Building Great Readers Through Habits (page 2)
We teach students strategies so that they can deliberately activate plans to solve problems they might encounter when reading a text. But our goal doesn’t stop at the successful execution of a strategy. Just as a novice driver needs to be taught how to steer into a skid on an icy highway, readers need plans for getting through the tricky spots. A great reader has assimilated these strategies so that they become second nature. Just as a great driver can react correctly to the sudden skid, a great reader can negotiate the turns a text may take with a level of fluency and skill not seen in the novice. Habits are a routine, a way of life, not just something that is done to fulfill an assignment, or because now we’re in English class, or because there’s a summer reading list of 25 books.
Consider your own reading habits. Our guess is that you are able to become engrossed in a book without intentionally planning for strategies to support your comprehension. If the going gets tough, you consciously fall back on some strategies that have proven useful, such as tracking back to the place where you lost meaning. Yes, our students need to have a bag full of strategies that they can use when they encounter difficult texts. But most of the time, they should be skilled readers who automatically use what they know at the time they need it. The table below provides a description of the differences between skills and strategies.
Comparing Skills and Strategies
|A conscious plan under the control of the reader||An automatic procedure that readers use unconsciously.|
|Requires thought about which plan to use and when to use them.||Do not require thought, interpretation, or choice.|
|Are process-oriented, cognitive procedures the reader uses, generally unobservable in nature.||Are observable behaviors, found on taxonomies, skills tests, or answers to questions.|
|Instruction focuses on the reasoning process readers use as they interact with text.||Instruction focuses on repeated use until it becomes habitual.|
Great Readers Display Habits
How is it that we get to the level of a great reader? That’s the million-dollar question. We already touched on one point, gaining more precision in our teaching. In addition, our work with students suggests that we should focus on the habits that great readers use. Of course, these habits are comprised of a number of strategies, values, and beliefs. It’s the goal that is different. We don’t want to focus our students on strategies alone, but rather we want to focus on their enduring understanding. Based on our experiences, which include years of teaching, several research studies, graduate degrees, and reading hundreds of books and articles, we have identified seven habits that we have found useful in creating readers who are enthusiastic, engaged, and confident. Below are seven common habits:
- Great Readers See Themselves as Readers
- Great Readers Make Sense of Text
- Great Readers Use What They Know
- Great Readers Understand How Stories Work
- Great Readers Read to Learn
- Great Readers Monitor and Organize What They Read
- Great Readers Are Critical
We chose to focus on habits because Johnston (2004) cautioned us about telling students “this is what a good reader does,” referring to specific strategies for specific chunks of texts, knowing that students might interpret this to mean that they are bad if they don’t engage in that specific behavior for that specific piece of text. That’s not to say that we don’t help students understand what great readers do. Habits allow us to engage in inquiry with students—“Is this habit helpful?”—rather than tell them what they should do and when.
Importantly, these habits can’t be simply taught in a few weeks. They require years of practice and attention to develop. As teachers, we must nourish these habits so they grow. Ideally, every year, starting in kindergarten, we need to model and teach our students these habits.
© ______ 2009, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- Child Development Theories
- Social Cognitive Theory
- GED Math Practice Test 1
- The Homework Debate
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- Problems With Standardized Testing