L2 Reading Comprehension

How to help second language learners improve their reading skills
This site is a collaborative venture, prepared intitially by Claudia Escartín, Brian Gill, Maija MacLeod, Murray Peglar, and Miko Summerell, in Brian Gill's French 611 (L2 Reading comprehension and Technology) class.  The site is being developed during the Winter 2003 term.

Ideas for Classroom Instruction
What do we do when we read?

We read in different ways, depending on our goals.  We may

  • scan through a text for a specific piece of information (When is the movie on?). 
  • skim a text to get a general idea of its content (as with many newspaper articles).
  • practice rapid, extensive reading (as when we read a novel).
  • practice slow, careful, intensive reading (as when we study a poem or a short passage).
Note that intensive reading is not common outside of school, except when we are reading instructions.  It is in some ways unnatural...

Except when we scan, the aim of reading is not to understand individual words or even sentences but to construct a global meaning for a text.  In doing this, we use not only the words in the text, but our previous knowledge of the subject (bees, or winter, or war...) and of the way the type of text (recipe, novel, editorial, joke...) is put together.  As we read, we construct hypotheses about the meaning, modifying them as we proceed.  We use strategies to cope with unknown words or concepts, build up our representation of the meaning of the text and monitor our understanding.

How can reading be taught?

The suggestions for activities which follow are arranged in four columns, corresponding to four different moments of instruction.

(1) Preparatory work is done without reference to a specific text.  It can include general work on vocabulary and syntax, the teaching of reading strategies, and exercises to increase reading speed or word-recognition.

(2) Pre-reading activities activate previous knowledge so the information in the text can be understood more easily, generate hypotheses about the text which the reader seeks to confirm, and motivate the reader by giving a reason to read.

(3) While-reading activities take place as the learner is going through the text.

(4) Post-reading activities confirm understandings, and consolidate knowledge gained during reading (vocabulary, syntax) by reusing it, perhaps in writing or speaking situations.

The following activities are presented according to where they are most likley used in the reading .Please note that some will  fall into more than one category, such as "Predicting", which may begin before text is read, continue during reading and have a final component after reading is finished. 
While Reading
Post Reading:
Semantic Mapping


Questioning - Enquiry Strategy

Predicting - Asking Questions

Predicting - Understanding Sequence



Increasing Reading Rate

Jigsaw  Reading

Inferring from Context

Focussing on Main and Supporting Points

Becoming Aware of Cohesive Devices - Reference Pronouns

Becoming Aware of Discourse Markers

Coping with Vocabulary


Writing Summaries

Three-Level Guides - Integrating Comprehension





The reading comprehension process

Semantic Mapping

(Prepared by Maija MacLeod, Adapted from Campbell, K.(1991) Hands-on English, in ERIC Doccument  374 686 )


In this activity, before reading,  students will generate and organize vocabulary they know about a topic, into meaningful categories,  taking the form of a "map" or web. 


This activity will activate students' prior knowledge about a topic and its vocabulary, helping  them to categorize the ideas  into a context they will be able to use when they read . Grouping the words into categories makes them easier to remember and understand . The map itself  will help to  explain new concepts  encountered during the reading  by showing them in relationship with old ones.


 1. Before introducing the reading passage identify, in one or several words, the main idea. 

2. Divide the class into small groups, giving each one a large piece of paper,  telling groups to appoint one student as secretary to record their ideas. 

3. On a large piece of paper, write the topic you have identified, in the center with a circle around it. Tell students they will have 10 minutes to list as many words as they can about this  topic.

4. When students are finished their lists, ask them  to tape them  onto  the wall. 

5. Pointing to the lists, ask students. "What groups do we see here?"  When they find a category, write  it on the large paper,  joining it to the center with a line.  Add the specific words in that category  as extensions of that group. The "map" will take the shape of a web. If students have difficulty at first you can suggest a category and ask which words fit into it.  As students use the words from their lists, cross them off the lists.

6. When complete, the map is a diagram of the students' combined knowledge of the subject. They will be encouraged by how much information they already have and that with so many words grouped into categories,  the material in their reading  may be less overwhelming. 

