How Students Read Interactively to Construct Meaning

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  • 0:01 Interactive Reading
  • 0:40 Personal Experience
  • 2:55 Prior Knowledge
  • 3:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

How do readers interact with a text, and how does that interaction help them comprehend what they are reading? In this lesson, we'll examine interactive reading and its elements.

Interactive Reading

Heather is in the sixth grade, and she loves to read. She reads all sorts of things: novels, biographies, plays, magazine and newspaper articles, and other things. You name it, she'll read it!

One of the reasons Heather likes to read is because, for her, it is an interactive experience. Interactive reading involves relating to the text through personal experience and prior knowledge. It's an important process, and studies have shown that poor readers do not engage in interactive reading as much as good readers do.

Let's look closer at how students like Heather can read interactively through both personal experience and past knowledge.

Personal Experience

Heather's favorite book is a novel about a girl who lived during the Salem witch trials. In the novel, the main character's best friend is accused of being a witch, and when the girl tries to defend her friend, she, too, is accused. Heather loves this book and has read it several times.

On the surface, it doesn't look like Heather has much in common with the main character of the novel. Heather is a modern day sixth-grader, living in a world where witches are not burned at the stake. The main character of the novel, on the other hand, is a young woman in her late teens who is on trial for her life.

But, one of the reasons that Heather loves the book so much is that she feels like she can relate to the character. When the main character is accused of witchcraft, Heather remembers what it felt like when her mother accused her of breaking a lamp - when Heather hadn't been near the lamp!

One way that students read interactively is through personal experience, or things that have happened to the reader or qualities that the reader shares with the characters in the text. For example, when Heather remembers what it was like to be falsely accused, she's drawing on her personal experience. Likewise, the fact that Heather is strong-willed and loves to read, just like the main character, allows her to relate to the book better.

It's not just novels that allow students to relate their personal experience. When Heather was reading a newspaper article about how certain types of fish are becoming more and more endangered, she remembered going to the aquarium with her family and seeing different types of fish.

Personal experience helps students in two ways. First, it engages them. When Heather relates to the main character of a novel or remembers going to the aquarium, she is becoming more engaged in what she's reading. As a result, she is giving more attention to what she's reading and is also more likely to stick with it.

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