Teach How to Connect to Reading Texts

Connecting with a text is important because it builds interest and deepens understanding of what the author is saying. This is true for both fiction and nonfiction selections. The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) method is a framework to make content material more comprehensible for English language learners. Below are SIOP and reading strategies for connecting with a text.

Preview. The first step is to preview the reading assignment and get a quick snapshot of the topic. Many readers skip this step and do not anticipate what they are going to read. Focus attention on the title by asking questions about the words and their meaning. Reading the first sentence in each paragraph will give clues to the progress of the text. Graphs often summarize information and pictures express key moments in a narrative. Previewing is an important skill for readers of all ages to learn and practice.

Combine. Discussing background knowledge and personal experiences before reading will help students relate to the text. Ask students what they already know about the subject. Discuss about their knowledge, culture, and life experiences. This sets the stage for absorbing new information or connecting to a narrative.

In addition, ask what new information the students want to learn. Making a chart of students' background knowledge and information they want to learn is a great visual expression these aspects. 

Connect. When reading narratives it is important to connect with the students' personal life experiences. Ask questions to initiate discussions of similar experiences, relationships, situations, and feelings. Students need to relate to the feelings, both positive and negative, of characters. This will help students connect with the characters, their motives, actions, and events on a personal level. 

 Skim. Skimming involves reading through a text at a steady rate without stopping for new words. This provides a fuller overview of the text. Skinning is often difficult for multilingual learners who are tempted to stop for new words. (Key words should be taught beforehand.) This step looks deeper into the text and its organization. A student should gain a basic outline of the topic or story. The goal of skimming is to discover the main idea and possibly some supporting elements.

Read Aloud. Reading aloud is not always convenient, but it is always beneficial. Students of all ages enjoy hearing stories read aloud. Even nonfiction, read with emphasis on important points, can be engaging. When a teacher reads aloud, word pronunciation and sentence intonation is demonstrated. This is beneficial for multilingual students and native speakers alike.

It is also beneficial for students read to each other in the safe setting of a supportive small groups. Students can practice sentence intonation and pronouncing new words without fear of embarrassment. Reading aloud will improve students' everyday pronunciation and help reduce their accent.

Questions. When reading aloud, teachers should model pausing and asking questions about the text or story. This demonstrates how a good reader  interacts with the text. They are engaged and thinking during the reading process.

A teacher can also encourage students to ask questions about the text. These questions can be written for the class to see and the answers can be added when they are found in the text. Asking questions and looking for answers or actions is another way to connect with the text. 

Visualize. People are highly visual as the explosion of shows and movies has proven. But many students have not developed the ability to visualize in their mind what they are reading about. Teachers need to stimulate students' imagination to see the characters and setting of a story. If you are teaching history or science, students should  imagine living during the 1400s or picture the lifecycle of a humpback whale. Integrating real objects, charts, pictures, and video into lessons will help students visualize and understand new information. When students make their own visual displays of stories or information, it will aid retention.

Predict. An engaged reader anticipates upcoming actions and information, When reading aloud, teachers can demonstrate predicting new events or information by pausing to ask questions. This can be a fun guessing game for students. What is the main character going to do? What will new things will we learn about sharks? How do you think the industrial revolution will affect the life of people? The same exercise can be done after the class can reads a short section silently.  Encourage students to make predictions about the text and write them down for the class. Learning to predict and anticipate is another way of engaging with and relating to the text.

Imagine.The final last step takes students beyond the text by imagining the future, asking questions, thinking of possibilities, and exploring  alternatives. This exercise develops innovative thinking skills. What if the main character had made a different choice? How would this change the story? What are other possible uses for sea kelp? What benefits can be discovered by studying interactions of gorillas? Thinking beyond the text provokes further exploration of topics.

Many literate multilingual learners do not transfer their first language reading skills to English. Even highly educated students who are excellent readers in one or more languages often have difficulty reading in English.  Encouraging the use of these reading strategies is essential for a student's academic success. 

Many students need to hear and read a passage several times and in different ways to fully comprehend it. Previewing, skimming, reading silently and slowly, and reading aloud give different views of the text much like smelling, tasting, sampling, and eating a new food. Processing and connecting to a text takes time and repeated interactions. Using the above reading strategies help both native English and multilingual students connect to the text, improve comprehension, and gain confidence in reading.

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