Developing different reading skills

Developing different reading skills

Many students believe that all texts must be read in the same way – closely and continuously (i.e. left to right and top to bottom). This is because when we first teach children to read we use books. Competent readers do not read every text in the same way. Traditional print-based texts are read from left to right and top to bottom.

However, many of the texts of the new technologies are not read in this way. The four ways are: 

  1. SKIMMING – This is browsing or glancing over the text. Readers are not necessarily looking for anything specific; rather, they are gaining an idea of what the text is about.
  2. SCANNING – This is looking for specific information and may involve finding information to answer questions.
  3. CLOSE READING – As the name suggests, this is looking at a piece of text in a focused way. Readers may linger longer over the text, paying close attention to the key parts.
  4. CONTINUOUS READING – This practice applies to prose and means reading (usually words) without stopping. It is the way that readers read novels.

Skills of skimming or browsing need to be well developed when using online texts. Close and continuous reading (similar to the way we read something important) may not be used as much.

It is a good idea to talk to students about the different ways of reading text (i.e. scanning, skimming, close and continuous reading). Use a text such as a newspaper to demonstrate these different types of reading. Talk about what you are doing. Articulate the types of reading you use and why, and the fact that how the newspaper is read depends on the purpose for reading.

For example, a newspaper may be skimmed to get a general idea and scanned for a particular item such as a horoscope. Even though many people now read the news online, the same applies. We flick through screens until something catches our eye and then begin to read it closely and continuously. Close reading of something you need, such as an advertisement, and continuous reading of something of interest may also occur.

Teachers can help students develop different reading skills by introducing short hook exercises at the start of the lesson. Also known as anticipatory sets, warm-ups or lesson starters, these exercises are designed to have students engaged in meaningful learning activities from the opening minutes of the lesson. They are also a brilliant way to reinforce and practise core skills or even cognitive verbs.  

Hooking students into learning... in all curriculum areas contains 45 reading focused activities that can be adapted to fit the class' current areas of study.  The activities are designed to take between five to ten minutes of lesson time, and if regularly implemented, will increase the amount of reading and writing students complete during class time.