Teaching reading to the older student

Teaching reading doesn’t have an end date. As students enter into later primary and secondary education, it is important that all teachers in any subject area are assisting them to navigate and understand these increasingly more complex and sophisticate texts. This is even more important for readers who are struggling. Sometimes as teachers of upper primary and secondary students, it is hard to find something that supports the teaching of reading.

Tactical Teaching Reading

At the end of 2014, I was introduced to Tactical Teaching Reading. The sole licensed distributor is Tactical  Steps Education who have taken over STEPS professional development. Their motto for Tactical Teaching Reading says it all – Not a reading teacher but a teacher of reading. Reading is in every learning area and the strategies taught in this course are applicable to any learning area. Tactical Steps Education offers both teacher and facilitator courses.


The course involves three workshops:

Workshop 1 – How to help students use reading processes. This workshop looks at research on adolescent literacy and a number of processes that can be used before, during and after reading. Processes that are incorporated include activating background knowledge, clarifying vocabulary, monitoring understanding and processing what has been read.

Workshop 2 – How to make reading strategies visible. Good readers use a number of strategies when reading. These include adjusting reading rate, predicting, connecting and self-questioning. Struggling readers need these strategies to be explicitly taught. This workshop looks at the explicit teaching of reading strategies to help students understand texts. It considers 18 universal strategies used by good readers. Again the strategies are aligned to before, during and after reading.

Workshop 3 – How to build text form knowledge. Text complexity and sophistication increases as students progress in their schooling. All students need to be taught how to navigate these more sophisticate texts in their various contexts. This workshop helps teachers to build students’ ability to pinpoint purpose, organisation, language features and text structures of subject area texts.

Participants in this course are provided with three course books and each contains 14 practical activities that can be used repeatedly in lesson with texts already in use. I found that some of these strategies were ones that I was familiar with or had used once upon a time and forgotten.  What I really like is a quick reference to some before, during and after reading activities that can be applied to any learning area.

At the end of 2014, I spent time relating some of these strategies to reading in secondary mathematics.  Since then, not only have I used these strategies in the classroom, but I have also used them for adult learning.

Pinpointing purposes


Pearson Mathematics textbook year 8

I applied the strategy Pinpointing purposes to this mathematical text. This strategy required students to preview the text and set a purpose.  Students self-questioned to clarify the purpose of reading and to consider how they would achieve that purpose. Pinpointing purpose

This was a great strategy in that it helped students comprehend the text, enabled them to skim and scan and to determine the importance of what they were reading. I was then able to have students apply the reading to a context.

Clarifying questions:

How does the title prepare us to read the text?

What are the important terms in this text?

How do they relate to percentages?

Students worked in pairs and did a think pair share where they shared their purpose for reading. They then decided on a joint purpose. Student then reflected on the steps they undertook to achieve the purpose.

By applying this information to something contextual, it made the reading so much more meaningful. In this case, students related the content of applying percentages to financial transactions to selling soft drink at the market stall.

Benchmarking percentages

Application of the information to a ‘real-life’ context.

Comprehension – a practical approach

Since beginning my blogs, I have had several colleagues recommend the work of Sheena Cameron. As I have focused on comprehension in the last few blogs, it was timely to look at Cameron’s text Teaching Reading Comprehension Strategies a practical classroom guide. Luckily, one of my work colleagues had a copy of Cameron’s book and I have spent the afternoon skimming and scanning her text. Her book is easy to read and very practical with lots of resources.

Cameron is an experienced classroom teacher and her book reflects this experience and current research. Her introduction acknowledges the importance of comprehension and the strategies that active readers use when engaging with text. Like many articles and texts on the teaching of reading, these active strategies used by good readers are divided into three stages of reading – before, during and after.

Cameron identifies a number of reading comprehension strategies and has organised them into groups: nine key strategies that often appear in research; two strategies that are important but receive less recognition; and two additional strategy sets that are indispensable to readers at any level.

Group 1 – Key strategies

  1. activating prior knowledge


    From Cameron, S. Teaching Reading Comprehension Strategies (2009) p 11

  2. self-monitoring
  3. predicting
  4. questioning
  5. making connections
  6. visualising
  7. inferring
  8. summarising
  9. synthesising

Group 2 – Other useful strategies

  1. skimming
  2. scanning

Group 3 – Additional strategy sets

  1. word attack strategies
  2. fix-up strategies

(Cameron, 2009, p9)

I really like how these strategies align quite nicely with those recommended in the elaborations of year 4 Australian Curriculum English (ACELY1692).

Cameron states that reading comprehension can be developed by: teaching the strategies explicitly; using a cooperative learning model; using the strategies flexibly and combining them; using the strategies across all learning areas; and building vocabulary knowledge.

She summarises her introduction by stating that a reader is not truly reading without comprehension; that the strategies are a method of helping students understand what they are reading; and that good comprehension enables purposeful and active reading.

I am very impressed with this text and intend to purchase a personal copy – a recommended read!