Interactive Reading Guide: A Literary Treasure Hunt

interactive-reading-model-1-728Clues 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.

Teaching/Learning Activities:

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.

Further Resources:

Guiding Students Through Informational Text. The Reading Teacher:

Biology Interactive Reading Guide

Water Clarity and Sediments . . . pages 11-12

  1. Look at the drawing of the fish at the top of the page. Two things are mentioned as “stream troublemakers.” What are these two things?
  2. A key word in your reading is “clarity.” Student A: read paragraph 1 out loud to your group. Rest of group: decide what water “clarity” means and write it below. If you were a fish, what would be the best type of water, according to paragraph 1?
  3. Paragraph 2 talks about the color of a stream. Entire group: silently skim this paragraph and find two things that can change the color of water in a stream.
  4. Paragraph 3 is the main point of your article. Student B: read paragraph 3 out loud to your group. Rest of group: decide what effect algae and sediments have on water.
  5. The next section describes algae. Entire group: silently read Paragraph 4. Look for the following information on algae: What kinds of streams are most likely to have algae? What exactly is algae? What color is water that has a lot of algae?
  6. Student C: read Paragraph 5 out loud to your group. Rest of group: tell what kinds of things could be “sediment” in a stream.
  7. Entire group: silently read Paragraph 6 and look for ways sediment gets into streams. Talk over what these ways are and write them here.
  8. Entire group: silently skim Paragraphs 7, 8, and 9. If you were a fish, which source of sediment sounds the worst to you?
  9. Sediment and algae make water cloudy. Cloudy water causes trouble for fish. The next paragraphs tell 5 reasons why. Student A: silently read Paragraphs 10 and 11. Student B: silently read Paragraphs 12 and 13. Student C: silently read Paragraph 14. Then share the 5 reasons why cloudy water is bad for fish and write them in your own words below.