7. The students are then ready to read the passage. As they read, encourage them to add any new words they encounter to the map on the large paper. Try using a different color for the new information. Another option would be to have each student copy the class "map" and add to it on their own. 


(Prepared by Maija MacLeod,  Adapted from Mikulecky, B. (1984) Reading Instruction in ESL, ERIC document 274 185)


In this activity students work  with the teacher and then on their own, to find out what a reading passage may be about by looking only at the title, pictures and diagrams, sub-headings, first and last paragraphs and the first line of each paragraph. 


This activity  will develop reading comprehension by making the reader familiar with the  basic content and organization of the text and activating prior knowledge . 
By previewing a text, students begin to guess at the content and begin to match up what they see in the preview with what they already know about the content. They begin to make assumptions about what they will find and are motivated to read to seek answers to their questions. 


1. Tell students that in this activity they will be "planning " the reading they will be doing. By having an idea of what is to come, they will be able to make more accurate guesses about what they read  and find it easier to understand what they have read. 

2. Using  a chapter or shorter passage to read,  go through the following steps with the students:
a) Read the title.
b) Look at any pictures or diagrams.
c) Read any sub-headings.
d) Read the first paragraph, or first sentence in a shorter passage.
e) Read the first line of each paragraph.
f) Read the last paragraph, or last sentence in a shorter passage.

3. Ask students,  "What do you think this pasage is going to be about?
Copy some of the ideas on the board.

4) Give the students a short summary. Often students will have been quite accurate, which will give them a good deal of confidence. 

5) Distribute a second passage of about 400 words. Give students two minutes to preview the text as was done in the demonstration.  After the time has elapsed, have them put the reading away.

6) Hand out about ten questions, asking  about the general meaning of the passage,  for students to answer, without looking back at it.

7) Discuss the answers with the students, impressing on them how it was not necessary for them to have read  all of the text to be able to understand its meaning .

Questioning - Enquiry Strategy

(Prepared by Maija MacLeod , Adapted  from Williams, E. (1984)  Reading in the language classroom, p. 119-120)


In this activity, in response to a picture or keyword prompt about a  text to be read,  students generate facts and  questions about its topic.  Once motivated to find confirmations to their statements and anwers to their questions, students read the text . 


This activity will involve students in determining themselves what information they need about a text they are about to read. This makes more motivating reading  than if the teacher generates the questions they are to find answers to.


1. Using a visual or key word, introduce the topic of the reading, one that should be of interest to the students. 

2. As a whole-class activity, ask students to give several  facts  about what  they know about the topic. You may want to record these in one column of a chart labeled "KNOW".  This is a the first step in a common technique called KWL (Know - Want to Know - Learned) .

3. Often when the facts are being generated there may be some disagreement by students as to the validity of all of the facts. This  leads nicely into the next step of asking the students to work in groups to generate two lists. One will be of facts about the topic that  they are sure  about  and the other,  facts they are not sure of or do not know and would like to know.  Have students form these facts into questions.

4.  Once students have generated the two lists, have representatives from each group report back to the whole class what ideas they came up with. Facts that the class may not be sure of or want to know  can be recorded  on the chart  in the column labelled "Want to know".

5. Have students read the passage, checking for the accuracy of the statements made in the "Know"  list and for the answers to the questions in the "Want to Know: column. 

 Predicting - Asking Questions

(Prepared by Maija Macleod, Adapted from Manzo, A.V. (1969) The ReQuest procedure, Journal of Reading 20, p.126-136) 


In this activity, small chunks of text are revealed a piece at a time. Students predict what a text will be about, from viewing the title. They  read  piece by piece, asking the teacher and responding to,  higher-level questions about the portion just read until the main idea is formed. Students continue to read on their own to the end and revise their initial predictions. 


This activity involves students in predicting what may happen next in a story,  by asking themselves high-level questions.  High-level questions are unlike low-level ones which require only recall and recognition of facts. High-level questions  require interpreting, extrapolating, applying, inferring, analysing, synthesizing and evaluating information in the text.  Once students see how a text is being organized, they can make a reasoned guess at what might happen next. Students may be motivated to read further in the text to confirm their guesses. This activity helps them to see the larger picture.


