Reading with Meaning

We have been talking with teachers recently about teaching children how to make meaning from texts, often because there are children in the class who are finding it more challenging to infer when reading.

Good readers use a range of strategies and we need to model a wide range  such as activiating prior knowledge, generating own questions, making connections, visualising, knowing how words work, monitoring for sense, summarising and evaluating.  This site shows how these skills can be developed in the classroom with many thanks to @tombarrett for sharing .

Reciprocal reading is a well-researched programme that takes the four skills of predicting, clarifying, questioning and summarising and shows children how to use them when reading in order that they make the most meaning that they can.  On our last reciprocal reading course we generated a list of ways in which these skills could be used so that it doesn’t always feel like you are doing the same thing over and over again.  Below are the suggestions with many thanks to the teachers who attended.

Predicting – this is frequently done using the front cover of a book but can also be undertaken during reading.  The research suggests that children draw very heavily on pictures to help with this strategy and also that the title of the text is a very important signpost.  The suggestions were:

  • Use some images from the text and the title to predict what it might be about
  • Use one key image from the text to generate ideas about the text
  • Generate a list of words that you might expect to find in this text
  • Craft a sentence which says ‘I predict that this book will be about ……. because………..’  The putting of ideas into a sentence is crucial as it forces us to order our thoughts and put them together coherently
  • Reveal a paragraph at a time and predict what the next paragraph might be about.  This can also be done sentence by sentence on a very short piece of text.
  • Using a wordle of the first paragraph/chapter and trying to identify what the text might be about

Clarifying is where children try and work out what things might mean when they were confused.  This can happen at word, sentence, paragraph and whole text level.  Many children will focus upon words here so we will need to model needing to make sense out of larger chunks of text.

  • Rereading the puzzling part of the text and reading around it
  • Using knowledge of words to help identify meaning, e.g. I know what medicine is so I can guess what medication is.  But this also moves into signposts in language such being able to generate synonyms, knowing what connectives such as on the other hand, or and because mean.  This is an enormous area and is one reason why word level work is not just about spelling but also about how words work and their meaning.  Online programmes can support this type of work such as Wordnik or Visuwords.

Questioning – this is where children generate questions that can be answered from the text and is not teachers about teachers having a prepared set of questions that will help children understand the text better.

  • Start this activity on small parts of the text and then build up to the questions being about the whole text.  I have had to start on just one sentence with some groups of children and then move on from there.
  • Teach children how to identify key words in a sentence/piece of text and then attach question words to the information.  For example if the key words are River Exe, starts at Simonsbath, Exmoor can we start a question off with who?  Why not?  Can we use when?
  • Encourage children to generate as many questions as possible.  This means that they will start with the obvious ones and then move on and will without knowing it eventually move into inferential and evluative questions.
  • Team games can be played where other teams have to answer the questions.  The children must know where the answers to their questions are in the text.  Again ask for the answers in sentences so that children can see how the question and answers contain many words that are the same.

The purpose of this type of activity is not really in the answering of the questions but in the generation of them.  When children are doing this they are once again discussing their understanding of the text.

Summarising again demands that children explore what is important information in the text and what is not, helping them to make more/clearer meaning.  Different ways in which this can be done are:

  • In 2 or 3 sentences
  • Using autosummarise in word and seeing what happens each time, discussing whether the meaning is maintained
  • Creating a blurb such as that on the back of a book or in the review section of the television programmes
  • Creating a sub-heading for each paragraph
  • Drawing a story map of the text
  • Tell the text in six words

What has worked for your children?

Other posts about reading .

3 thoughts on “Reading with Meaning

  1. There are such excellent ideas here! One activity my kids loved, and which I think is useful when they are learning to formulate questions is to play variations of the game Jeopardy with them. In other words, you and the children come up with answers, and the “contestant” has to think of a question that could match that answer.

    • Thanks Susan and I love the idea of jeopardy. I will add it to my list that I use on the course and try it out on a group of children.

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