Modeling Positive Reading & Writing Behaviors for Students

Instructor: Jennifer Carnevale

Jennifer has a dual master's in English literature/teaching and is currently a high school English teacher. She teaches college classes on the side.

We learn a lot of our behaviors early on from watching our parents complete daily tasks. The same goes for the reading and writing process. Read this lesson to learn about how to model positive reading and writing behaviors to help all students succeed.

How Do We Learn?

Think back to your early years of education. How did you learn to read and write? How did you know when something was the 'correct' way of completing a task? When teaching students to read and write, we need to remember the hours we spent gaining the ability to do so. And we need to remember all the feedback we have received over the years.

Read on to learn about how we can positively model reading and writing behaviors that will help all students succeed in and out of the classroom.

What is Modeling?

When someone says the word modeling, unless you're a teacher, you think of a woman walking down the runway in some crazy outfit, showing off the newest fashion trends. While modeling in the classroom is different, there's one similarity--the idea of showing off to a group.

As teachers, we model behaviors for our students every day. Much of the modeling we do isn't formal, and some of it isn't even conscious! For example, when students see us interacting with other students, they notice if we are patient or abrupt. They also form opinions about whether we are fair, whether we care about our subject, and what we believe. Whether accurate or not, this shapes their perception of part of their world. Teachers can model positive reading and writing practices by making books available to interested students, engaging with students about non-curriculum literature, and showcasing diverse writers who may speak to students' experiences.

Formal modeling can also play an important role in the classroom. We can show our students the best practice of a skill by literally having them watch us perform the task. The students see us reading, writing, and thinking, and in turn, they can use our behaviors to do the same on their own. Let's break down the skills needed to read and see how we can model these behaviors while instructing the whole class.

Reading

No matter which age or subject you teach, modeling what you do as a teacher when you read can be helpful to student success. Look at the examples below to see how you can break down reading instruction and model best practice.

Reading the Page

Before reading, it's important to look at the format of the article, textbook, novel, etc. Kids might not even realize what they're missing, such as the table of contents, title, author, glossary, text boxes with definitions, or important supplemental material.

Take the time to walk students through the features of a text and reference pages, such as the copyright page for citation reasons, glossary for definitions and a table of contents for easy access to specific content.

Think-Aloud

When performing a think-aloud, you should read a passage to the students, taking the time to tell the students exactly what you are thinking. For example, you might read part of a passage from 'Romeo and Juliet' and stop at a word you think your students may not know. You might say out loud, ''I notice there is a footnote attached to this word. I can look at the glossary on the side of the page to get the definition.'' You can then read the definition and work through the context with your students listening to the process.

You have now demonstrated how to read a footnote and how to use a definition in context; your students also got the chance to hear tone and the pronunciation of words they may not know. You can also use this process to ask questions about a text, verify main ideas and connect to other material covered in that class. You'd be modeling what we as adults are able to do quickly in our minds while we read.

Annotations

A great way to provide a more hands-on experience while reading is teaching annotation techniques. Annotating is when you take notes while you read to help process and organize the information.

Annotations can happen on or off the page. For example, on printed pages, teach students how to underline main ideas, circle words they don't know and write short summaries next to larger paragraphs. These techniques help students process what they read as they read it. If you are using school property, post-it notes can be used to collect information, as well.

No matter which option you use, take the time to talk students through the process and explain why you are marking up your page. The goal is for our students to be able to read on their own, and teaching annotation can help them in any subject.

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