1. Choose a short reading passage.  Using one that has a "suprise ending" may have an even greater impact as students  will be even more pleased if they have guessed what will happen correctly. You may want to recopy the passage so that each sentence you want to focus on is on a separate line and can be obscurred with a paper until ready to go to the next.

2. If using the overhead,  it is easy to control what portions will be seen by students. If you wish students to have copies of the passage, or if a projector is not available, instruct students to use a cover sheet so as to reveal only one line or paragraph at a time.

3. To begin with, reveal only the title. Ask students what they think the text will be about.

4. Record students predictions on the board.

5. Explain to students that in this activity they will read one line at a time, silently, and then have the opportunity to ask you any questions they have about the text. 

6. After giving students the chance to ask questions,  ask them some, modeling good questioning  techniques.  The following acronym may be useful: FIVE.
   Factual questions - requires finding answer directly in the passage
   Inference questions -  requires a guess
  Vocabulary questions - reveals  knowledge of words in the text, or lack of it 
  Experience questions - calls on students to draw on their background knowledge

7. Give appropriate feedback to students' questions, modelling the process of the thinking that may happen with an inference question. 

8. Continue having the students read the text, line by line or paragraph by paragraph until the main idea of the text is revealed. Ask  students to finish reading silently on their own.

9. Once students have finished reading , revise the predictions that were recorded at the beginning. If a surprise ending has been provided it often  makes students realize that not all predictions are "bad".

Predicting - Understanding Sequence

(Prepared by Maija Macleod, Adapted from "Mystery Clue Game", Richardson & Morgan (1994)  Reading to Learn in the Content Areas, p. 172-173)


In this activity students work together to approximate the sequence of events in a passage  before reading it.  Reading clue cards, they attempt to sequence events that happen, to solve a problem or perform some task. They then read with the purpose of checking their predictions.


This activity will allow students practice in identifying the sequence of events within a text. Having identified the organizational pattern in this prereading activity, students will find it easier to read the passage.


1. Choosing a passage with a sequence of events,  identify each of the events and write a "clue card" for each event.

2. Divide the class into small groups and give each group one complete set of cards. Each student should have at least one clue card,

3. Tell students their job is to share their clue with the others in their group in order to accomplish an objective. This may be to sequence events to recreate an event, to solve a problem, or to find  the correct order to perform a task. This activity may be used with  textbook materials or fiction. 

4. Explain  to students that they may not show their clue or clues to the other students. It is not necessary for students to memorize specific details. They must either read them aloud or put them into their own words. In this way, students that are poor readers may be encouraged to try to read and participate in the activity.

5. Set a time limit and tell groups to appoint a secretary for the group to report to the whole class their results.

6. After groups reportt their findings, have students read the passage to find out which groups were most successful.


(Prepared by Maija Macleod, Adapted from Williams, E. (1984)  Reading in the language classroom, p. 98)


In this activity  students quickly read through several short newspaper articles in order to match them to their correct headline.


This activity will  have students practice  reading very quickly to see what the text is about and how it is organized. Skimming gives the reader the advantage of being able to predict the purpose of the passage, the main topic and perhaps some of the supporting ideas before doing any focused reading. The narrow format of a newspaper article is ideal for practice skimming because it allows the reader  to take in almost a whole line with one eye movement (a saccade). 


1. Select short newspaper articles and copy them on to the left side of a piece of paper.

2. Place their accompanying headlines  randomly on the right hand side of the paper. If the headline does not clearly give a clue to the context you may need to rewrite them slightly but choose articles initially with this in mind. Do not choose articles that are  very similar to one another because if you do,  the students may feel the need to read intensively to discern the correct version.

3. Explain the matching activity to the students. Tell them that it is not always necessary to read every word in a pasage to understand what it is about. In this activity they will practice skimming or running their eye quickly over the text simply to get an idea general enough so that they can match it to a heading giving its description.   You may want to include a time element  to encourage faster reading or provide a sense of competition.

4. Instruct student to read quickly , merely "dipping" into the text in order to see what the text is about  so as to match the article to its headline .


(Prepared by Maija MacLeod, Adapted from Galien, Patrica  in   Day, R. (1993) New Ways in Teaching Reading, p. 129-130


In this activity students will work in pairs to quickly read through a newspaper or magazine article to find specific information.


