"The How To

Reading Strategies"

Before Reading Strategies

Word Sort

In a  word sort I choose several words from the story that I think could

be difficult for students or will give students an idea of what the story is about.  Then I ask the group to sort the words into any categories they like.  I have had students sort in alphabetical order, nouns verbs and adjectives, subjects and predicates,  group like objects together like people or things.  Students will surprise you with the ways that they come up with.  I usually step outside the group and simple watch.  I find out LOTS about the kids, like who is a leader and how different students think.



Tell Me A Story/Word Splash

In this activity the teacher chooses several words from the story in advance.  The teacher needs to chose characters , places verbs and a few words from the main idea of the story, as well as some other words in the story.  The teacher shows the students the cover of the book and asks the students to use the list of words chosen to retell the story on their sheet of paper.  Students receive a paper that looks like this.


This is a great way for students to predict the story.


After students use the list to predict the story, they can (independently) cut the word list apart and sort the words into parts of speech, syllables, etc.




KWL chart

Students create a 3 column T chart with each sections labeled K (know), W (what you want to know) and L (what you  learned) like below.


Know Want to Know What I Learned



Students brainstorm what they already know about the subject in the Know column.  Then they brainstorm what they want to learn about in the want to know column.  After you have read and discussed the book, fill out the what I learned column so students can see all they learned!


Click here for a copy of this KWL chart in Word.

Click here for a copy of this KWL chart in PDF.



T Chart of Questions

This is very similar to a KWL chart but students are just focusing on what they want to learn and what they learned at the end of reading.  I have students create a T chart ( I have students make many of their graphic organizers to cut down on copies.).  On the left side they write What I Want to Know.  On the left Side they Write I Know it.   I have students brainstorm questions they want to know about the topic.  Then on the left side students try to answer their own questions AFTER they finish reading.


Click here for a copy of the T Chart in Word.

Click here for a copy of the T Chart in PDF.



Power Point Presentation

Sometimes when I want to activate prior knowledge I might create a short power point presentation to show my students.  For example, last week we were reading a story called The Creature of Cassidy Creek .  This story is about a "monster trapped in basement- which turns out to really be a opossum. I created a power point about opossums.   The presentation had pictures and explanations. Students loved it because it was different and they could see it.

Click here to see the power point as an example.




When I do a word sort activity, usually the next meeting I will play concentration with the students so that they know not only how to pronounce the words, but also what they mean.  I use the word sort cards, then use an online dictionary to create the definitions during my planning.  Students then play a matching game (like Memory) and match word to definition.  They like it and it achieves its purpose!


Click here to go to the online dictionary I use.




Anticipation Guide

An anticipation guide is an activate that taps into the students prior knowledge.  The teacher selects several true/ false or yes/ no questions from the story.  Students are asked to answer the questions and to make their best guess based on what they already know about the topic.  After students finish reading the text they are able to go back and answer the problems again to show what they have learned.  I find that this is an activity that really works with nonfiction texts.


Click here to see an anticipation guide similar to one I have used in class.  I usually hand write these because they are so quick and do not have any saved on the computer!



Picture Talk

I have also seen this called a word splash.  I am not sure where I got this idea, I can only assure you it is not mine!  In a picture talk the teacher selects several words from the story that are important and then creates an attractive presentation for these words ( I just use word art).  Students then write a paragraph using these words trying to explain what the words mean and how they would fit in the story.


Click here to see an example of a picture talk a teacher could create using the story Cinderella.


Story Wheel

I purchased these two spinners from a teacher story.  The first spinner or wheel is marked before reading and the other is for after reading.  The students can simple spin the wheel and then share what they think.



Probable Story Passages

This is once again, not my idea but I really like this one.  This is a great strategy to encourage prediction.  In a probable story passage the teachers chooses about 20 words from the story.  These words should describe the characters, setting, problem and solution of the story as well as a couple of other words thrown in.  Then students are asked to complete a passage using the words given ( and they can add in a few words to make it make sense).  I have done this where students did not see the cover first, or it can be done where students are able to see the cover and title.


