Reading comprehension

Seven stages for a successful reading lesson plan

Successful reading lesson plan

In this post, you will have an overall view of the stages involved in a successful reading lesson plan. These stages are all based on theoretical principles that have been tested and applied successfully in teaching reading comprehension.

The focus will be on:

  • The basic principles underlying teaching reading comprehension skill.
  • The stages of the reading lesson plan.

Basic principles of a reading comprehension lesson plan

Reading comprehension is one of the four skills that language learners have to acquire. The other three skills are listening, speaking and writing. Designing a successful reading lesson plan requires knowledge of the theoretical premises underlying this skill.

Follow this link for a detailed review of these reading comprehension principles.

Here is a summary of the most important principles for a successful reading  comprehension lesson plan:

Reading comprehension is purposeful

We read for different purposes.

  • Sometimes we read to get specific information (e.g. a date, a figure,etc.)
  • Other times we want to get an overall idea of the text.
  • There are times when we want to read just for pleasure (e.g. reading a poem, a novel, etc.)
  • In some cases, the reader is interested in reading between the lines to infer the author’s attitudes.
Purpose of reading comprehension

Purpose of reading comprehension

Skills and strategies

Good readers are skilled because they use reading comprehension strategies.

The difference between a skill and a strategy lies in the fact that a strategy is planned while a skill is an automatic action:

Reading strategies are deliberate, goal-directed attempts to control and modify the reader’s efforts to decode text, understand words, and construct meanings of text. Reading skills are automatic actions that result in decoding and comprehension with speed, efficiency, and fluency and usually occur without awareness of the components or control involved.”
Afflerbach et al. (2008)

Here is a list of the most used reading comprehension strategies:

  • Skimming refers to the process of reading a text quickly to get a general idea of the text.
  • Scanning is reading a text in order to find specific information such as figures, dates, or names.
  • Using background/prior knowledge to understand the text. This is also referred to as activating schematic knowledge. According to schema theory, good readers make sense out of what they read by relating the topic of the passage to what they already know.
  • Making predictions. This refers to the act of encouraging learners to actively predict what the text is about, based on text evidence such as headings, pictures graphs, etc.
  • Generating questions. Learners are guided to think ahead and generate as many questions about the text as possible.
  • Guessing the meaning of difficult words and expressions from context.
  • Making connections. There are three types of connections: readers are encouraged to make connections to themselves, to the world and to other similar texts.
  • Using graphic organizers.
  • Inferring the author’s attitude.

Explicitly teaching the above strategies allows learners to deal with any type of text.

Cognitive processing

There are three types of cognitive processing:

  1. Top-down:
    This refers to the use of prior knowledge to make sense of the text instead of depending on the actual words of the text to get meaning.
  2. Bottom-up:
    Relying on the smaller units/bits of the text to understand it. These units include the phonemes, the syllables and the words that constitute the building blocks of any passage.
  3. Interactive model:
    This combines both the advantages of top-down and bottom-up processing.

Types of reading lesson plans

There are two main types of reading lesson plans:

  1. Intensive reading
    Breading intensively, we are concerned with every detail related to the text.
  2. Extensive reading
    Reading as much as possible, without concerning oneself with every detail.

The above theoretical principles are of paramount importance to design a successful reading lesson plan. The following are the most important stages to bear in mind when preparing a reading comprehension lesson.

Seven steps to design a successful reading lesson plan.

1. The aim

What is your objective when designing your lesson? Do you want your learners to:

  • Be able to read for gist?
  • Be able to read for detailed information?
  • Be able to preview/survey a text?
  • Be able to use prior knowledge to understand a text?
  • Be able to locate referents?
  • Be able to infer meaning from context?
  • Be able to summarize a passage?
  • Be able to speed read?
  • Be able to think critically?

2. Preparation

To prepare your learners for the reading tasks, start with

  • A warm-up such as a tongue twister, a command drill, or a riddle. This shouldn’t take more than 2 or 3 minutes.
  • A lead-in. This stage is intended to prepare the learners to the reading task. Examples of lead-ins include: vocabulary pre-teaching, discussing a quote related to the topic, a word list that the SS have to study in groups to guess which words will be used by the writer in the text, etc.
    Think of a task that will help the SS read and understand the text.

3. Strategy teaching and modeling

Depending on the aims of the lesson, choose a strategy (e.g. activating prior knowledge, predicting, guessing the meaning of difficult words from the context, questioning, summarizing, using graphic organizers….) and teach it explicitly using another short text (just to demonstrate how the strategy should be used.)

4. Strategy use/practice.

Learners have to use the strategy you explained in the previous stage. They have to apply it to understand the current text.

5. Comprehension Tasks

For a deeper understanding of the text, assign comprehension exercises such as:

  • Finding an appropriate title for the text.
  • Locating referents (i.e. what do these words refer to?)
  • Sentence completion
  • Matching
  • Comprehension questions,
  • True or false statements,
  • Chart completion (i.e. information transfer)
  • ….

6. Reviewing

Reviewing consists of checking to what extent the learners understood the text and how much they can recall. This can be done in different ways:

  • Retelling the story
  • Writing a short paragraph using the ideas they got from the text.
  • Using graphic organizers to organize what they have learned from the text
  • Completing a chart with the most pertinent information from the passage.
  • Summarizing the text.

7. Connecting

Learners have to connect what they have read with themselves, with the world, and with other related texts they have read.Teachers in this stage typically try to answer the follwing question:

How does what does the topic of the passage relates to the learners’ lives?

Finally, here is a summary of the most important principles underlying teaching comprehension skills:

  • Reading is purposeful
  • Choose appropriate texts
  • Vocabulary knowledge facilitates comprehension
  • Opt for activities that focus on skills integration
  • Knowledge of text type and format is important
  • Explicitly teach and model reading strategies
  • Reading activities start from general to specific
  • Devise a well-structured lesson plan

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