Revisiting Reading Strategies

Author: Jill Torrey Emmons

Time: 2 class periods
15 minutes

Copies of Reading Strategies handout, copies of various scientific and historical texts. Instructor is responsible for locating one or two scientific texts (this is an opportunity to pick out materials that deal with air quality and health issues) selected from science text books, newspapers, or magazines, of moderate difficulty



Students may feel that they still do not have a good grasp of the various reading strategies which will help them to become more proficient readers. This is completely understandable, since the most accomplished readers have become so only after extensive practice with reading and using the strategies. This is the purpose of this lesson: to give students even more exposure to and experience with different texts and reading strategies. Specifically, this lesson helps students gain more practice with comprehension of scientific text and historical texts, which they will encounter often in school and in later life. This lesson lends itself to opportunities to target literacy with current biomedical and environmental health materials.

Purpose – The goal of this lesson is to allow students to explore various scientific and historical texts, and decide which reading strategies work best for improving comprehension.

Students will be able to:
1. Practice using meta-cognitive techniques by writing reflective notes while reading.
2. Read various scientific and historical texts and test certain reading strategies to see which improve comprehension most.

National English Education Standard
Standard 3: Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).

Teacher Background
The teacher should be familiar with the various reading strategies which aid in reading comprehension (see Reading Strategies handout).

Related and Resource Websites



Day 1
1. Begin class by reminding students of the techniques practiced the previous day. Write the following journal prompt on the board: “How would you define the word “meta-cognition”? How can thinking meta-cognitively help you while reading? What are some techniques you can use to reveal the invisible processes that go on in your mind while you read?” Allow the class the first 10-15 minutes to respond to these questions in their journals.

2. Review what students remember about meta-cognition and the associated techniques (thinking aloud and note taking). Explain to the class that they will continue practicing these techniques along with the others that they learned during the previous quarter. Explain to the class that the purpose of today’s reading will be to do just this. Ask the class to think about the different kinds of reading encountered in school. Some answers might be “text book reading”, “short stories”, or “articles”. Which kinds of reading are the most challenging? Have the class try to identify which types of subject reading are the most difficult for them. Tell the class that the next two days will be spent focusing on two types of reading which can be particularly challenging: scientific and historical texts.

3. Students may do the following activity in pairs or individually. Hand out copies of one or two scientific texts (this is an opportunity to pick out materials that deal with air quality and health issues) which you have selected from science text books, newspapers, or magazines, of moderate difficulty, along with copies of the Reading Strategies handout to guide students as they read. Instruct the class that they are going to practice using various reading strategies in order to comprehend the scientific texts they have in front of them. As they read, students will need to keep track of all the reading strategies they use on a separate sheet of paper. If a strategy is used more than once, they need to mark a tally of how many times each strategy is used. Encourage students to try as many different reading strategies as needed. Allow as much time as students need, approximately 25 minutes depending on the difficulty level of the texts.

4. At the end of the hour, collect student notes. Ask the class to comment on the following questions:

  • How would you rate the difficulty of the texts you have read?
  • What were some of the reading challenges which you encountered while reading?
  • Which strategies which were most successful in understanding these articles?
  • Were there any strategies you used more than once? Which?

Day 2
1. At the beginning of class, have the following question written on the board: “Imagine you have been given a scientific text to read and analyze. What would you say are the top three reading strategies you would need to know in order to help you understand the article?” Give students a few minutes to write down their answers in their journals, and discuss answers as a whole class. Students will often struggle with scientific texts due to complicated sentence structure, unfamiliar terminology, inability to understand graphics, and lack of interest in the topic presented. Strategies which may help overcome these reading difficulties can be found in the Reading Strategies chart. See if the class can come to consensus regarding the three top reading strategies they would consider most useful in understanding a scientific text; post these somewhere in the classroom for future reference.

2. Ask the class to think about the relative difficulty of scientific texts as compared to historical ones. Is it harder to understand a scientific article or an historical one? In what ways are they similar? In what ways are they different? What makes history sometimes difficult to read? Discuss these questions with the class for 5-10 minutes, and then explain to the class that today they are going to read some excerpts from a standard history text book and practice using various reading strategies to overcome reading roadblocks.

3. Hand out excerpts from a current history text book, preferably one used in your school and grade level. These excerpts should include chapter headings, bold text, maps, charts, inserted text boxes, and chapter review questions. Take 15-20 minutes and have students read part or all of these excerpts silently. While students are reading, instruct the class to think meta-cognitively and take notes on their reading processes. Have the class prepare a sheet of paper divided into three columns, one labeled “Thoughts”, the second labeled “Problems”, and the third labeled “Strategies”. In the first column students will record their thoughts (thinking meta-cognitively), in the second they will record whatever gets in the way of comprehension, and in the third what reading strategies they used to overcome the problems.

4. After the class has finished reading, discuss what students have discovered during their note taking. They should be able to identify common roadblocks and the strategies used to deal with these challenges.


You may assign additional science or history-based articles and ask students to determine which reading strategies are needed to improve reading comprehension.

Embedded Assessment
You may assess the students’ progress by evaluating their notes taken while reading various texts. These notes should contain a tally or notations concerning how many types of reading strategies were used and how often. There should also be some indication of the context in which each strategy was useful.


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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