This is what a probable story passage looks like:


This story takes place ___________________________.

The main character of the story is ________________________ who

__________________________.  The problem in the story is when __________________.  The problem is solved when ________________.


Here is an example of words I would choose for the story Cinderella.

Click here for a blank copy of the probable story passage.


Brain Folder

     This is an idea that I got from one of the classes I am taking this semester.  We repeatedly discussed activating prior knowledge and asking students to open those" file folders" in their brains.  I decided to actually do this, literally. 

     Before reading a nonfiction book in our guided reading groups I gave each student a manila file folder.  I explained to students about activating prior knowledge and we discussed thinking about what we already know about a topic and why this was important.   I told them every I time I asked them to get out their "brain folders" I wanted them to get out the folder I was giving them AND the one in their brains!

       Everything we did with the book was put in this file.  We created KWL charts and stapled them in the folders.  On the back of the KWL charts we predicted what topics we would read about in the books (Example for the book on snakes- habitat, kinds, what they eat, etc) Students decorated the folders with pictures that related to the reading. On the other side students cut and pasted their vocabulary words for the unit.  They sorted them in any way and then defined the words using a dictionary (or glossary of the book).  I will take a few pictures of a sample of a student's brain folder and post them soon.


Give One Get One:

This activity is a brainstorming session that allows students to tap into prior knowledge regarding a subject area.  I have found that it works particularly well with nonfiction reading.


Students are asked to brainstorm everything and anything that comes to mind about a topic.  This is done independently.  For example if students were about to read about the eruption of Mt Saint Helens, the teacher may ask students to brainstorm about volcanoes. Student may brainstorm words and/ or phrases such as: ash, lava, burning, hot, eruption, smoke, and so on.


After each child has brainstormed their personal list, it is time to begin the activity.  Students will each share one word on their list.  If another student has this word or phrase on their list then they need to check the word so that the word is not repeated.  If the students do not have the word on their list, they need to add the word to their list and mark it so they know it has already been shared.  Students continue to share and mark off words until they are “out” and have no more words to share.  The last student with words to share “wins.”




During Reading Strategies

Graphic Organizers

I have a book that I purchased to help organize thinking when reading.,  It is called Graphic Organizers and Activities for Differentiated Instruction in ReadingIt was helpful to me to figure out some ideas for fiction reading.  I use graphic organizers as well for nonfiction.  Here is an example of one I will use next with my next book.  Students are reading about deadly sea creatures and will fill this out as they go.


Animal What they eat Where they live  Animal Size                 Interesting Features and Facts
Great White Shark        


Saltwater Crocodile        


Sea Anemone    






There are a million graphics organizers out their on the internet.  Here are a few good links:


Several different kinds of organizers



These are organized by skill.







This is a great site with graphic organizers by subject area.



A library of graphic organizers.


When I do a word sort activity, usually the next meeting I will play concentration with the students so that they know not only how to pronounce the words, but also what they mean.  I may do this game more than once in a book, sometimes I will pull out cards to only have a few matches to save time. I try to include words they will be reading in their next section. I use the word sort cards, then use an online dictionary to create the definitions during my planning.  Students then play a matching game (like Memory) and match word to definition.  They like it and it achieves its purpose!


Click here to go to the online dictionary I use


Quick Draw

    This is activity that I do when I have extra time in my reading lessons.  It would also be a good review for a book.  Some days, I feel too rushed to do this, but the students love it.  I play it kind of like the Win, Lose or Draw game from a long time ago.  Students are divided into 2 teams.  One student draws a picture of something FROM the story and his teammates have to guess.  If the team gets it right they get a point.  If they don't get it right it goes to the other team and they get to guess.

    Because this game takes so long I often play it so that each student gets a whiteboard and a marker and they all draw at the same time something from the story.  then I call time, take up markers and the group gets to guess what each student drew from the story.


