Developing Reading Strategies

reading ofsted

The 15 minute forum tonight was led by our Literacy Leader, Lucy Darling (@DarlingDurr).  Lucy shared a number of reading strategies that can be used across a range of subjects.

reading21Reading Strategies

Reading Strategies are ways in which you can understand even more about a text. These are skills that should be discussed, used and developed in all subjects – in lessons, but also when preparing students for homework tasks.

  • Predicting – You make informed guesses about the text.
  • Skimming – You read quickly through the sentences getting a gist of the understanding of the text.  When searching the internet for information, you might skim articles, to see if it contains the information you need.
  • Scanning – Your eyes dart around a text searching for a specific word/phrase/number e.g. looking for a definition of a key word.
  • Close Reading – You pay close attention to the sentences, taking time to understand the meaning.  Once you have scanned and skimmed the internet for a resource and then find the one you want, you would then read it closely to get the information from it.
  • Questioning – You ask questions about a text to clarify your ideas. This is a great pair activity.  Each person looks at a text and then questions each other, to find out what it was about.
  • Reading backwards and forwards – When you have to read back in a text or read forward in order to make connections or clarify your ideas.
  • Empathising – When you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and feel what they feel e.g. in history, read some text about a historical figure, then discuss how it would have felt being them.
  • Visualising – You see a picture in your mind to help gain a better impression or understanding of the text – a very important strategy in science, when dealing with abstract ideas and concepts.
  • Inferring – When someone makes a point that isn’t obvious and you have to read ‘between the lines’ to find the meaning.  Good for developing discussion and deeper understanding.

read muppets

Pre-reading strategies

Teachers should clarify pupils’ purpose for reading. They should relate the reading to pupils’ lives; pre-teach concepts that might inhibit understanding; and activate or build background knowledge needed to make sense of the text.

Teachers must also develop pupils’ toolbox of comprehension strategies such as making connections, asking questions and forecasting predictions. It could also involve previewing the text or questions related to the text so that it focuses reading.

Teachers should pre-teach vocabulary through games, along with drama, to explore and bring new language alive. In primary school, pupils use reading and writing journals as a wonderful place to store words and phrases.

During – reading strategies

Teachers should vary the way the text is read. This could involve silent reading, bringing a text alive by reading to pupils, oral reading by pupils, audio recordings or guided reading. Teachers should do everything to avoid reading becoming a dull and slow business – and this isn’t achieved by just reading extracts, but on teacher approaches that are imaginative, innovative and lively. Sharing reading aloud or reading around the class must be dealt with cautiously as pupils waiting their turn may cause tension.

To help pupils read for meaning, use reciprocal teaching and thinking aloud. In addition, use asking questions, and modification of the text. Directed activities related to texts (DARTs) are a form of text modification.

Post- reading strategies

Suggestions include:  further questioning, discussion, building connections, writing, drama, artistic, graphic and non-verbal activities, application and outreach activities and re-teaching.

Pupils should be encouraged to see the reading strategies they do have, rather than do not have, so they see themselves as good readers


To activate prior knowledge

  1. Word association chain around the key word in title/heading or image – could add time limit e.g. ’60 second challenge’.
  2. Spot the genre or text type from the cover/title/image used.
  3. Fill in a KWL grid – What do I already know about this? What do I want to know? Then after reading, What have I learnt?


  1. Discussion about how the text might continue – sequence key events. What are the clues that lead to this idea?
  2. Multiple choice ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ style game with options of how the text might continue.
  3. Guess what word/phrase comes next – cloze activity.


  1. Students listen carefully to a passage being read to them and draw what they see. They share pictures and then talk about how the author creates those images in the reader’s mind.
  2. Design storyboards for particular passages, processes or key events.
  3. Draw pictures of key events/characters/processes and label with key quotations and information from the text.
  4. Freeze frames/tableaux where the students create a silent snapshot of key events.
  5. Turn the text into a diagram or flow chart.


  1. Devise a subheading for each paragraph summarising the key message.
  2. Highlight the key sentences/words in each paragraph.
  3. Reduce the text to five sentences, then five words and then one word.
  4.  Sequence a list of points from most important to least important.
  5. Restructure key information into a different format e.g. spider-diagram, bullet points, flow diagram, labelled picture, time-line.
  6. Just a minute – students talk on a topic for a minute without repetition, hesitation etc.
  7. Write 5 top tips/golden rules for…
  8. Choose from statements on the board. Which are true and false? Which best summarise the text/chapter/key ideas?
  9. Write a tweet (140 characters or less) to sum up a paragraph.


  1. Write questions around the margin of the text – questions about the meaning, questions to the author, questions they would want to find out to deepen their understanding etc.
  2. Hot-seat the author/character.
  3. Pairs/groups devise questions to test other pairs/groups.
  4. Give students the answers to some key questions from the text – what are the questions?

Structural Analysis

  1.  Text sequencing – reconstructing a text which has been cut into chunks.
  2. Narrative map/flow diagram of events/ideas in a text.
  3. Log the structure onto a grid e.g point/evidence grid, cause/effect grid, argument/counter-argument.

Character Analysis

(This may be a fictional character they have read about, or a historical figure e.g. Winston Churchill in history, Charles Darwin in science, or even a current high profile individual e.g. Richard Branson in Business Studies)

  1. Tension/emotion graph- the vertical axis is a continuum of emotions e.g. from ‘irritated’ to ‘in a rage’, or ‘fearful’ to ‘excited’. The horizontal axis details key points in the text and the students plot the graph to chart the change in emotions/tension.
  2. Hot seating a character.
  3. Character on trial – summing up speech for or against.
  4. Write a magazine profile of a character.
  5. Stop at a point where a character faces a problem or dilemma. List alternative courses of action and the motivation behind and consequences of each. Read on to find out what the character does do considering his/her motivation and what will happen as a result.
  6. Find evidence to show how the author is creating bias either for or against a character.
  7. Draw the character and label picture with key words and phrases from the text.
  8. Write thought bubbles for characters at key moments in the text when they don’t speak or perhaps don’t say what they’re really thinking. This can also be done dramatically as ‘thought tracking’ – one person reads what the character says and another says what they might actually be thinking.
  9. Re-tell a scene or extract from the viewpoint of another character, or historical/current public figure.
  10. Rank characters according to a given criteria e.g. most powerful to least powerful, kindest to meanest.
  11. Create a relationship grid with characters listed along the top and down the side. Each cell represents a relationship to be explored.

Thematic Analysis

  1. Interview the author for a TV/radio programme.
  2. Draw a picture to illustrate each of the key themes/ideas and write key quotations around it.
  3. Key quotation hunt – state the theme/idea and challenge the students to find a set number of quotations about it.
  4. ‘Top Theme Tangle’ – discuss which is the most important theme and why.
  5. Write a blurb for the book.
  6. Explain a moral or key message gained from the text.

Relating texts to personal experiences

  1. What would you do at certain points in the story or account?
  2. Choose the most interesting/surprising/entertaining moment/most difficult fact and explain the reason for the choice.
  3. Relate text to other things they have read and/or their own experiences.

Language work

  1. Students keep a personal vocabulary book – as they read they mark or note on post-its any words they are unsure of. After reading the group discusses the meaning of unfamiliar words and they are added to the vocabulary book along with a visual clue to remind them of the meaning.
  2. Highlight the key language features in the text e.g. adjectives in a persuasive leaflet, emotive language in a charity appeal, imperatives in a recipe.
  3. Re-write part of the text in another genre e.g. from persuasive to informative.

reading4With thanks to ‘Hertfordshire Grid for Learning’ for many of these ideas


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