Literacy Strategies for Teachers

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  • 0:04 Literacy Strategies
  • 0:39 Making Connections &…
  • 1:53 Questioning & Inferring
  • 2:54 Importance & Synthesizing
  • 3:55 Teaching Reading Strategies
  • 5:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

The best way for children to grow as readers is for them to constantly practice and engage in reading. Reading research tells us that thinking about what your brain is doing when reading, or being metacognitive, helps one to progress in regard to comprehension. Children need to know what and why they're reading. Implementing specific literacy strategies will help them accomplish this.

Literacy Strategies

Research on reading indicates that good readers use a variety of strategies to make sense of what they read. This is often referred to as making meaning, or literacy strategies. This same research has shown that effective readers use specific strategies when reading that show they understand or comprehend what they're reading. Six such strategies are: making connections, visualizing, inferring, questioning, determining importance, and synthesizing. Let's take a closer look at how these six literacy strategies affect reading comprehension.

child reading

Making Connections & Visualizing

The brain is a learning machine. Everything you do, think, and wonder has the potential to be stored as a neuron, or a cell in your brain. These neurons form communities by branching out and connecting to other neurons. The neurons are grouped by similarities, forming memories that make sense. For example, your understanding of the word 'round' helps you understand and make connections to several objects, including the moon or a ball.

Reading is no exception. When children read, they're reminded of previously stored knowledge, or schema. The books they read can be connected in three ways: text to self, reminding children of something that happened in their own lives; text to text, when a book reminds them of another they've read; or text to world, when the text reminds them of something they've seen in the world at large.

Encourage readers to make connections first text to self, then text to text, then text to world.

All readers make mental pictures, or visualizations, of the words they read. When readers visualize the text, they are then able to understand elements of the story, such as plot, in a deeper way.


To make learning visible, have children draw and talk about mental pictures that a story prompts.

Questioning & Inferring

All readers ask questions as they read. They wonder what will happen next, or what a character is thinking, or when the story will shift. By asking questions, children engage with the text and become more deeply involved, which allows them to understand and comprehend in a rich, powerful way.

Point out the natural questions being asked in your head as you read stories aloud to children. Create a question chart for the books you read aloud, and begin questioning pages in your students' reading notebooks.

As books become more complex, the plot becomes less straight-forward. Not all information is directly given to a reader, and we are left to connect the dots, or infer, on our own. For example, in the story 'Little Red Riding Hood', we know the wolf is mean and selfish because of the way he acts, not because the story actually tells us so. We've inferred this important concept.

Teachers should instruct inference by showing how students are already doing it on their own. Reread some simple stories and talk about what's in the text and what has been inferred.


Importance & Synthesizing

Books generally contain a lot of information! However, not all information is important to the plot of the story. The description of what Little Red Riding Hood is wearing is fun to read but doesn't matter when it comes time to make sense of the plot. Explain to students that authors write to entertain and teach us. They use words to make the story interesting, but not all words are critical to plot.

The most complex reading strategy, synthesizing, is the process of merging ideas over the course of a text in order to further understanding. Like summarizing, synthesizing requires readers to read the full story. However, synthesizing doesn't just happen at the end of the book; rather, it happens as the reader gets new information. The reader pieces new insights together to understand and make new predictions throughout the book.

This complex strategy can be taught at any age. By its nature, it should be taught after students have had practice with the other five strategies.

Now that we know what the strategies are, let's take a look at how to use them in the classroom.

Teaching Reading Strategies

Reading instruction in most classrooms is taught in a manner often referred to as Reader's Workshop. The workshop helps students view and understand reading skills, then apply them autonomously in their own reading. Although different instructional strategies are used in workshop, the basic frame is the same: the teacher models the reading strategy, the students practice the strategy (either independently or in small groups or partners), and then the group comes back together to share their experiences.

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