16 Reading Strategies to Teach This Year

Reading Strategies

What reading strategies do students need to learn, anyway?  It would be so nice if the standards would just spell it out for us!  Unfortunately, I’ve never seen that.  I’ve racked my brain and made this cheat sheet of the reading strategies I’ve frequently seen in teacher’s guides, professional books, and trainings.  Click the picture for a printable version.

reading strategies


Someone suggested to me that it would be nice to have each of these as a poster so that’s exactly what I’ve done!  Sign up for my newsletter and you will be sent a link for a set posters that matches this chart!

FREE reading skills poster pack

Use Background Knowledge: This is the whole Piaget schema theory.  The things that we already know about a topic are called our schema.  It’s helpful to connect new pieces of information to related existing pieces of information.  Teach students to ask themselves, “what do I already know about this topic?” before they read a text.

Ask Questions: I like to tell students that we need to keep our brains busy while we read so we don’t start to space out.  Asking questions (and looking for the answers) is a great way to do this.  When you read aloud you can demonstrate this: “hmm, I wonder what the initials V.F.D. stand for in this story.  I’m going to be looking for the answer.”

Identify the Author’s Purpose:  There are different ways of reading text.  Sometimes we’re looking for characters and the problems and solutions in their stories.  Other times we’re reading to get facts and information.  Or sometimes we’re reading to hear about someone’s opinion and to determine if we agree or disagree.  In order to approach a text with the right frame of mind, kids need to be able to identify the author’s purpose.  See this helpful anchor chart.

Identify the Main Idea:  Whether it’s a fiction or nonfiction text, teach students to ask themselves “what is this mostly about?” as they read.  Here’s a main idea anchor chart from my classroom:main idea

Recognize Sequence- Teach students that when they start reading words like, “first…then…after that…” that a sequence is happening.  The order of events or steps in a text is important to its meaning.  Check out this sequence graphic organizer freebie.

Recognize Cause and Effect– Teach students to notice when one event has caused another.  This concept can be taught with silly examples like: cause-Billy didn’t brush his teeth, effect- His breath was stinky all day!  I point out to students that sometimes its the effect that stands out, and then we can go back into the text and look for the cause.

Make Inferences– Inferences are when you combine something you already know with something you read in a text to arrive at a deeper meaning.  For example, if you read an author’s description of of a kitchen with a dusting of flour on the counter, egg shells in the sink, and a bag of sugar sitting out, you can infer that someone has been baking because you know that those are common baking ingredients.  It’s like “reading between the lines.”

Make Predictions– This is another way for students to keep their brains busy while they read.  Just making the prediction isn’t the end of the skill.  Students should be checking as they read to see if they were right.  Of course they love it when they are right but I also emphasize that even if their prediction was wrong, it’s no big deal.  We can always change our thinking as we read.  The important thing is that there is some thinking going on!

Summarize– This is a skill that seems to show up on tests more than anywhere else but it does lead students to look for the most important events.  I tell kids that there’s no way we will remember every word of a text so we try to hold just the important events in our minds.  For fiction text kids can use the “somebody….wanted….but….so….” model to give a good summary.

This chart can help your students understand where summarizing fits in with other collections of information about text.  As the pyramid gets higher, less information about the text is given.  The whole text means every word that is read.  A summary is less information than the whole text but still covers all the main points or events.  Information about the main story elements or the information gained from text features (especially headings) is a little less than a summary.  The main idea is a sentence or two telling what the text is mostly about.  At the very top of the pyramid is the topic which is just one or two words.  You can download a free copy of this chart here.

reading comprehension pyramid

Distinguish Between Fact and Opinion– With more media available to us all the time from credible and not so credible sources, it’s important for kids to identify if a statement they are reading is a fact, or if it’s an opinion.

Find Facts and Details- This goes hand in hand with identifying the main idea.  When kids state what the book is mostly about, they should be able to go back and point to facts and/or details that support what they are saying.

Recognize Compare and Contrast– This is one of five nonfiction text structures that students should be able to identify.  When students notice that an author is using the compare and contrast structure, they can purposely look for ways that two things are alike or different.

Make Connections– This is another extension of using background knowledge.  Have students ask themselves “How does this text remind me of myself, another text, or the word?” If they can find a connection, they can gain a deeper understanding of the text.

Visualize– Teach students to make a movie in their head to match what they are reading.

Reread for Clarity- I believe that rereading is the most effective reading strategy.  If something you read is confusing, reread.  If you don’t remember an answer to a comprehension question, reread.  When you read aloud, demonstrate for students that when you encounter something that doesn’t make sense, you go back and reread some of the text.  One half of the strategy is knowing to reread, and the other half is recognizing when you aren’t understanding the text.

Adjust Your Pacing– Sometimes it makes sense to read slowly, like if you are encountering difficult vocabulary, long sentences, or an unfamiliar concept.  Other times it makes sense to read quickly, like when you’re skimming for a particular word or phrase.

Phew!  That will be plenty of concepts to keep you busy!


The icons in this post come from Hand Drawn Goods.

Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun is a former teacher with 8 years of experience in the classroom and a master's degree in early childhood education. She designs engaging, organized classroom resources for 1st-3rd grade teachers.

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