those
that encompass the entire text. Questions that ask the students to predict
what they will read are often used as gist tasks.
To encourage students to read the text quickly, you can give them a time
limit (try using your gist speed x 2) and stop them when the time has run
out. This should mean that next time they do a gist read, they will read
more quickly. Another idea is to ask the students to stand up when they
have finished. Students who are still seated when most are standing will get
the message that they need to speed up and with this method, theres no
need to stop them in their reading process. An even more effective activity
is to ask all the students to stand and tell them to sit when they have

Strategy 10.

10. Scanning the text for specific information

Scanning is just glancing over a text looking for specific information with no
attempt at comprehension. For some text types, scanning is an essential
skill. Texts like phone books, dictionaries and menus are often scanned as
the reader is only looking for certain information and is not concerned with
the rest of what is on the page. However, a quick scan over any text will
improve comprehension during the more intensive reading of that text. One
way to prepare a scanning activity is to read the text over beforehand and
make a list of specific details that would prove informative for the students.
For example, if the text was a narrative, the students might be asked to
scan for character names, place names and words indicating the time of the
story. For certain text genres it will not be necessary for you to read them
over first as they will typically contain certain information. For example, if
the text was a job application letter, students could be asked to scan for the
job applied for, the educational qualification of the candidate, etc. And if you
have two different texts, you can have students prepare the list of items to
scan for one text and then they give it and the text to the members of the
other group. Whichever way you do it, you should make sure the students
do not actually read the text but go through it as quickly as possible. One
way to do this is to time them and make it a challenge for them to find as
many of the items on the scanning list as possible. If you give them a
written list of items to scan for, they can simply write the found information
beside each item on the list.

Teaching Reading Strategies

Strategy 11.

11. Reading comprehension questions to answer

These questions are primarily used to test a readers comprehension of
important points in the text. However, to really work towards developing
reading skills that students can take outside the class, the focus on these
questions should be more about giving the students clues as to what
information they should be reading for when they read. Consequently, it is
important that students read the questions BEFORE they read the text
rather than after it. It is also important the teachers focus not be so much
on whether the exact correct answer is produced but more on that the
students were guided to the appropriate information in the text. To ensure
that students realize that these questions are meant to help them focus on
certain information, get them to read the questions first, then ask them to
hide the questions and try to remember what they were supposed to be
reading them for. One way to do this is to put students in pairs, have both of
them read the questions and then have one student close their book and
tell the other one what the questions were,. paraphrasing, of course. If
youd like, you could make a game of it and have the students get points for
each question they remembered.


These strategies, as the name suggests, are employed as the reader is

actually reading through the text. They are a bit more problematic to
implement with students as it is hard to monitor what a learner is actually
doing while reading (note that reading out loud is not considered valid
reading practice) and there is sometimes a danger that the use of a
strategy will interrupt or hinder the relatively natural flow of reading that is
often so hard for learners to achieve. For example, studies have shown that
the most effective readers are those who learn to gloss over words whose
meaning theyre not sure of and continue on reading through the text.
Learners often fall into the trap of tunneling where they get overly
concerned about the meaning of one word and in trying to decipher it lose
some comprehension of what they have already read. So, the trick to
implementing these strategies is to try not to hinder optimum reading speed
and also not to take the learners focus off comprehension of the text as a
whole. What has been shown through studies is that strategies that get the
students to interact with the text greatly improve comprehension. For
example, texts with questions to the reader, even if rhetorical, seem to be
understood by readers more than texts without them. What do you think?
Because of the danger of hindering the flow of reading some of the tasks
below are best done after the initial reading for comprehension as the aim
is not so much that the students use the strategy to process the particular
text that they are working with but that they practice the strategy with that
text for use on other texts in the future.

Teaching Reading Strategies

While-reading Tasks



1 Taking brief notes

2 Underlining/highlighting important information or key words and phrases
3 Ignoring unknown words
4 Determining meaning of unknown words from context
5 Making predictions while reading
6 Paying attention to grammatical function of words
7 Recognizing function of connectors (but, or, etc.) and referencers (it, this, etc.)
8 Re-reading to repair comprehension
9 Identifying topic sentences that contain main ideas
10 Recognizing key words
11 Making conclusions and inferences
12 Paraphrasing while reading
13 Distinguishing between fact and opinion
14 Indentifying writers opinion or attitude
15 Timed reading
16 Scanning or skimming sections of text
17 Recognizing function of discourse markers (for example, in conclusion, etc.)
18 Composing comprehension questions

While-reading Tasks.
Strategy 1.

