Breaking Through Reading Roadblocks!

Author: Jill Torrey Emmons

Time: 1 period
20 minutes to copy/assemble packets. Group desks into groups of 4 and label each desk with a 1, 2, 3, & 4.
Materials: A class set of 5 new sample “texts”, including a map, a diagram, a chart of scientific data, and a history article. Assemble these into packets. Sticky notes labeled 1, 2, 3, & 4.


In this final lesson for week 1, students should have a rudimentary arsenal of reading strategies that will help them become more proficient readers. This lesson will allow students to look at documents not commonly thought of as “texts”, but which nevertheless contain readable information, which they need to be able to process. Students will have the opportunity to apply what they have leaned in the previous week to these new documents and explore how the same strategies might be used with these new “texts”.

Purpose – This lesson is designed to allow students to apply the reading strategies they have discovered in a slightly different context.

Students will be able to:

1. Interpret a map, a diagram, a scientific chart, and a historical text.
2. Identify reading strategies used to interpret different texts.

National English Education Standard
Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw upon their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and also their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).

Teacher Background
See Reading for Understanding

Related and Resource Websites

See the following websites for sample “texts” that can be used with this lesson:

A map – http://www.nationalgeographic.com/maps/
A diagram – http://www.origami.com/pdf/mushroom.pdf
A scientific chart – http://www.ilog.com/products/jviews/charts/scientific.htm or
A historical article – http://www.history-magazine.com/arsenic.html



1. Before students arrive, write the question of the day on the board: “What is a text”? When students arrive, give them a few minutes to think about and write down an answer to this question, encouraging them to be as detailed as possible. When everyone has finished, ask for some students to share their ideas. Some might say, “Anything with words” or “A thing you can read”, which are both good answers. Explain to the class that a text is a general term for anything that communicates using written language.

2. Point out a map in the classroom or in their packets, and ask the whole class, “Would you normally call this document a text?” Most will probably respond “no”. Ask them “What is this traditionally called”? Explain to the class that even though the document is a map, in many ways it can be read like a book. For instance, just as you read the title of a chapter, you will need to read the map heading or title to know what location it is referencing. Just as you might come across unfamiliar vocabulary in a newspaper article, you may need to look up unfamiliar words used on a map. Tell the class that each one of the documents they will be looking at today can be considered a kind of text and can be read successfully using the same reading strategies that are used for understanding traditional texts.

3. Have students break into groups of 4 and explain to them that they are going to practice using reading strategies in a slightly different context today. Once students are separated into groups, tell them to find the sticky note attached to their desk with a number on it. These numbers correspond to their various roles within their groups (groups of three will have a team member who assumes two roles):
  • 1’s will help their teammates observe and identify familiar parts of the text.
  • 2’s will help their teammates ask questions about the text.
  • 3’s will help their teammates clarify answers to the questions that have been raised.
  • 4’s will help their teammates summarize the group’s findings.

All team members will have a minute to look at each text before assuming their roles and facilitating in the discussions (in number order, 1’s first, 2’s second, etc.). Emphasize to the students that each role is a facilitative one; meaning that they must encourage all their team members to participate. A student in the number 1 role might ask each team member: “What do you notice about this text? Are there any parts that look familiar to you?” A student in the number 2 role might ask each team member: “What questions do you have about this text? Is there anything that you see that is confusing to you?” A student in the number 3 role might ask: “Can you answer any of the questions we have posed so far? How can we find answers to our questions?” Allow each group about 8 minutes to examine and analyze each document. The summarizers will also act as recorders, jotting down notes about their group’s findings.

4. After the class has spent about 8 minutes on a document, stop the analysis and have the summarizers briefly present their group’s findings and interpretation of the information in the document to the whole class. Allow perhaps 2 minutes for each group to present their summaries, and then move on to the next document. This cycle should take about 45-50 minutes, so groups will have to work quickly. If necessary the lesson may be wrapped up on a second day.

Come back together as a whole class to identify and discuss the reading strategies most commonly used to comprehend each of the texts examined in groups. A list of these common strategies might be written on the board to reinforce these concepts.

Have students write one or two paragraphs comparing and contrasting the strategies needed to comprehend a scientific chart versus a literary text.

Embedded Assessment

Students may be assessed during their group work and presentations. Since the goal of this lesson is to apply some of the reading strategies they have learned, remind students to look back at their notes taken the previous day. Be sure that all students are attempting to use strategies such as observation, chunking, questioning, and clarifying.

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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