This activity will give students opportunity to practice reading quickly through a text  with a specific purpose in mind.


1. Choose a newpaper or magazine article with specific details.

2. Write two sets of questions based on the article. If the students are beginers you may want to put the questions in the order in which they will be found in the text. If students are intermediate or advanced, mix the questions up.  Write the answers underneath the questions.

3. Arrange  the students in pairs. Give one student a copy of the article to be read and the other student a set of the questions and answers. Explain the activity to  the students. Tell them they will have only a short time to read and answer the questions. They will have to stop when you tell them to.

4. Tell the students when to begin. One student reads the question and the other begins to read the passage to find the answer. When he has found it, he tells his partner, who responds that either the answer is correct or not. If it is not correct, the reader must  try again.  When students have answered half of the questions, have the students change roles. 

5. This activity can take the form of a competition, something that may motivate students. At the right of each question leave a space marked Time, where the students can record  the amount of time it took their partner to find the answer. For this  to work, the class must work on each question at the same time. Tell students when to begin and start the timer. Tell students that as soon as the student doing the reading finds the correct answer they are to put up their hands. You write the time that has elapsed on the board since you had them begin. The student with the questions records this time in the space provided. The whole class must wait before starting the next question. At the end of the reading, the pair with the least time noted is the winner.

Increasing Reading Rate

(Prepared by Maija MacLeod, Adapted from Anderson, N.J. ( 1986) "Increasing the reading rate of ESL students", TESOL Newsletter  October 1986 , p.8.)


In this activity, students practice reading  for 5 to 10 minutes at a time, with the intent to read faster each time.


This activity  will prepare students to read fluently, not reading word-by-word.


1. Have students take out their reading, either self-selected or material that the class is reading as a group.

2. Timing them, give them one minute to read as much text as they can.

3. After a minute tell them to stop and write the number 1 where they stopped in the text.

4. Tell the students to return to the beginning of the text and timing again, have them read for one more minute.

5. After the second minute, have them write the number 2 wher they stopped in the text.

6. Repeat this process for a third and fourth time, stopping students after one minute and having them write the number 3 and 4 where they stopped reading.

7. Have students compare their own reading perfromance but don't make comparisons between two students.

Jigsaw Reading

(Prepared by Maija MacLeod, Adapted from Day, R . (1993) New Ways in Teaching Reading,  p. 115) 


In this activity,  students, each reading only one section of a  text divided into pieces,  work together to recreate the original order. 


This activity will require students to pay close attention to the details in their reading in order to contribute to the re-organization of a  text.


1. Select a reading text with at least four paragraphs. Divide the passage into paragraphs and make copies for students. If there are four paragraphs you will need four copies of the first paragraph, four copies of the second paragraph and so on. 

2. Arrange the class into groups the same number as there are paragraphs. To perform this activity the groups must each have the same number of students.

3. Give each group a complete set of the text and  have students each take a separate paragraph to read.

4. Tell the students that their job will be to put the paragraphs together in an appropriate order. They will be able to do this by each reading their own paragraphs and then telling the other members of the group what it was about.

5. Once each group has put together their text , have them share with the whole class. Discuss any variations in ordering.  If a time limit is set, it may foster competition and  encourage students to read faster.

Inferring from Context

(Prepared by Maija MacLeod, Adapted from Grellet, F. (1981) Developing Reading Skills: a practical guide to reading comprehension exercises, p.37-38) 


In this activity students  are guided in guessing  the meaning of unknown words by looking at the different categories of context clues. After completing two passages with the teacher,  they attempt one on their own or with a partner. Discussing the choices  made,  provides a review of  the types of context clues they can be using . 


This activity will help students develop strategies to cope with unfamiliar words and complex sentences. Rather than depending on the teacher to explain difficult words before reading a text or looking up the words in a dictionary, students are  encouraged  to make a guess, and in that way, keep reading without progressing slowly,  word by word,  or becoming discouraged. By analysing their process of inference,  they become more conscious of how they can deal with an unfamiliar word more quickly and efficiently.


1. Copy  several appropriate reading passages, italicizing the difficult words that you want students to focus on. Leave a space next  to those words for students to write a meaning. Make copies for students and the overhead. If you do not wish to recopy the passage,  have students write in the margin,  using an arrow to inidcate the word  referred to. 

