Successful Reading Practices and Pitfalls

The best part of my summer break (besides catching up on being a Mom to my 2 boys) is reading the books that I have been anticipating and collecting all school year.

I know this makes me seem strange, but I believe the most important part of my job as a Reading Instructional Specialist is staying abreast new research, new pedagogy to best support my campus’ teachers and students.

One of those books that I have been looking forward to reading is Disrupting Thinking, Why HOW We Read Matters by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst.  Once I opened this book, I could not put it down, and I have been telling all my ELAR teachers to pick this book up.

Why?  This book provides teachers with practical strategies and a framework that creates a mindset for readers that will lead them on a path toward thoughtful, purposeful, and deep reading.  Who doesn’t want that?

Throughout the reading, I kept thinking about my own classroom practice, and I started to merge many of the ideas into a list of Successful Reading Practices and Pitfalls.

Successful Reading Practices

  1. connectTeach students to Connect to the text FIRST.  By creating this emotional response to the text, readers will be reading something that matters to them. (Ask students to think about or be in touch with what they are feeling while reading.- once the text matters to them, then the comprehension is deeper.)
  2. Question and React the Text next. What we are asking students to do at this stage is to think about their thinking and be more cognizant of their questions and find evidence is what they are reading to close readinganswer their questions.

3. Read for its beauty- even nonfiction. It is important for our readers to understand the idea that reading is truly about …

taking you to worlds you have never been,

experiencing perspectives that you have never considered,

learning from characters, authors, and conflicts

seeing yourself reflected back at you through the characters and experiences.

Strategy vs. SkillClose Reading

close reading

Teaching students these important skills is vital for deep conversations, deep reading comprehension and MOST importantly to create students who understand the importance of reading- and ones that will read for LIFE.

SKILL: Hand– What is in the text?

  • What do the characters say, do, think? (Identify the plot elements, identify main idea/details/facts)
    • Strategies: Plot structure (plot triangle), character analysis, GIST, SWBS (T), GPPS,

SKILLS: Head– What questions do  you have about the text?

  • What do you think about what is being said? What questions do you have about how the characters reaction and their actions? (inferencing)
    • Strategies: SNOTS (small, notes, on, the, side), Questioning (Before, during, After), Crack Open Headings, Question stems, Background Knowledge- inferencing

Heart– What do you think and feel about the text? What text connections can you make?

  • How does the information make you feel? Does the information change how you feel?  What Big Idea (Universal Theme) does the story have?  (Synthesizing)
    • Strategies: Bullseye, text connection sentence stems, synth


  1. Taking away student Choice

    * When we ask students to read the same novel, the same text- we are taking away their JOY. we are taking away their HEART.  It is more difficult to have students READ and use these skills when we have taken away their ability to read what they enjoy.

    1. Your way around this- use literature circles, book tastings, and CHOICE as often as possible.
    2. if you MUST use a basal text – use this as your assessment piece to see if students are using their skills/strategies purposefully.
  2. making students their Lexile

    * When we limit students on what they may read because of their lexile or reading level, we are taking away their CHOICE and we are limiting them to expand their reading abilities.  A student is NOT their lexile.

    1. Should students set goals toward a lexile, toward a reading level – YES! we all need goals, but this should NOT drive the student – this should drive the teacher and the guided reading objectives and differentiation.
  3. Creating a goal of ‘don’t fail’

    * It is about failing is about struggling – the only time we ever learn to use our strategies is through that struggle. And the only time we achieve our goals is when we learn to embrace our struggle (when the going gets tough) and use our strategies independently.

  4. Making reading about text evidence

    * Text evidence and Proof are NOT why we read. We read to connect, to learn, to get wrapped up in the characters’ adventures, and we read gain a new perspective.

Questions to Consider when adding something new to your teaching toolkit

Will this help students become independent readers? Did I add to their toolkit?

Will this create a love for reading?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘No’, then try something different.



Categories Teaching

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