Pick A Card, Any Card

I have these green cards that our Reading Specialist made for me.  They are thinking prompts for a story.  I have students each draw one or two and then we pile them all in the center of table. I give students each one or two post it notes and tell them I want them to respond to any one or two cards on the sticky after they finish reading.  The we share in pairs, with me or the whole group.  Here is the list of prompts:

I never thought that.....

I thought....

I can't believe...

I think the author...

I wonder why...

What if...

I was surprised...

It reminds me of...

I really can't understand...

I like the way...


Here are some other prompts I was given:

Is this character similar to any others) I have read about?

Can I write a summary of this part of the story?

What do I know so far?

What did the author do to make me think this way?

Am I satisfied with this story?

How does this information differ from other things I know?

Why is this difficult for me to understand?

Does this information give me any clues as to what may happen later in the story?

Why would his information be important for me to know?


Here is a link to a website with several different prompts/ response cards.


Read My Mind

     This is an idea that I got from our Reading Specialist.  I think of important words or phrases from the story and write them down ahead of meeting with the students.  Then I tell the students the yare going to try to read my mind and get into my head and tell what par t of the story I am thinking of, BUT I will give them a hint.  I will give them one or two words to help the figure out my brain.  For example, if we were reading James and the Giant Peach I might say the word "glowing green"  and students would need to  tell me I am thinking of the magic beans James dropped that created the giant peach.  They love this game. 


I had kids (don't you just love it when they do this?) if they could play read my mind.  They brainstormed words as they read and then asked a group member to "read their minds."


Wikki Stick Windows

I will be adding more here but this is a link that has information on how to use Wikki Sticks many ways. Scroll down until you see these links.




Fat and Skinny Questions

     These are not my idea, but I do love them.  This is an idea that I got from Laura Candler's website.  If you haven't been there you need to go! This is a wonderful website that explains how she does literature circles.  Anyhow, back to skinny and fat questions.  She uses these as part of literature circles, but I use them in my guided reading groups.


First I explain to students what fat and skinny questions are- this would be a greaten whole group mini-lesson- using her lesson plan with the Rainbow Fish.  Then we break into small groups and complete the sorting cards.  This gives the class background on these kinds of questions. Then I ask students to create their own fat questions to ask the group members after they finish reading.  However, this can be very hard for the lower readers. I made a poster of these cards to give lower readers some prompts.


Think Marks

This is another idea I picked up from someone else- I think it may even be the Fountas and Pinnell Guided Reading book.  I give students each a sticky post-it-note (I love these and use them almost daily in reading).  I ask them to mark any pages that interest, confuse them or remind them of something.  Or what is going on in their heads as they read.  Or I may ask for a connection or prediction.   I use the lessons that are outline in the F and P Guided Reading book for the first 20 days of reading (independent reading I believe) to teach students how to use and create think marks. Then we share the think marks in our group, pairs or with me!


I may ask them to make a prediction on a specific page about what they think about what is going to happen.  For example I will say "Look at the title for chapter 5.  What do you think will happen in this chapter? Write it on this sticky note."  Then I will put a sticky in everyone's book on chapter six.  I will ask students to adjust their prediction.  This means were they right or worn in their prediction and what really DID happen in chapter 5. This can be done many ways.



Different Types of  Vocabulary Activities


Where Am I?

I do this with my students when we are doing a whole group story that we are listening to on tape.  I teach two groups of students so when we listen to a tape, I have to rewind it for my other group and lose the place of the first group or vice versa.  So I invented a game.  While I try to rewind and fast forward to find where we left off, I ask students to find where I am in the story when I hit play.  They love the challenge (kids are so funny) and I can find where we left off! 

Irregular Fold Response

I went to a BEHR workshop by Tarry Lindquist and it was SO good.  This is a tip that I picked up there. She was so funny and was a wonderful presenter.  One of this things she said was that she gave away LOTS of extra credit (not really but told the students she did!).   That just cracked me up because I always thought, no I really DO have to give the extra points.  Then I thought, if the assignment wasn't' graded do you really have to?  Just an interesting thought.