1. Taking brief notes

Note taking is a task which is usually done by native speakers while reading
but often during a second read of the text, even if the first read was just a
gist read. Language learners should at least do a gist read before
attempting to read for note taking purposes. However, it might be best for
lower level learners or for higher learners with challenging material to
do a quick gist read and a more intensive read for comprehension and then
have them do the note-taking read. As students become more proficient
with reading for meaning, you can try eliminating the second reading stage.
Learners tend to have problems taking notes as they tend to write too
much. Remind them of these strategies for note taking:
Be clear of the purpose for your notes
Write down key words only (Nouns, verbs, Adjectives and Adverbs)
Ignore functional words (articles, prepositions, auxiliaries, etc.)
Use abbreviation and symbols
Review your notes to make sure you understand them

Teaching Reading Strategies

One way you can prevent the students from writing too much is to give
them a word limit. Try taking notes yourself with the text, count the number
of words you use and use that as a guide for students (you can allow them
a few extra, if you want). You can also limit the length of the notes by
limiting the space that they can use for their notes, e.g., give them small
pieces of paper. Students can check the effectiveness of their notes by
using them to orally summarize the text to another student. That student
can use his/her notes to check to see if anything has been left out. The
listener would let the speaker know what was left out and then take their
turn at summarizing the text.
Strategy 2.

2. Highlighting important information or key words and phrases

As with the activity above, you may want have the students do a gist read
and possibly a comprehension read before getting them to read and
underline key words and phrases. Students have the same problems
highlighting as they do taking notes they tend to highlight far too much. To
combat this, give them a word limit per line, e.g., they can only highlight 3
words per line. This not only gives them practice in highlighting only the
most important words but it also forces them to make decisions as they
read about which words are the most important, a most valuable reading
skill. You could also try weaning them off by gradually reducing the number
of words they can underline on each line every time you have them practice
this skill.
You can have students check the effectiveness of their highlighting by
getting them to summarize the text to another student or two by focusing
only on the highlighted words. The listening students can compare what
theyve heard to their own highlighting.

Strategy 3.

3. Ignoring unknown words

It is imperative that students learn to ignore words they dont know while
reading instead of stopping to ponder them or looking them up in a
dictionary. In order to prove to them that they do not have to understand
these words for general comprehension, get them to scan for unknown
words and black them out with a marker. Then give the students a list of
comprehension questions to answer and have them read the blacked-out
text carefully to answer them. They should be able to understand the main
points in the text without those words. Obviously, if there are too many
blacked-out words to make comprehension possible, the text is too difficult
to be used at that level. Alternatively, you could give them another
comprehension task like summarizing the text after they have read it.
Once you feel that students are able to read a text without focusing on the
unknown words, you can try getting them to scan and underline the
unknown words before carefully reading the text for comprehension. In this
case, the underlining will be a signal to gloss over those words when
reading. This is advantageous to blacking out because learners will begin to
draw conclusions about the unknown words in the context of the sentence
while glossing over them and certain clues contained in the form of the

Teaching Reading Strategies

word will help them do that, e.g., recognizing that a prefix denotes a certain
part of speech.
Strategy 4.

4. Determining meaning of unknown words from context

This was considered an essential reading skill to get students to practice
until fairly recently when certain studies suggested that learners do not
really effectively determine meaning of unknown words from context. Until
that point, the following guidelines were suggested to students to help them
in the task of inferring meaning of unknown words:
Try to identify the part of speech of the word
Look at the sentence that the word occurs in.
Look at the sentences before and after the one that word occurs in.
Guess the meaning of the word.
Try using your guess in the sentence (e.g., a synonym) to check if it
makes sense.
It seems that by getting students to jump through all the hoops, we would
slow them down considerably in terms of reading speed and possibly inhibit
their overall understanding of the text. It is also clear that native speakers
make inferences about unknown words in split seconds without affecting
the natural flow of reading. Perhaps, in this light, the best way to have
students practice determining meaning from context would be to separate
this task from the reading for general comprehension of the text. One way
to do that would be to handle determining meaning from context as a prereading task with the words from the text recontextualized in other
sentences meant to draw out the same meaning. It would even be a good
idea to supply pairs of students with these sentences and have them go
through the steps above together, with explicit discussion of their guessing
strategy. Then, once they have guessed at the meaning of the words, have
them read the text at normal reading speed emphasizing that they should
not dwell on the unknown words. The point of having them make inferences
before they read is to raise their awareness of the aspects of the word
which may lend clues to the meaning so that with further extensive reading,
they may start to approximate the inferences skills used by native speakers.

