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Bottom Up Reading Activities & Exercises

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

Bottom up reading activities, when used appropriately, can help your learners improve their comprehension of a text. This lesson provides teachers with bottom up reading activities for classroom use.

What's Bottom Up Reading?

If your students are just beginning to understand the concept of bottom up reading, this lesson is a good way to reinforce some of the methods and concepts involved. Basically, bottom up reading involves looking at the individual components of a text in order to understand the text as a whole. These individual elements include:

  • Letters (this includes recognizing letters and correctly applying phonics)
  • Words (guessing the meaning of unfamiliar words based on context)
  • Grammar (identifying the grammatical role of a word - subject, verb, adjective, etc.)

The activities and exercises in this lesson are designed to help your students develop strong comprehension skills that will aid them when they read more complex texts.

Underline Understanding

For this activity, all students will need a copy of the same short text.

  1. Tell students to scan the text and underline all of the unfamiliar words.
  2. Put students into small groups of three to four students.
  3. Each student in the group should make a list of his or her own unfamiliar words and any other words that are unfamiliar to the group members.
  4. In the groups, students should compare the words that each of them underlined and work together to come up with possible meanings of the unfamiliar words. (At this point, students should not use a dictionary.)
  5. Students should write the group approved definitions next to each word.
  6. Ask each group to read you their list of words and as they do so, write those words on the board. Chances are that different groups will identify many of the same words, so after the first time a group mentions a word, just mark down how often that word comes up.
  7. Once all the words are on the board, ask the groups to share their definitions of the words. (If possible, write the definitions on the board as well.)
  8. Finally, have the students read the text again.

To conclude the activity, have a class discussion about how analyzing and discussing the unfamiliar words changed the students' understanding of the text from the first reading to the second reading.

Reading Chain

This exercise will help students focus on individual elements of a text in order to better understand the text as a whole. To begin, ensure that all students have a copy of the same text.

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