2. Introduce the activity by telling students there are ways they can guess at the meaning of a difficult word they encounter in their reading. Go through the first reading on the overhead, demonstrating how to guess at the words. As the meaning of each difficult word is inferred,  write the clues that were used,  on the board or chart paper, for later reference.  Depending on the passage examined, you may develop some of the following classes of clues:

a) Equivalent words  or synonyms - Other words are used that mean the same. 

b) Contrast words or antonyms - The word means  the opposite of another word or expression.

c) Cause words - The meaning if the word can be guessed because it is the cause of something described in the text.

d) Consequence words - The word describes or appears in the description of the consequence of something. If the cause is known, it may be possible to guess the effect.

e) Purpose words  - The word applies to an object whose purpose is described in the text.

f) Explanation or IIlustration words - The meaning of the word is explained or an example is given.

g) Generalization or Specification words -  The word is just one specific instance of a more general thing or idea mentioned in the text, or after a number of specific examples have been given, a generalization is made.

3) Present  the second reading passage and as a whole class,  determine the meanings of the italicized words by looking for context clues.Have students identify which type of clue they used.

4) Assign a last reading passage for students to complete on their own or in pairs. If students need more support,  you can  provide a list of possible answers  to choose from.  Reinforce the value of thinking about which of the types of context clues they used to guess at the meaning. When all of the students have finished, discuss the answers, with students explaining their choices. 

 Focussing on Main and Supporting Points

(Prepared by Maija MacLeod, Adapted from "Clozeline" by Lipp and Davis in Day, R. (1993) New Ways in Teaching Reading, p.173-174)


In this activity students will read a text and complete a cloze outline of the text.


This activity will improve academic reading skills by focusing on main and supporting points. 


1.Before class, using a textbook, choose a suitable chapter and outline. The chapter should include at least seven sections.  If an outline is not available,  then write one for it .
2. Prepare a cloze of the outline,  in the following manner:
    - Leave the first two and the last sections intact.
    - Leave out the main points of the third and fourth sections but include all of their supportiing points.
    - In the fifth section, include the main point but omit about half of the supporting points.
    - In one or more of the remaining sections, include the main point but  omit all of the supporting points.

3. Distribute copies of the cloze outlines and the reading passage to the students.

4. Tell students to read over the cloze outline before starting to read the passage to help them focus on the main and supporting ideas in each section.

5. Tell students to complete the cloze outline. Some may want to do it as they are reading, while others may want to do it after.

6. As students finish, ask them to gather in small groups and discuss their responses to one or more sections of the outline. 

7. Before the end of class, ask  representatives from each group to report on  the main and supporting details of each section. 

 Becoming Aware of Cohesive Devices - Reference Pronouns

(Prepared by Maija Macleod, Adapted from  Nutall, 1996, Teaching Reading Skills in a Foreign Language, p.88-89)


In this activity students focus on how a writer signals the relationship between parts of text by using reference pronouns. Students  locate the pronouns,  marking them with a box and the word or phrase they are referring to, marking those with a circle in a corresponding color or assigned number. 


This activity will raise students' awareness of the cohesive devices of reference pronouns, which act as noun substitutes and refer to nouns that either precede or follow them. By connecting phrases and sentences, they help students to better  construct a meaningful representation of the text. 


1. Choose a text with various reference pronouns.  Make copies for students and one for the overhead projector.

2. Demonstrate first with one passage how students are to complete the activity.

3. Read through the passage with students. Then, put a box around each reference pronoun  and if possible, identify each one by a separate color or number.

4. Ask students, as a class, to identify the items in the text that refer to the same person as each of the boxed items. Using a corresponding color or number, circle each item with the same reference. If  not using separate colors or numbers, show the relationship between pronoun and referent by joining them with an arrow.

5. After working through several examples, instruct students to read through the remainder of the passage, putting a box around each pronoun and a circle around what it is referring to (the referent). 

