Clues help navigate reading material
“… Go to the big oak tree in the center of the park. Walk 20 paces in the direction the lowest limb is pointing. You will find a large speckled rock. Under the rock . . .”
As children, you probably participated in a treasure hunt. You were given a series of instructions that led you to several locations. At times you had to pause and think about the clue you had received, and it helped to collaborate with others. If you followed all the directions carefully, you discovered the spot that contained the “treasure”- the whole point of the exercise.
Getting the point of a reading assignment, however, is a difficult task for many of our students. They are confounded by the amount of information they encounter in a textbook, and they are unable to differentiate key ideas from supporting detail. They could benefit from a few clues to direct their excursion through the text.
Interactive Reading Guides are an excellent activity to assist students. A variation of the study guide, the interactive guide involves students working with partners or small groups to figure out the essential ideas.
Step 1: Preview a reading assignment to determine the major information to be learned and to locate possible pitfalls for understanding. Be especially concerned with the difficulties struggling students might have with the material.
As you preview, notice salient features of the text that students might overlook, like pictures or charts and graphs. In addition, consider whether there is an occasional “mismatch” between students and the text. Does the author assume knowledge that some students might lack? Does the author introduce ideas and vocabulary without providing sufficient explanation or examples? Does the author use language or a sentence style that will be tough reading for some students?
Step 2: Next, construct an interactive reading guide to be completed with partners or in cooperative groups. Design the guide to help students decide where to focus their attention during reading and to support their learning when the material might prove challenging.
Segment the passage to be read, so that portions are read orally by individuals to their group, portions are read silently by each student, and portions that are less important are skimmed. In places, you may wish to use the guide to provide additional background information, or to encourage students to brainstorm what they already know about the topic.
For example, a biology teacher wants to use Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources publications detailing water conditions in streams. She divides responsibilities so that cooperative groups each read one segment. One group must become experts on water clarity, a second on water acidity, a third on water temperature, and a fourth on the amount of dissolved oxygen available in the water. Each group is given a separate interactive reading guide so that it will be able to handle an otherwise formidable task.
Step 3: Completed interactive reading guides serve as organized notes on the material during classroom discussions and follow-up activities. They also make excellent study guides for examinations.
In our biology example above, the completed guides provided each group with an outline to follow when they reported their information back to the entire class.
Interactive reading guides can make it possible for students to learn from text materials that may be too difficult for independent reading. In addition:
- Students are conditioned to read materials at different rates, for varying purposes, as they are directed to read some sections carefully and to skim others.
- Students are able to use each other as resources.
- Interactive reading guides are especially effective for supporting the learning of struggling readers.
Guiding Students Through Informational Text. The Reading Teacher:
Water Clarity and Sediments . . . pages 11-12