Reading is a central part of learning and teaching in most classrooms. Again, the first step is to identify what sorts of reading learners are asked to do in your lessons and also how far they are supported on a whole-school and classroom basis to develop and extend these reading skills. Estyn (2011) identify several approaches and areas of focus in the teaching and development of learners’ reading skills. Importantly, once learners have developed the ability to read, the development of their reading skills should not only be an implicit part of a language rich school environment, but also an explicit focus.
Skimming and scanning
Scanning a piece of text for specific information or skimming it for a general overview are key reading skills that enable learners to engage with texts in specific ways for specific purposes.
Skimming and scanning
In the activity below, you will find a short story. You will have 45 seconds to read the text before being presented with the following set of questions:
- What is the story about?
- Name three beaches the crabs have migrated to.
- What have the crabs been taking?
- What colour are the crabs?
- How does the crab camouflage its back?
- Why do spider crabs come closer inshore during summer?
- What do the crabs like at Cei Bach?
Once you have completed the task above, visit this BBC Skillswise skimming game (external link) to further test your skills in scanning.
Developing reading skills
There are a number of reading strategies used in classrooms throughout Wales that focus learners in on approaches they can used to develop their skills in reading for meaning. These include the following.
In this approach, learners are given reading roles within a group. These roles are usually: summariser, predictor, clarifier, and questioner. The learners are usually given role cards which allow them to focus in on a key aspect of text engagement. Importantly, the aim is to work towards learners being able to use all four 'roles' to explore text independently. A very useful overview, complete with guidance can be found in the National Behaviour Support Service's Reciprocal Teaching Strategy document (external link)..
Guided reading is organised by way of small groups of learners with similar reading skills. After introducing the text, the teacher will guide each group through the text by, for example, drawing attention to features, modelling ways of probing text and so on. Teachers will also take opportunities to listen to individual learners within the group.
In shared reading, the teacher models reading practices explicitly for the whole class. This is usually through a shared text – on an interactive whiteboard (IWB), big book, screen or shared tablets, for example. The teacher explicitly focuses in on the text, showing learners how an effective reader may engage with text. Here is a grid from Estyn (2011) which summarises guided and shared reading.
Eight reading behaviours
This approach identifies eight key cueing systems or behaviours that readers draw upon when engaging with texts. The behaviours are: Activating prior knowledge, Self-monitoring, Questioning, Visualising, Making connections, Analysing and inferring, Analysing and evaluating, Summarising. The behaviours provide learners with tools to support their engagement with text. A guide and some resources can be found on the RAISE (Raising Attainment and Individual Standards in Education) website (external link).
Reading for inference and deduction
A range of practices come under this broad umbrella (including the above), but some of the most useful include: teacher modelling of the process (such as thinking aloud, verbalising the process of inference; explicit modelling using whole class texts); questioning of the text by teacher and by learners; focus in on text at word, sentence and whole text level (including structure); prediction.
The research report on comprehension strategies entitled Effective Teaching of Inference Skills for Reading (external link) is recommended reading.
These are not the only approaches to developing learners’ reading skills. They do, though, provide interesting starting points for reflecting upon how to best support learners’ engagement with text across all subjects. Central to much of the work done with these approaches is that the approach was adopted as a whole- school, or whole- cluster, initiative. Importantly, developing opportunities and impetus for reading for pleasure is not to be forgotten. While strategies and approaches can enhance learners’ reading skills, their independent engagement with text can have a huge impact.