6. After students have finished, have students come to the overhead to share their findings.

7. Review with students how they can use reference pronouns to help them follow the text from one part to another. Remind them that they serve to  move the text forward so that sentences and ideas build on each other, helping them to make meaning of the whole passage. On the overhead, with students, work through  a few examples of texts in which the referent it is not so easily identifiable or is ambiguous. Draw attention to possible misinterpretations that could occur. Remind students that the reference may come before (anaphoric), as most often, or after (cataphoric) the pronoun. 

 Becoming Aware of Discourse Markers

(Prepared by Maija MacLeod, Adapted from Mackay, R., Teaching the Information Gathering Skills, in Long and Richards (1987)  Methododology in TESOL: A Book of Readings, p. 254)


In this activity students are introduced to some of the discourse markers (or transitions) that signal relationships among ideas expressed through phrases, clauses and sentences. They  pick from several choices of markers to complete a gap activity with text.  Discussion follows as to why they made their choices.


This activity helps readers understand the meaning of text by using discourse markers to identify  the relationship the writer intends between two parts of the text. If the reader understands one part of the text, the discourse marker can be a  key to the other part. 


1. Introduce  this activity by telling students that  writers will use certain words or  phrases  to signal the meaning of the text that will follow. There are different groups of these "markers"  and  this activity will focus on one  or more groups. 

2. Present the groups, one at a time, on the overhead, presenting their function  and giving  examples in a reading passage.  Depending on the reading materials you wish to introduce next, or the level of the students, you may want to introduce only one  of the following or present several and over a period of lessons. See Mackay for a more complete list of groups and examples. Note that some examples will fall in more than one functional group.

Types of functions:

a) Sequencing  -  introduces the order or the time sequence of events..... eg. first , firstly, second, then , last,  lastly, to begin with, eventually, finally, then

b) Re-expressing -  introduces an explanation  or reformulation of what has gone on before.....eg. that is to say, to put it another way, or rather

c) Reinforcing - introduces a confirmation of what has been said before.....eg. again, moreover, furthermore, in addition, what is more

d) Resulting  -  introduces an expression of the result or consequence of what went before....eg. so,  as a result, consequently, now, therefore, thus, as a consequence

e) Contrasting  (replacing) - introduces an alternative.....eg. alternatively, (or) again, (or) rather, (but) then, on the other hand

f) Contrasting (opposing)  - introduces information in opposition to what preceded......eg. instead, then, on the contrary, on the other hand, by contrast

g)  Illustrative - introduces an example or illustration......eg. for example, for instance, thus

h) Summarizing - introduces a summary..... eg. to sum up, in short, therefore, to conclude,  thus, so, so far, overall, to sum up, to conclude

3. Once you have introduced the functional group and provided examples, provide a new reading passage with markers omitted and replaced by gaps. Offer two or three markers (multiple choice style) for each gap. Tell students to read each part carefully and fill in the gap.

4. Once students have finished, discuss the choices students made and what differences in meaning would occur with different choices made. This discussion part  provides the real value in the activity .

5. Once students are familiar with discourse markers you can supply a text  with the first sentences and discourse marker intact. Give two alternative sentence completions and ask students to choose  the one that suits the context best. Discuss why they chose the endings they did. Point out that sometimes one of the alternatives is easily ruled out when the context and marker are considered together. They should begin to see that discourse markers can help make sense of a difficult text.

 Coping with Vocabulary

(Pepared by Maija MacLeod, Adapted from Plaister, Ted  in Day, R. (1993)  New Ways in Teaching Reading, p. 228)


In this activity, the teacher models three strategies students could use when encountering unfamilar words in a text. With student input, the class works through a passage with difficult words, identifying collaboratively, which strategies to use them. 


This activity will introduce students to the need to develop a sense of priorities and strategies for coping with unfamiliar vocabulary words.


1. Select reading passages appropriate to the reading level of the students and prepare overheads and copies for students.

2. Ask students to silently read the first passage and underline or circle any words they do not understand. With  the passage on the overhead, solicit some of the  difficult words and with a marking pen, underline them. 

3. Tell the students that in this activity they will be learning three different strategies they may find useful with difficult words. Using the passage on the overhead,  work through the underlined words, showing which strategies could be used.

