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Effective Reading Strategies for Elementary Students

written by: Margo Dill • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 9/11/2012

Effective elementary teaching strategies in the primary classroom are important to improve your students' comprehension skills. You can teach them before, during and after reading strategies.

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    Before Reading Strategies

    Effective elementary teaching strategies for reading start with instruction on before reading activities. You can teach students:

    • To Always Preview a Book or the Text: When students learn to read the title, table of contents and chapter headings as well as look at pictures to get an idea of what the story will be about, they are preparing their brain for reading. They can make predictions and form questions. These predictions and questions will give them a reason to read--to find answers.
    • The KWL method: The KWL method, one of the reading strategies for elementary teaching, works great for non-fiction texts, historical fiction and even genre studies such as reading a bunch of mysteries. The "K" or "Know" column and the "W" or "Wonder" column can both be filled out before reading. The K column is for students to write facts they already know about the subject. For example, if students are reading Abe Lincoln's Hat, they should write facts they already know about Abraham Lincoln. This can be done individually or as a class. The W column is for questions students may have about the subject. For example, an appropriate question would be: what is special about Abe Lincoln's hat?

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    During Reading

    Here are some during reading strategies. Elementary teaching can focus on these to help comprehension.

    • Summarizing: After reading a section of the text, students can learn to ask themselves, "What did I just read? How can I summarize this in my own words?" At first, students may need to write down these summaries until they are used to stopping and actually answering these questions in their head.
    • Keeping Track of Characters: Students can also use sticky notes or a notebook to keep track of complex characters in chapter books and novels. Again, with this one of the effective elementary teaching strategies, students would start with questions: "What is the character doing now? How is the character changing? What is the problem the character is trying to solve? What are the solutions he is trying?" These questions will keep the reader on track and constantly checking for comprehension of the story. Keeping notes about these questions will help students during discussions or assignments. (This will also work for biographies.)

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    After Reading

    Effective elementary teaching strategies in reading continue until students have finished reading and are ready to discuss or write. Some helpful strategies for after reading are:

    • Finishing the KWL chart: The last column of the KWL chart is the "L" or "Learn" column. This is where students can write down facts they learned or answers to their questions (from the W column) after they have finished a book, article or reading assignment. If students have questions left from the W column, teachers can assign further reading or help students locate answers with another source.
    • Reading Response Journals: Students can use reading response journals to respond to questions or activities you have presented to the class. They can use their notes they took during reading to complete these responses.
    • Think-Pair-Share/Discussion: Class or small group discussion is one of the best ways to comprehend a text and gain new perspective from others. One of the effective elementary teaching strategies you can use is think-pair-share. Ask students a question, and then give them up to a minute of quiet time to think of an answer. Then ask them to share their thoughts with another student. Finally, ask students to share with the class. This method helps the shy students in your class find their voice.

    Reading strategies for elementary teaching are numerous. Try these with your students, and choose the ones that work the best.

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    Resources

    Eworkshop.on.ca: After Reading Strategies, http://www.eworkshop.on.ca/edu/pdf/Mod21_after_read_strgs.pdf

    Bank Street College: Strategies for Successful Readers and Writers, http://www.bnkst.edu/literacyguide/strategies.html