155: How Smart Readers Think





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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



154: The Core Purposes of Reading





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Reading Skills in the Common Core Standards:
  1. Key Ideas and Details
    • Recall and Infer
      • citing textual evidence to support analysis of texts
      • attending to precise details of explanations, descriptions
      • draw inferences from text
    • Summarize
      • identify central ideas and conclusions in texts
      • trace explanations of complex processes
      • summarize how ideas (especially central) develop over a text
    • Analyze
      • analyze series of events, sequences of steps, series of arguments, etc.
      • analyze cause and effect
      • attending to special cases, exceptions, defined in texts
      • sequencing and relating arguments in a text
  2. Craft and Structure
    • Acquire Academic Vocabulary
      • determine meanings of vocabulary (key & related words and phrases), symbols,
      • determining meanings of words in context, including their explicit and suggested meanings
      • analyze cumulative effects of word and phrase choices
    • Analyze Text Structure
      • analyze how structure is used to emphasize key points
      • analyze relationships among concepts
      • analyze how idea and claims are developed
    • Purpose and Point of View
      • compare/contrasts points of view of different authors
      • analyzing author’s purpose for selecting a specific research question
      • analyze how author uses rhetoric to promote a point of view
  3. Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
    • Examine Text from Multiple Perspectives
      • integrate quantitative or technical analysis with qualitative analysis
      • translate technical texts into multiple representations such as equations, graphs, charts, etc
      • analyze different genres and mediums, noticing what details some mediums include and leave out
    • Evaluate Reasoning and Evidence
      • evaluate to what extent evidence supports author’s claims
      • identify false claims, false evidence, and specious lines of argument
    • Compare and Contrast Texts
      • compare various treatments of topics in primary and secondary sources
      • compare and contrast findings from different research groups
      • analyze seminal texts and how they address key themes and concepts
  4. Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity
    • Read Deeply and Widely
      • reading content specific texts that span grade appropriate lexile levels
Characteristics of More Successful Content-Area Reading Activities
    • textbooks are not the sole sources of info
    • subject matter includes relevant issues that affect the world and students’ lives
    • read a variety of sources in order to make sense of what’s true and not
    • read about settled and unsettled (debatable) ideas
    • sample wide variety of genres – magazines, blogs, nonfiction books, other book genres, etc
    • bias towards current information
    • reading passages vary in length – short articles to book length
    • many texts take interdisciplinary approach
    • not just to pass a test; to gather information, make meaning and apply knowledge of ideas to important issues
    • teachers select some readings and students choose others
    • not every student reads the same texts; strategies like jigsawing used to share information
    • teachers scaffold thinking strategies that help students read more effectively
    • learning activities deepen engagement with texts
    • reading is seen as a social (not individual) activity
    • instead of focusing on “right answers”, leave room for debate
    • texts are connected by authentic themes; not isolated pieces of reading
    • reading is linked to real world tasks such as research, documentation, correspondence and advocacy
    • assessment to reading relied more on performance-based strategies, products and exhibitions


Teaching varied reading processes using engaging texts can help students develop better understandings of and more engagement with their courses.  There is an equity gap in students’ reading levels that is correlated to their socioeconomic status.  Using effective content-area reading strategies can help teachers support students in ways that narrow achievement gaps.


Preparation Steps
  • Analyze past reading text selections and reading-specific learning activities.  How do they stack up to the characteristics of effective content-area reading lessons?
  • Research texts and strategies to fill in the gaps in your library and scaffolding activities.  See above and Reading articles for ideas.
  • Analyze skills needed to learn targeted standards and develop products in upcoming projects.  Identify which of the reading skills listed above are critical to successfully learning targets standards and developing products.
  • Write learning targets that relate to the reading skills students need to succeed in a project.
  • Develop scaffolding activities that relate to reading learning targets
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement scaffolding activities that relate to academic and reading learning targets
  • Use informal formative assessments to see if reading scaffolding is helping students to better learn
  • Have students reflect on how reading strategies are impacting their learning
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Use series of student reflections and formative assessments to determine what reading strategies students are finding the most helpful.  Incorporate most effective strategies into routines.

33: Clustering Student Needs For More Efficient Planning


Chapter 6 in Tomlinson, Carol A., and Jay McTighe.  Integrating Differentiated Instruction & Understanding by Design: Connecting Content and Kids.  Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2006. Print.



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What does clustering learner needs mean?
  • use patterns to identify and plan for common student needs
Common Clustered Needs & Remediations:
  • Need for reading supports:
    • Optional reading partners on new texts
    • Make highlighted and marked up texts available
    • Teacher reads aloud complex parts of text
    • Provide audio recordings of texts
  • Need for vocabulary building:
    • Provide vocabulary lists with clear explanations
    • Pinpoint and focus on key vocabulary
    • Students hunt for vocabulary in textbooks, editorials, cartoons, TV, magazines, etc
    • Word walls
    • Vocabulary posters with words and related visuals
  • Difficulty Staying on Task:
    • Think pair share groups
    • Student choice on learning tasks and learning modes
    • Multiple modes of teacher presentation
    • Shift activities during a class period
    • Graphic organizers designed to model the flow of ideas
  • Strengths in Specific Areas of Studies:
    • Jigsaw groups
    • Interest groups, interest centers
    • Use learning contracts and learning centers to personalize learning
  • Need for targeted instruction and practices:
    • Routinely meet with students in small groups
    • Assign homework targeted to key skills students need
  • Varied Levels of Readiness
    • Tiering
    • Compacting
    • Think-alouds
    • Varied homework
    • Text digests
    • Writing frames
    • Small group instruction
    • Learning contracts
    • Learning menus
    • Materials with varied lexile levels
    • Word walls
    • Guided peer critiques
  • Varied Interests
    • Interest centers and groups
    • Expert groups
    • Web quests and inquiries
    • Group investigation
    • Independent studies
    • Personalized criteria for success
    • Design-a-day (personalized daily agendas)
  • Varied Learning Profiles
    • Visual organizers
    • Varied work options
    • Varied entry points
    • Intelligence preference tasks – see Differentiated curriculum charts.
    • Opportunities for movement
    • Varying modes of teacher presentation
  • Multiple Categories 



Clustering needs is more efficient than fulfilling IEP’s for every student.  More students benefit from intended remediations than initially intended.  It’s easier to plan units with built in remediations that address common needs than to identify these during the unit and make them a la carte.

Preparation Steps
  • Survey students interests and learning profiles
  • Pre-assess students to see who will need extra (less) support and what topics need extra resources
  • Determine what are the common clustered needs and variations – the top 3 that will serve most students
  • Gather and create resources (see above) that match common needs and common sources of variation
  • Assign students to groups that match activity types – it’s possible to use more than one grouping over the course of a project – learning groups could be different from product groups
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement learning strategies that align to common clustered needs and sources of variation
  • Use formative assessments with all students to give feedback on their progress so they can improve and to improve activities
  • Use student reflections to improve activities
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Design and implement systems that teach students how to set, track and reach academic goals
  • Continually survey students to check if the identified clusters of needs are the correct ones