Strategy 5.

5. Making predictions while reading

This is an important skill to have as it enables a reader to be thinking about
what information is to come in a text, which improves comprehension and
retention even if the prediction is wrong. It also keeps the reader moving
forward through the text, which fosters more effective reading. One way to
get students to practice this skill is to take a text and mark certain points in
the text where students are to stop and make a prediction of what is going
to come next. What you can do is tell students that when they reach that
point in the text, they are to turn the text over and when all students have
stopped reading, elicit some ideas about what they think is going to follow.
You could also ask them to write down their predictions as soon as theyve
turned the text over. After youve got the first prediction, they can turn the
text over and continue reading. This activity will also help slower students


Teaching Reading Strategies

speed up as they will realize that if other students are waiting for them to
finish, they are reading too slowly.
In order to train students to make predictions while they read, try taking
them through this progression over time. The first time you have them make
predictions from reading, get them to turn the text over at designated points
and then discuss with a partner what they think will happen next. The next
time you have students make predictions while reading, get them to stop at
designated points and write down their predictions. Then elicit their ideas.
Then, the next time, get them to think of their prediction in their head at the
designated points. Again, elicit some ideas. Then the next time just ask
them to make their predictions in their head but keep on reading. Now you
have them using the skill exactly how it should be used outside of class
You can also lessen your preparation time by using two different texts.
Separate the class into two halves and get each half to prepare one text by
marking the points where they think predictions should be made by the
students in the other half. The added benefit of this is that it really gets
students focused on what information in the text is important and also
Strategy 6.

6. Paying attention to grammatical function of words

Sometimes the grammatical function of a word may give the reader
important information about meaning. For example, the past perfect will
indicate that one event happened before another in the past, and this may
be crucial for the reader to distinguish between what is happening at the
time of the story and what is merely background information. It would be
difficult and distracting to ask students to consider the grammatical function
of words while they are reading so the best strategy is to raise their
awareness of how grammatical function may influence meaning and to
prepare them to be aware of it when they come across it. This skill practice
should not be done during a reading for comprehension but could be done
before or afterwards. Try giving the students a text and having them scan it
for words with specific grammatical function, e.g., indicating modality,
conditionality, hypothesis, sequencing, etc. They would highlight or
underline the words as they found them. Then you could do some sort of
ranking task where they would look at the words they highlighted and
determine the meaning they impart. Then they could list them in order of
importance relative to the text as a whole. This ranking task should be done
in pairs or small groups as the idea is that extensive discussion about the
meaning and relevance of the words will lead to a heightened awareness of
those sorts of words and their semantic function. Thus, when they read in
the future they will be more likely to notice these words and they should be
aware of how they impart meaning.

Strategy 7.

7. Recognizing function of connectors (but, or, etc.) and referencers

(it, this, etc.)
Sometimes these functional words are crucial for readers to comprehend
the meaning of segments of a text. Students often have trouble recognizing


Teaching Reading Strategies

what referencers such as pronouns are referring to and often they will
misunderstand a segment because they missed the semantic function of a
connector. A good way to raise awareness of these words is to get students
to highlight or underline them in the text after they have read it for
comprehension. Its probably best, especially for lower level learners, to
limit the items they are to look for, say, just pronouns, or just contrasting
conjunctions, etc. Once students have highlighted a number of items, you
can ask them to discuss in pairs or small groups what function they have in
the text. You could also have them working in pairs or small groups to write
some questions for other students about the function of the words. First
have them number the lines in the text, if theyre not numbered already, and
then they can prepare questions like, What does it in line 6 refer to? or
What does the information after however in line 8 contrast to?. While this
is actually a post-reading task, the goal of it is to develop students whilereading skill.
Strategy 8.

8. Re-reading to repair comprehension

This skill is used by native speakers when they a segment seems unclear
because they have not made a connection to something that was
mentioned earlier. One way to draw students attention to this strategy is to
have them read with a highlighter and the instruction that they are to use it
only when they get confused and have to re-read part of the text. At that
point they should highlight the part of the text that clarified whatever it was
that they were confused about.

Strategy 9.

