All teachers know that students need a valid reason for doing something. The more authentic the reason, the more likely students are to do as we ask.
Teachers often tell me that they find it difficult to get their students to read. Just giving students a text and asking them to read it will probably not work as students need a clear purpose for reading.
‘Reading’ in its broadest sense involves making meaning from all texts, so this approach can also be applied to viewing and listening.
The purpose can link to the demands of a piece of assessment and may be framed in terms of learning some content and developing a skill. Sometimes, the teacher decides on the purpose based on formative assessment which has shown that students are weak in a particular area.
Either way, when planning an Instructional Reading Activity, begin with establishing a clear purpose that you share with your students. You might say something like this, “We are reading this text today to learn about the reasons for … and to develop the skill of explaining to others.”
Answering questions is not a valid purpose as it is the activity not the purpose for reading. What will students gain from the reading?
There are, of course, many reasons or purposes for reading text. Here are a few:
- identify the main ideas
- make inferences
- work out the meaning of words in context
- identify the author’s purpose or the audience for the text
- deconstruct a text to identify the organisation of the information and the language features
- make and confirm predictions
- understand the sequence or order in which events occur
- summarise information
- distinguish between facts and opinions
- follow a procedure or set of instructions
- build background knowledge about a topic
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