4. Note the strategies on the board so they can be referred to later:

    a. Ignore the word  Their meaning contributes little to the main idea. 

    b. Recognize the word by others around it  They are defined by the context. 

    c. Research the meaning   They are not defined by the context and they are necessary to understand the passage  so you need to check a dictionary or ask someone for help. Before you so this though, read ahead a few lines to see if the context eventually gives the meaning.

5. Ask students to read the next passage and again underline any words that they do not understand.  Solicit  some of the difficult words to put on the overhead. 

6. Working with either the whole class or in groups, work through the words, with students suggesting which one of the three strategies they should use with each of the difficult words. 

7. Finally, assign a third passage for students to work through on their own,  if they  demonstrate they are ready,.

 Writing Summaries

(Prepared by Maija MacLeod, Adapted from Aebersold and Field (1997)  From Reader to Reading Teacher, p.124-125)


In this activity students will write summaries on a text they have all just read, will share then with fellow students and comment on which they felt was the best one.


This activity will directly engage students in finding out  what makes one person's summary more effective than another. This will build on their comprehension of a particular topic as well as their ability to comprehend future reading  texts.This activity can serve as both an assessment tool and a comprehension tool.


1. After students have finished reading a text,  tell then to spend 10 or 15 minutes writing down what they have just read, without looking back at the text.

2. Divide the class into groups of  3 or 4 , sitting in circles.

3 Ask students to first reread, silently, their own summary. Then, tell them to pass it to the person on their right to read, continuing in this way until each person has read all the summaries in the group.

4. Tell students to discuss in their groups which summary they liked best and why. Tell them they will be responsible for reporting the positive aspects  to the whole class.

5. Have each group report to the class. Draw conclusions as to what made one summary more effective than another and  how  students were able to identify the main and supporting details.

Three-Level Guides - Integrating Compehension

(Prepared by Maija MacLeod , Adapted from Richardson and Morgan (1994) Reading to Learn in the Content Areas, p. 182-183)


In this activity students react to a series of statements about the text they have just read. 


This activity  will introduce students to the interconnectedness of the literal, inferential and applied learning that occurs when reading.  It will demonstrate the hierarchical relationship of the levels of comprehension and  will require that students connect their former knowledge with the new knowldege acquired through the reading.


1. Before class, choose a text meeting the following three criteria: students are required to understand a main concept,  they must identify supporting details and they must understand applications of the main concept. Preparing the guide will be the most time-consuming part of this activity. Steps to prepare the guide are as follows:

A. Identify the specific content  you want the students to know from the text, including the major ideas and implications or interpretations. From these content ideas you will create the Level Two (Implication) questions. Take the content ideas and create five or six statements from them. Until you are comfortable with creating these statements you may want to insert a mental "The author means..." in front of each statement to make sure the statement is at  the interpretation  or implication level. Another help may be to first  write the main ideas as questions and then rephrase them as statements. Write the statements down under the following directions:

2) Check the items that you believe the author says. Sometimes the exact words will be used; other times other words may be used. Be sure to locate the words that support your response. 

B. Identify the supporting facts to the main ideas that are in the Level 2 questions above. Write these items down as the Level One (Literal) statements. Have at least two supporting statements for each major inference. It may help to put a mental  "The author says...."  in front of the statements to make sure they are at a literal level. Place the following structions before the statements:

1) Put a check beside any statements that are reasonable interpretations of the author's meaning.

C. Develop four or five statements for Level 3  (Application) that apply the major ideas but also use students' previous knowledge. You may want to include a mental " we can use...." in front of these statements to make sure they  are at the applied level. Place the following instructions before these statements:

3) To apply what you read means to take information and ideas from what you have read and connect them to what you already know. Place a check beside any statements that are supported in question 2 above and and by previous experience. 

D. As a last step in designing the guide, you may want to add some distractors, especially at levels one and two.  Be cautious in using distractors a first time because they may give a hidden message that there are right and wrong responses. With experience though, students should see that it is important to read  selectively. 

2. Once the guide has been prepared, introduce  the activity to students,  performing it as a whole-class activity the first time, giving students the opportunity to discuss their reactions with one another. Students should  begin to realize the interdependence between facts, implications and applications to understanding a topic. After some experience with this activity  assign  future Three-Level Guides as small-group or individual assignments. 


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