9. Identifying topic sentences that contain main ideas

Students need to realize that often the first sentence or two of a paragraph
is important because it contains ideas that will be expanded on in the rest of
the paragraph. A good way to emphasize this importance is to have the
students read only the first sentence or two of a paragraph and then to
predict what the rest of the paragraph will be about. This will not only
emphasize the importance of the topic sentences but it will give them
practice with an important reading skill which improves comprehension that of making predictions while you read.

Strategy 10.

10. Recognizing key words

Learners often make the mistake of giving every word equal attention when
they read. One way to combat this is to get them to recognize that only
certain words carry the most essential information. Try giving them a list of
comprehension questions which cover the essential information in the text.
Then after they have correctly answered the questions, get them to go back
through the text and highlight/underline only the words which helped them
answer the questions. You will need to establish what sorts of words they
are, i.e., parts of speech, and the relative importance of each sort.
Generally nouns are the most important followed by verbs, adjectives and
adverbs, usually in that order. What you can ask students to do, after they
have highlighted the key words, is to determine the part of speech of each
one and then count up how many of each type there are. Once students


Teaching Reading Strategies

have done this, in order to raise awareness of the types of words they
should be watching for, give them a text and ask them to highlight words
that they think will be important BEFORE they read it for comprehension.
Then get them to read the text focusing mainly on the words they
Strategy 11.

11. Making conclusions and inferences

Native speaker readers do this all the time when reading. They are
constantly staying on top of the text by making conclusions and inferences
while they read and even if they are wrong, the act of doing that improves
comprehension of what they read after they do it. The way to handle this
with learners is to prepare questions designed to force them to make
conclusions or inferences at certain points in the text. Number the
questions and write the numbers of each question at the point in the text
where it is to be utilized. Then give students the text and have them read to
the first number. They are to stop reading at that point (ask them to turn the
text over) and then you can ask the class as a whole the question, e.g.,
What do you think the main character is feeling? Students discuss the
answers in pairs or small groups and then after youve elicited some of their
ideas, they continue to read until the next number.
This is, of course, an artificial task which would never occur in the real
world, but it does provide students with valuable practice in making
conclusions and inferences as well as emphasizing the importance of doing

Strategy 12.

12. Paraphrasing while reading

This is a difficult task even for native speaker to do as it require
simultaneous comprehension and rephrasing. This skill is probably best
practiced with higher level learners, if at all. A good way to have students
practice this skill is to ask them to imagine that they would have to explain
sections of the text to a friend orally just after reading them. The transfer of
the written form into the more informal oral one would naturally require a
paraphrase. You could have the students stop after each section and give
an oral paraphrase to a partner and then gradually get them to just imagine
they are doing it while reading.

Strategy 13.

13. Distinguishing between fact and opinion

Implementing this skill requires that students have some prior knowledge of
linguistic techniques that writers use to let readers know that something is
fact or opinion. At lower levels you may want to deal with simple phrases
like I think, etc., while at higher levels you can focus more on linguistic
tools such as adverbs of opinion and other discourse markers as well as
uses of passive constructions such as it is said that. What you can do
to have students practice distinguishing between fact and opinion is to have
them underline/highlight words or phrases in the text which suggest that
something may be a fact or an opinion. This is an aware raising task which
will draw students attention to these linguistic tools whenever they come


Teaching Reading Strategies

across them while reading.
Strategy 14.

14. Indentifying writers opinion or attitude

This is often a tricky thing to do and may be best suited to higher levels.
Students should work with texts in pairs or small groups and discuss what
opinion or attitude they think the writer has and what words in the text they
think gave clues about it. By eliciting their ideas and getting those words
and/or phrases on the board, youll be raising awareness of the types of
linguistic clues that will let readers know where the writer stands.

Strategy 15.

