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Improve Reading Comprehension Skills with Critical Reading

written by: Margie • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 9/11/2012

Good reading comprehension skills and the ability to read critically go hand in hand. Read on for tips on how to help your students become critical readers with great reading comprehension skills.

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    Develop Students' Critical Reading Skills

    As teachers, we know that most kids can read. However, we also know that many kids that cannot read critically. It is not enough to know how to read, a student must also be able to take what he reads and do something with it. A student with critical reading skills will have good reading comprehension skills and be successful in school.

    What Are Critical Reading Skills?

    Critical reading goes beyond simply reading for facts. Critical reading requires that the reader analyze what is being read. You have probably heard the statement “read between the lines." If you read between the lines, you are reading critically; you are going beyond the mere sentences on a page and reading for deeper meaning.

    Why Is It Important?

    Critical reading is important because it allows students to take information and actually do something with it! For example, many standardized tests ask students to read an article and determine an author’s purpose. No where in the article is the author going to say, “the purpose of this article xyz." The critical reader will be able to read the article and determine what the author wants his readers to gain from reading by analyzing and making inferences.

    How Do I Teach Critical Reading?

    Prepare Your Students

    In my opinion, preparation is the cornerstone for improved reading comprehension skills. Do pre-reading activities to get your students ready to read. Talk about the title, share some background information about the author, share pictures if appropriate, establish a purpose for reading.

    Look It Up

    Teach students that if they come across a work or idea they are unfamiliar with, it’s okay, and even smart, to stop and look a word up or do a little research.

    Take Notes

    When students are reading critically, they need to record their thought and ideas. Require that they keep a notebook nearby and that they jot down their ideas and thoughts as they read. These notes may prove invaluable later. (Of course, it’s up to you whether or not to require these notes. Some kids may not need this, but in my experience, most do!)

    Use Graphic Organizers

    Use graphic organizers to help kids organize their thoughts. (Depending on the age and ability of your students, these may take the place of the notes I mentioned above.)

    Types of Questions That Require Critical Reading Skills

    You require your students to use critical reading skills when you ask them to:

    Make an inference

    Determine an author’s purpose

    Use context clues to define a word

    Determine the tone of a piece textMake predictions about what will happen next

    If you use these types of questions frequently in your teaching, your students’ reading comprehension skills will improve.

    Critical reading skills are an absolute must for school success.