Fiction, Nonfiction

Practical Reading Strategies for Better Understanding

Reading strategies support comprehension in reading. They help scaffold the students’ thinking, reading, note-taking skills, and writing.

Reading Fiction

Fictional text is organized through the story structure. It is useful for students to describe the character by taking notes. To analyze the character, I use a web diagram and also a three column chart to help analyze the character’s actions, feelings, and sayings. This helps students remember what they have read. Students then write a cohesive paragraph about the character using their notes and some signal words. Signal words like for example, such as, and in particular help students provide more details in their writing.

This theme organizer gives examples of theme ideas and scaffolds to express the theme as a sentence. Strategies include using signal words and evidence to support the theme.

Theme can be tricky for students to identify. Analyzing the character’s actions, feelings, behavior, and noting how the main character changes will help find the theme. Having these notes to refer to helps them remember what they have read. To help identify theme, I use a two column organizer that helps the students scaffold their thoughts. For example, I start with theme ideas. Then, students put that idea into a sentence. So if a book was about the idea of friendship, the theme might be that in order to find a friend, you need to be a friend first. After that students write a paragraph about the theme and the evidence in the story. The character learned ….. is a sentence starter that students can use to scaffold their thinking.

Reading Nonfiction

Students also use reading strategies when reading nonfiction text. I have students start taking notes using an information web. This organizer is similar to the character description. Students write details about the topic they are reading. Sentence starters like the main idea….. and in conclusion….. are tools students can use to write a paragraph about what they have read.

When using description, students need to provide lots of details. Signal words and sentence starters can be used to help students add those details.

Applying Reading Strategies

Nonfiction text is organized by text structures. Sequencing, problem and solution, cause and effect, compare & contrast, and description are the five text structures. Explicitly teaching these structures improves the students’ comprehension. It helps gives students a purpose for reading and guides their note-taking. Students use signal words such as in contrast and similar when comparing and contrasting ideas. Sequencing includes signal words such as first, next, after that, and finally. The signal words also help organize the students’ writing.

Students use similar graphic organizers when reading fiction and nonfiction text. They are familiar with the format and apply using the graphic organizer with the new text. These strategies support all learners, especially struggling readers and ESL students.

You may also be interested in reading the blog post, Why are text features important to reading?

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