15. Timed reading

Typically learners have enormous difficulty reading at a speed which is best
for overall comprehension. They tend to focus too much on individual words
and their meanings and end up not being able to see the forest for the
trees. Traditionally, the way teachers dealt with this was to have students
read from a text on an overhead transparency and the teacher would use a
card with a slot cut out of it. The teacher would move the slot over the text
so only one line was visible at a time and students would be forced to read
at the speed determined by how quickly the teacher moved the card. This, I
think, is a questionable practice not only because its difficult to know what
the optimal reading speed is of the students but also because it blocks our
peripheral information which often helps readers with comprehension.
The way to handle this in class, I believe, is to assume that the fastest
readers in the class are reading at a pace that is appropriate for their level
and then try to get the slower readers to approach that speed. A simple
trick is to have the students stand up as soon as theyve finished a reading
passage. This indicates who the slower readers are and it emphasizes to
them that they need to pick up the pace. What you can do is to establish
the reading speed of your faster readers. Estimate the number of words in a
text by finding out the line average and multiplying it by the number of lines
and then determine the length of time it took them to read those lines and
use that to figure out their speed per minute in terms of number of words
read. Then when you have students read, use a digital clock and as soon
as students finish, they write down their finishing time and figure out their
own reading speed. The next time they are to read, they try to beat their
previous record. This method, while more complicated to use, has the
advantage of not pitting students against others.

Strategy 16.

16. Scanning or skimming sections of text

These reading skills are often incorporated as pre-reading tasks to give
students a general idea of what the text contains. However, if they are to be
used as while reading tasks, they should be used with text types (or
sections of texts) that will not require a comprehension stage after scanning
or skimming. For example, texts such as menus often do not require a
comprehension stage after they have been scanned. Likewise, certain
texts, for example some academic sources, may have sections which are
not relevant to whatever information a reader is trying to glean from the text


Teaching Reading Strategies

as a whole. For example, a student may be reading an academic source for
information that supports ideas that he/she is going to write about in an
essay and it may appear that certain segments of the text are not going to
have that specific information but it may be important to skim it for overall
comprehension and to get an idea how sections of the text connect to each
other. To get students to practice this, you can give them a text and tell
them what sort of information you want them to get from it and while they
are reading it, if they suspect that that a part of the text does not have that
information, they quickly skim over it until the receive a clue that the next
segment may be important. You can ask them to highlight words which
indicated that information following was important and therefore needed to
be read carefully. For example, give students film reviews and ask them to
only read carefully those sections that concerned the acting.
Strategy 17.

17. Recognizing function of discourse markers (for example, in

conclusion, etc.)
Discourse markers are signposts in writing that inform the reader about
what kinds of information comes next. Students need to recognize these
items when they come across them and then be aware of what should
follow them. Once students have some awareness of them, you can get
them to use this activity to accomplish this. Split the class in two and give
each half a different text. Students are in pairs and they each have two
copies of the same text. They work together and find and black out all the
discourse markers that they find in one copy of the text. Then each
individual student gets together with one student from the other half the
class. They give each other the blacked-out copy of their text. After they
have each read the text, they quiz each other regarding the use of
discourse markers by choosing a discourse marker from the untouched text
and their partner has to locate the sentence that it goes with. For example,
if the discourse marker was however, the student would look for a
sentence that had contrasting information to a sentence that came before it.

Strategy 18.

18. Composing Comprehension Questions

Comprehension questions are designed primarily to promote understanding
of essential content. These questions are main point questions and should
dominate the list of comprehension questions. However, other questions to
get students to notice specific information in the text should also be used.
These are, of course, detail questions. In addition, and particularly at
higher levels, one or two questions designed to get students to make
inferences based on information in the text are used as we are often
required in real life to read between the lines. Normally a student text will
have between 5 and 8 comprehension questions and a mix of at least main
point and detail, if not all three. The questions should be in the same order
as the answers appear in the text with the possible exception of the
inference questions. To really function as comprehension questions, they
should be impossible to answer using general knowledge. You should
always make students aware of the type of comprehension questions they
are answering (even though many coursebooks dont) as its important that
they understand what skill they are practicing. If your students are quite


Teaching Reading Strategies

familiar with the three main types of questions, you can have them write the
questions themselves. This requires the use of two different texts and
students work in pairs or small groups to compose the questions for the
other group to answer with the text that they will also give them. Writing
comprehension questions is actually a great way to promote
comprehension of the text.
Getting students to write their own comprehension questions is a great way
to get them to focus on the most important points in a text and it improves
comprehension because, as they read they will be constantly evaluating
what they read in terms of its overall importance. As writing comprehension
questions is an artificial task which native speakers do not do when
reading, try using this sort of procedure over time to convert this
classroom skill to a real-world one.

Students have two different texts and each student reads their text and
writes main point questions to hand to the other student along with the text.

The next time students read, they have two different texts and they read

their text and write brief notes on main points. They hand their texts to
another student and after the other student reads the text, they use their
notes to compose oral questions to their partner about the main points.
Then the next time, all students have the same text. They read the text and
compose comprehension questions in their heads as they read. You can
then have them alternate asking comprehension questions to a partner.
You should have now trained students to focus on and remember the most
important points when they read!


