155: How Smart Readers Think





Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 6.30.48 AM


Reading is more than “decoding”
  • Reading goes beyond phonics and beyond knowing what the component words mean
  • Reading involves comprehension and thinking
Reading is an active, constructive process
  • Actively processing unfamiliar texts can involve:
    • rereading to clarify meaning
    • making educated guesses
    • comparing to past experiences
    • learning meanings in context
    • posing questions
  • All of the processes above remind us that meanings don’t come at face value, they are constructed as we read
Good readers have a repertoire of thinking strategies to comprehend texts.
  • Thinking Strategies of Effective Readers include:
    • visualizing – making mental / sensory images of texts
    • connecting – to prior knowledge, other texts, etc
    • questioning – actively wondering, interrogating the text, etc
    • inferring – predicting, hypothesizing, interpreting, drawing conclusions
    • evaluating – making judgements, determining importance
    • analyzing – notice text structures, themes, points of views, etc
    • recalling – retellings, summarizing
    • self-monitoring – recognizing and acting on confusion
  • Good readers (like good drivers) may do the processes above automatically without being fully aware of them
Prior knowledge is a main determinant of comprehension
  • Cognitive researchers have found that humans store info in patterns called schemata
  • Appropriate schemata needs to be activated to make sense of texts
  • Students who lack the prior knowledge to make sense of texts may need pre-reading activities to scaffold their reading – without this scaffolding the texts may be too hard
Reading is a staged and recursive process
  • Before reading
    • set purpose for reading
    • activate prior knowledge
    • develop questions
    • make predictions
  • During reading
    • sample text
    • visualize
    • hypothesize
    • confirm and alter predictions
    • monitor comprehension
  • After reading
    • recall / retell
    • evaluate
    • discuss
    • reread
    • apply
    • read more
Various Kinds of Reading
  • many real world texts involve intricate combinations of reading categories – or draw from features of several genres
  • different professionals ask different questions of themselves while reading texts within their genre:
    • Questions a scientist asks while reading science literature:
      • What prior work informed this paper?
      • What methods did the author use?
      • Was the experimental data convincing?
      • Were the data analyzed and interpreted fairly?
      • What literature did the author cite?
      • What are the major conclusions of the study?
    • Questions a historian asks while reading:
      • What type of document is this?
      • Who was the author?
      • How was the author involved in the subject matter?
      • When was the document produced?
      • Who was the intended audience?
      • Can this info be corroborated?
      • Whose voices are committed from this account?
      • What might author’s biases have been?
    • Answering these questions may come from paying close attention to the text itself and also may relate to research that goes beyond the original texts being questioned
Teaching Implications
  • Instead of just assigning reading – designing subject-specific reading activities that help students make better sense of the texts
  • Pre-reading activities
    • build and activate related prior knowledge
    • making predictions about the text
    • tying new ideas in text with prior knowledge
  • During reading activities
    • teach strategies for questioning, interpreting and harvesting their responses as they read
  • After reading activities
    • clarify ideas with classmates
    • move ideas from one medium to another (reading to writing, drama, dance, etc)


Knowing the processes that smart readers use to make sense of texts can help teachers design scaffolding activities that help their students make meaning of assigned readings.  This involves designing scaffolding activities for pre-reading, during reading and after reading.  Knowing the fundamental questions that experts ask of themselves while reading can help teachers design good content-specific questions that guide students’ analyses of texts.  Discussing these questions can help students learn content-specific reading and thinking strategies.


Preparation Steps
  • Analyze standards and tasks in upcoming projects
  • Decide what types of reading students will need to do effectively in order to learn targeted standards and create project projects
  • Research and analyze texts students will use to acquire knowledge
  • Research and design pre-reading, during reading and post-reading activities that are specific to assigned texts and to the content intended to be learned from those texts.  See Reading and Literacy articles for ideas.
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement pre-reading, during reading and post reading scaffolding activities that will help students learn how to effectively read and also effectively learn content at the same time
  • Use formative assessments associated with these scaffolding activities to provide feedback to students and to see what students are learning by applying the strategies
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Use formative assessment feedback to determine what reading strategies are most effective and incorporate these into routines
  • Use reading strategies to help students make sense of dense, high lexile texts that are a bit outside of their comfort zones



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *