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Reading strategies: Grab a pencil and get interactive

February 14, 2022 by Nóra Wünsch-Nagy

What are the most practical reading strategies you can share with your students? We asked ourselves this question and came up with 8 different approaches which we will share with you throughout the year. Reading in a foreign language is both fun and challenging. Students discover new worlds through a new language, and not only does this experience make them feel good, but it also gives them access to new territories. However, reading in a foreign language also poses challenges: these new words often open up new knowledge areas, and there’s a new logic in the sentences, paragraphs, genres, and narrative structures. In this first series, we share some tips you can adapt and use with your students. 

In our first post, we focus on INTERACTION. 

What is interaction in reading? 

When we read, we become co-authors of the text as we bring it to life by adding our own perspectives and background knowledge. In this process, students can assist this creative reading process through real interaction.

What’s more, when students are reading with a pencil in their hand, they can concentrate better on the text and they remember their reading purpose. What’s more, their comments and notes will be useful when they need to retell the story to someone else.

Encourage your students to make the text their own by marking up the pages as they read. Yes! Ask your students to grab a pen or pencil (or a markup tool on their phone/tablet) and start highlighting, underlining, adding comments, and taking notes.

Explain that reading for pleasure is just as important as this kind of active reading. Both approaches have their benefits, and it is important that they are introduced to the basics of interacting with texts.

Something to remember

Here’s an important piece of advice: explain to your students that when a book is borrowed from a friend, the school or a library, it is best to take notes on a piece of paper or in a journal. We never write into library books.

Some tips on highlighting and underlining

We have all seen textbooks that are a sea of underlined or highlighted text. In order to identify the key parts of a text, students need to be guided through the first steps of finding what matters in a text. Of course what matters also depends on the purpose of their reading. 

So first, decide what the focus of the reading is, for example, the plot, the characters (and their actions, feelings or development), the setting, symbolism, new words. Perhaps they are reading for multiple purposes. Then, discuss keywords and what they are. It is very important that you model this by highlighting and underlining in class. Then, choose a paragraph and find the keywords and main ideas together.

Adding comments and taking notes

Writing on the margin is a bit like chatting with the text. Some people often add emoticons to mark their emotional reactions, others simply leave comments about the plot. Instead of underlining, students can also decide to indicate important lines by adding an exclamation mark or an asterisk next to them. Again, talk about how this is both fun and useful and that they should not be afraid of writing in a textbook or a graded reader. 

Note-taking has some tricks and strategies. It is similar to an extended version of adding comments to a text. However, when you take notes, you don’t usually do it to express your feelings about the text, but you do it to remember certain elements of it. Note-taking includes finding the main points, summarizing, and interpreting them. Again, it is important to keep in mind the reading purpose. Is it for a specific purpose? Or perhaps just general revision? We recommend that you model note-taking in class and then practise it together.

Tip: when students are keeping a reading journal, remind them to get used to the idea of taking note of the details they come across in a book. It will be useful when they need to work on several texts together.

What other interactive reading strategies do you practise with your students? Share some ideas with us!

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