These strategies are not really drawn directly from strategies used by
native-speaker readers but were created as a means of enhancing a
learners involvement with the text, recognizing that the experience a learner
has with a text is not exactly the same as a native-speakers. However,
since studies of effective native-speaker readers demonstrated that
involvement with the text led to increased comprehension, these postreading tasks are meant to simulate the questioning and other means of
working with ideas or content that would take place in the mind of a nativespeaker reader while reading the text. Because its often too much to
expect that a learner trying for comprehension might be effectively able to
work with the text while reading, placing these tasks after the text was seen
as the next best thing although in many cases native speaker do not use
any post-reading strategies.
These activities are not meant to be confused with while-reading tasks that
are delayed to after reading (see previous section) but are tasks that have
been added on to increase student interaction with the text. The most
common post-reading tasks - and those that dominate books are those
that involve answering questions about the text that were assigned prior to


Teaching Reading Strategies

Post-reading Tasks
1 Answering comprehension questions about content
2 Students give and discuss opinions about text
3 Locating lexical and grammatical items in the text
4 Locating and categorizing cohesive devices ( connectors, referencers and discourse markers
5 Summarizing the text in writing or speaking
6 Paraphrasing the text or sections of the text in writing or speaking
7 Identifying features of genre

Post-reading Tasks.
Strategy 1.

1. Answering comprehension questions about content

This is by far the most common post-reading task used by teachers. Its
function is merely to assess the students comprehension of the text. Many
students will write down the answers to compre-hension questions as they
read but its probably best, in order to encourage fluid native-like reading, if
they answer the questions after they have read the entire text. Its a good
idea to have students discuss the answers and to refer back to the text to
check to see if their answers are correct. This will help raise their
awareness of important parts of the text that they may have missed or
misinterpreted. This is perhaps the only real-world value of post-reading
compre-hension questions, as it might work towards getting students to pay
closer attention to important parts of texts when they read outside the
classroom. You may even want to engage in a discussion as to why a
particular comprehension question needed to be answered, in other words,
what was it about that part of the text that was so important that students
needed to be tested on it?

Strategy 2.

2. Students give and discuss opinions about text

This is a common classroom task as it gives the students some valuable
speaking practice and allows them to share ideas about what theyve read.
As it is a task that is rarely done in the outside world, its important to make
the link between their ideas and what it was in the text that led them to form
them. While students are discussing their opinions about the text, get them
to refer to the aspects of the text that influenced them. To give a very basic
example of this, if students were discussing a short narrative and one
student felt the characters displayed a certain emotion, he or she may draw
other students attention to words (e.g., adjectives, adverbs) which suggest
that emotion. This will heighten the students awareness of how aspects of
the text can help readers form ideas or opinions about it and in the future
when they read, they will be more likely to get more out texts.


Teaching Reading Strategies

Strategy 3.

3. Locating lexical and grammatical items in the text

This is a classroom task that is sadly neglected by many teachers and
coursebooks. Its rare, especially for lower level students, that they get an
opportunity to deal with vocabulary and/or grammar in a realistic context.
Coursebooks provide realistic graded texts for students yet they rarely ask
students to focus much on the language they contain, other than giving
them matching exercises featuring a handful of unknown words. Analyzing
texts for the grammar and lexis they contain is a great way to look at
language in use. One way to handle this task is to prepare a list of
descriptions of items you want the students to find in the text and they work
together in pairs (or threes) to find items that match the descriptions. You
can even have the descriptions on strips of paper and use them to make
the search competitive. Put the students in pairs and after theyve read the
text for comprehension, put the strips on your desk and tell each pair they
are to come up and take one. They search through the text to find the item
described. When they think theyve found it, they tell you and if they are
correct, they underline the item or write it in their notebooks with the
corresponding question number. Then they take another strip and do the
same. The first pair to find all the items wins. Below is an example of how
this could be done to focus on lexical chunks contained in a short
Picasso, Pablo 1881 - 1973
He was born in Mlaga, Spain. He studied at Barcelona and Madrid, and in
1901 he set up a studio in Montmartre, Paris. His "blue period' (1902--4),
was a series of paintings of the poor which showed attitudes of despair and
gloom. Following that was his much happier "pink period' (1904--6), full
of harlequins, acrobats, and other elements of circus life. He then started
working in brown, and he also began to work in sculpture. His break with
tradition came with "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon' (1906--7, New York),
which is considered to be the first Cubist painting. He developed the Cubist
movement with another artist, Georges Braque (1909--14). From 1917 he
worked with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, designing costumes and sets. His
major creation was "Guernica' (1937), expressing in Cubist style his horror
of the bombing of this Basque town during the Spanish Civil War. During
World War II he was mostly in Paris, and after the liberation he joined the
communists. A great innovator, he also illustrated classical texts, and
experimented in sculpture, ceramics, and lithography.