Students can do this on a piece of notebook paper.  They will need to fold it three times to create three boxes.  I made a word document because I thought it would be easy to show rather than explain.  Click here to see an example.

Whiteboard Retelling

After finishing the story (or sometimes half way through) I will write on the top of small white boards. I will label one white board characters, another setting, another problem, another events, if we are finished I will mark another solution. If we haven't finished I may mark it prediction. Then students get to choose the board they want and write the characters, setting, etc. depending on what their board says to do. Then we each share our boards to create a whole retelling of the story.

Questioning Bookmark

     I created this bookmark using questions from a BER handout.  Basically, after reading a section students can quiz each other using these bookmarks.  Make sure to model how to use them first!!!

After Reading Strategies

Wikki Stick Windows

Wikki Sticks are similar to pipe cleaners but instead of being covered in fuzzy materials they are covered in a tacky plastic-like material.  They are great and do not dry out.  I use these many different ways.  Students use them to create a loop and circle a cause and effect relationship they found, or circle an unfamiliar word or to create an area to read and then stop.



Create a Comic Strip

I often use comic strips for students to retell a story.  There are many ways to do this.  First I have students fold paper in half like a hotdog and then fold it two more times like a letter.  This creates six boxes.  I always have students write at least one to two students per box.  Then they can draw pictures with the characters having think bubbles or talking bubbles.


Describe what happens in the beginning of the story. Describe what happens in the beginning of the story. Describe what happens in the middle of the story.
Describe what happens in the middle of the story. Describe what happens in the end of the story. Describe what happens in the end of the story.


Title and author and comic strip creator (student name) Characters Setting
Problem Solution Reflection on the story or have students critique and give their opinion.


Another type of comic strip is similar.  Have students fold a piece of paper like an accordion 2-3 times.  This is good practice using sequencing words when retelling a story. Have students complete the following in each box. 

Picture Write about what happens first in the story.


Picture Write about what happens next.


Picture Write about what happens then in the story.


Picture Write about how the story ends.




Draw a Favorite Picture

I have given students a story map to retell the story.  I have used the maps from the book Catching Kids Up .  They are very simple but provide good practice for students.  When students finish the story map they can draw a picture of their favorite part of the story.  I pull out the watercolor paints or pastels and let them go.  Sometimes just the novelty of a new medium motivate kids!!!



Important Poem

I took this from another teachers website and modified it.  She had wonderful ideas and her website is very  motivating!  I did this with students after reading the biography of Harry Houdini.    It was a good way for students to synthesize all the information they learned.  I gave students a piece of black construction paper and the new  Crayola Gel FX Washable Markers.  Of course I didn't buy the 80 count just a pack of 8 for about $4.00!  Just another novel way to do something. We wrote the following poems.

Important Poem

The most important thing about ________________ was that he _______.

He ________________________.

He ________________________.

He ________________________.

But the most important thing about ________________ was that he _______. (line is repeated from the top).


Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then, Finally Summary


This is a story summary method that I learned *somewhere*, but I can't remember exactly where.  I have modified it a bit to meet my needs and to allow for a little but more through summary.   This summary works with fiction and biography- I do not think it would work well with informational nonfiction.


It is pretty simple.  First I teach the kids the terms and model it several times.  Then we do a shared writing activity with the framework and then they complete these independently during literature circles OR at a listening center.



Here is the frame of the summary:


 _________________________ (somebody- the main character) wanted (problem) ______

_____________________ but (problem) ___________________________.  So (solution)

________________________________________.  Then (event) _________________.

Finally (solution) _____________________________________________________.


Here is an example (off the top of my head- not the best example):

Willie Bentley wanted  to take pictures of snowflakes but his camera was not able to take pictures of the intricate details before the snowflakes would melt away.  So his parents bought him a camera with a microscope attached.  Then he took picture of snowflake and animals and the elements of nature.  Finally  Willie Bentley died from pneumonia after walking six miles in a snow storms to take more pictures of snowflakes.  His town remembered him by creating a  monument in his memory.



Story Tie


Story Wheel

Mini Book





All Graphics are from