Active Reading Strategies that Help Drive Learning to the Next Level | Mentoring in the Middle

Active Reading Strategies that Help Drive Learning to the Next Level

A little back story here.  

Some years ago, I taught a group of students who identified themselves as struggling readers.  And I noticed something about them.  They just seemed to like learning with their hands more than any other way.  I wondered if there were ways I could incorporate active movement into improving their reading skills. 

These were kiddos who loved to race dirt bikes, could take apart motors, or loved to draw.  What struck me was how little I had paid attention to their learning strengths based on tactile intelligence. 

I was working with some of them during a WIN (What I Need) period and when they saw the workbook we were supposed to use, they groaned.  Some had used it before and it was clear there was no love there.  So we put it aside and created interactive notebooks.  They loved them!  Something about cutting and pasting made them happy.  

That got me thinking.  Could there be a way for these kids to learn comprehension skills by doing first, before reading?  

A Reading Skills Scavenger Hunt
I created a Scavenger Hunt to find causes and their effects.  These kids knew I was trying something new with them, and they were grateful not to be drilled with worksheets, so when I told them they were going to walk around the school with a partner - and that I'd better not hear anything negative about doing that - they were on their best behavior!

If you don't want students too far from you, keep them nearby; this can even be done in your room.

Working collaboratively with a partner, they had to find real-world examples of cause and effect.  
  • If you push down on the switch by the door, the lights in the classroom go off.  
  • If you push the button on the big silver box in the hallway, water shoots up out of the tube.  
  • If the water is shooting up, you can bend over to take a drink.
At the time, I didn't know if real examples would translate to the written word, but I was willing to try.  The scavenger hunt led to lots of interesting discoveries which they excitedly shared with each other when they returned.

Then, I had them sort out the causes from the effects on paper.  They worked on this individually and then shared it with their partner so that if there were questions, they could figure them out together.  Surprisingly, there were few questions.

From scavenger hunt to informational text
The next day, I gave all of my students a passage on the Dust Bowl.  I had created two similar texts, filled with causes and effects, differentiated for reading.  They had a short worksheet to fill out, to help find support for causes and effects in the passage.

I was very pleased with these students' improved understanding of this particular reading skill!  So much so, that I developed another, similar set of activities for comparing and contrasting.

It was important for me to remember that students all learn differently, and while classrooms are mostly designed for visual and auditory learners, there are ways to reach other kinds of learners without too much effort.
  • If you would like the resource that I created for my students, click here or on the picture. 

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