Teaching Reading Strategies

answers for teacher

Verb + Noun collocation which means to create a place to do art

set up a studio

Noun + Noun collocation to describe a group of pictures that were

created by an artist

series of

5-word expression to say that someone began a new type of work

He then started
working in

Noun + Noun collocation to say that someone did something original

and unusual in their work

break with

5-word expression which means that people think something was

done for the first time

is considered to
be the first

Tasks such as the one above not only help students learn vocabulary
and/or grammar in the text but they also give students practice in
determining meaning from context. The other value that this has in terms of
developing reading skills is that it raises students awareness of language
that would be likely to come up in another text of the same genre. Using the
example above, expressions such as considered to be the first or he/she
(then) started + ---ing will come up again in other biographies, either in
exactly the same form or in some variation of it.
Strategy 4.

4. Locating and categorizing cohesive devices (connectors, referencers

& discourse markers)
The skill of recognizing these items while reading was covered in the
previous section with some ideas for post-reading tasks. Another simple
post-reading task which can be done is to have students highlight one or
more of the three categories (connectors, referencers and discourse
markers) and discuss in pairs/groups what the function of each one is. For
example, in the previous sentence the words each one are used in order
not to repeat three categories. This type of awareness-raising task should
help students notice and process these items when they read in the future.

Strategy 5.

5. Summarizing the text in writing or speaking

This is a useful task for determining whether the students have understood
important points in the text and the text as a whole. However, the only way
it can promote better reading skills is if the students know before they read
that they will have to summarize the text afterwards. Then it should ensure
greater comprehension and the use of re-reading to repair comprehension.

Strategy 6.

6. Paraphrasing the text or sections of the text in writing or speaking

Paraphrasing is a good way to check that students have understood the
text in detail. However, letting students know they will have to do that


Teaching Reading Strategies

before they read for comprehension may cause them to read at too slow a
rate, which may actually inhibit their overall understanding of the text.
However, as a strictly post-reading task, it may help students process
difficult syntax, which may, in the long run, lead to better comprehension.
Strategy 7.

7. Identifying features on genre

Although genre analysis is normally done with a text to help students
produce their own text of the same genre, its a valuable skill for providing
readers with the type of information they should expect in another piece of
writing of the same genre. Once students have read a text for
comprehension, you can give them a list of categories used for genre
analysis and ask them to find features of the text that they think would be
typical for all or most examples of the genre. These categories are typically
used in genre analysis:

content (what type of info is in the text/genre, generally speaking)

organization (how is the text organized in terms of layout and
style (informal, neutral, formal or somewhere in between)
register (grammar, vocabulary and expressions might be typical of
the genre)
effect on the reader (e.g., to influence, inform, entertain, etc.)

By analyzing the features of a text which would be typical of the genre,

students will be prepared to expect the same features when they encounter
another text of the same genre. These expectations will help
comprehension even if the text is missing features or is in some way
different from the sample analyzed. For example, knowing that film reviews
feature certain content (e.g., discussions of acting, direction. plot, etc.) will
help students notice that content when they read other film reviews. And
even if any of the content they expect is missing (e.g., for a documentary
film), that too will tell them something about the text.

Lesson framework for any text.



Warmer/Activate Schemata
and/or other pre-reading task
Gist task and/or other pre-reading
Comprehension stage and/or
other while-reading task
Language Analysis and/or other
post-reading task
Controlled practice

Students do interactive task to get them thinking and

talking about topic and/or...
Students do a quick read of the text to get an idea of what
it is about and/or...
Students read comprehension questions and read the text
for the answers and/or...
Students go over the text and look for specific useful
language and/or...
Students do exercises to practice using language extracted
from the text.
Students speak about the topic of the text and (optional) try
to use some of the language theyve learned.

Free practice


Teaching Reading Strategies