Reading in the Content Areas Motivational and Engaging Thinking Strategies

The reading comprehension strategies in this toolkit can be used in content area classes to help students make sense out of their textbooks and other reading assignments. Strategies help all students dig deeply into what they read, by encouraging them to make connections, find the big ideas, ask and answer questions, and "read between the lines." They also increase student engagement with content.

Content area teachers are the best teachers to teach these strategies because they understand the "nuance" of their own content. They are skilled at learning from reading material in their area, and they can pass on that skill to their students.

The strategies in this toolkit are divided into before reading, during reading, and after reading strategies. Some are whole-group, teacher-led strategies, while others are ones that students learn to use independently while they're reading on their own. We've created a bookmark that students can keep with their books to remind them to use these strategies. You can copy our bookmark handout onto colorful card stock paper and cut it into three bookmarks for students to use.

How to use this course


To get credit for 5 hours of on-line learning through this course (0.5 SB-CEUs), you will need to do one common assignment ("1 Inner Voice - Common Assignment"), then choose at least three strategies (2-13, see left navigation panel) and try them with your students. After you use each strategy, write a short description of how it worked with your students, in the discussion tab for that strategy, or in an email to the instructor. If you have student work that you'd like to share with others, please email the instructor and we'll upload it onto the wiki.
There is also an option to get 2.0 SB-CEUs, by trying 5 additional strategies with your students, writing short reflections on each in the discussion tab or an email, and writing a discussion entry under "Implementing a Content Reading Program" about how you will integrate these strategies into your on-going coursework and how they might be reinforced in other classes in your school.

To join this course, please contact the instructor asking for the course packet. We'll mail you some handouts that go with each strategy. When you've completed your work with the strategies, email the instructor again to receive confirmation of your accomplishments for your school records. Instructor: Theron Blakeslee, Ingham ISD, 517-244-1201. For questions on the strategies or other adolescent literacy issues, also contact Amy Kilbridge, Ingham ISD Secondary Literacy Consultant, 517-244-1273.

A Word version of all the strategies can be downloaded and printed for quick reference. The packet we will send you has additional handouts for students.

Several of the handouts are from the Cris Tovani book and the Daniels and Zemelman book. We highly recommend that you purchase one or the other (see the 'Reading List and References'). You will find other strategies and classroom examples about learning to read for meaning in both books.

A note about teaching comprehension strategies

Reading comprehension strategies need to be taught and practiced one at a time. Students will need your guidance to become independent users of reading strategies. You will have to model the strategies, explain your own thinking, provide guided practice and clear feedback. Remember that you are the best reader in your classroom, so you need to explain to students what you are thinking as you read and guide them as they learn, gradually releasing responsibility to them for using the strategies on their own.

It's important to remind students that the goal of learning to use strategies is to understand what they read, not just to become good at the strategy. (More on implementing a content area reading program.)

Where comprehension strategies fit in an overall reading improvement program

Most secondary students benefit from using strategies to think deeply about content area reading. The deeper and more broadly they read, the more they learn, which in turn makes them better content area readers.

Some students also need additional reading support to be able to read both fiction and informational text at grade level. A comprehensive reading improvement program in middle and high schools should address these five areas:
  1. Provide explicit vocabulary instruction. (How to do this)
  2. Provide direct and explicit comprehension strategy instruction. (How to do this)
  3. Provide opportunities for extended discussion of text meaning and interpretation. (How to do this)
  4. Increase student motivation and engagement in literacy learning. (How to do this)
  5. Make available intensive and individualized interventions for struggling readers that can be provided by trained specialists. (How to do this)
(from Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices, What Works Clearinghouse IES Practice Guide)

The original work in this toolkit is copyrighted © by Ingham Intermediate School District. All rights reserved.