Characteristics of Poor Readers / Successful Readers

Reading strategically

Characteristics of Poor Readers        

  • Thinks understanding occurs from “getting the words right,” rereading
  • Use strategies such as rote memorization, rehearsal, simple categorization
  • Are poor strategy uses
    • They do not think strategically about how to read something or solve a problem
    • They do not have an accurate sense of when they have good comprehension readiness for assessment
  • Have relatively low self-esteem.
  • See success and failure as the result of luck or teacher bias.

Characteristics of Successful Readers

  • Understand that they must take responsibility for construction meaning using their prior knowledge.
  • Develop a repetoire of reading strategies, organizational patterns, and genre.
  • Are good strategy users:
    • They think strategically, plan, monitor their comprehension, and revise their strategies.
    • They have strategies for what to do when they do not know what to do.
  • Have self-confidence that they are effective learners; see themselves as agents able to actualize their potential.

Source:; 23 Oct. 2001

Sit Still & Be Quiet No More!

Sit still and be quiet!

This morning I was reading some research about reading and came across some information about how our brains turn print into language. The idea that sent fireworks exploding in my brain is the very last step when words receive meaning: ”Reading a word such as stagger, limp, or tiptoe activates the motor areas in the brain that are involved in controlling the legs and feet, whereas reading a word such as chop or carve activates those controlling the hands. Whereas understanding a sentence about eating activates the areas related to gustatory sensations, understanding a visual description activates areas of the visual cortex (Adams, 2011, p. 8).

How cool is that!  The next step is a response or completed circuit.  Doesn’t that just give us all the more reason to include kinetic learning in our reading repetoire?

Samuels, J. & Farstrup, A., Editors (2011). What research has to say about reading instruction.  Neward, DE:  International Reading Association.

Sentence Stalking Makes Reading Fun!

When my sons were very young, I read the book Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons. We began to stalk not just wild asparagus, but violet blossoms with which to make pancake syrup, nasturtium flowers with which to make salad, and rose hips with which to make tea. As embarrassing as all this may be to admit, I find that I have the same satisfaction when I forage for sentences that I had twenty-some years ago foraging for wild foods with my sons.  Today’s post is directly from my Sentence Stalking Blog.

Why Stalk?

1. Because teachers can use model sentences to teach grammar and punctuation – and more than that, how grammar and punctuation help us write well. For example, when you teach coordinating conjunctions, scan through the stalked sentences to find great examples to teach with. Let students learn from great sentences.

2. Just to appreciate good writing.

3.  Students can learn to appreciate good writing and articulate what makes a good sentence.

This morning, I saw a hawk outside, memorized his features sitting on the telephone wire, and then banged on the window so I could see him in flight. He didn’t move, just kept looking around. When I came out and stomped he flew away, and then I saw fresh blood where he had caught something and then lost it. I went to school, got out a guide book, and was so surprised to find this powerful sentence about the Bicolored Hawk in a bird book:

A sneaky and inconspicuous hawk; rarely seen although it can be very bold, indeed at times almost fearless of humans.
Isn’t that GREAT!  And from a dry book about birds.


Jeff Wilhelm tells us in Improving Comprehension with Think-Aloud Strategies that “Students who did not intensely visualize and participate in “story worlds” did not engage with the text in other dimensions.  In other words, if we don’t help kids to visualize settings, characters, and action, then they will not be able to reflect on story action, the ways the story was constructed, what the story means, the author’s purpose and perspective, and a lot of other things that expert readers of narrative do (p. 31).

I think visualizing is just as important in non-fiction reading.  Think about the directions to just about anything–will you have success if you don’t visualize?

We need to model visualizing like we do anything else.  I start by modeling my visualization by sketching on the white board while I read a passage out loud.  I explain that we don’t need to spend a lot of time on our sketches, but we do want the movie in our mind to be as well “drawn” as we can.  I model how I change my movie as I read more and have more details and how sometimes I discover that I’ve made an error in my visualization–like when I’ve drawn a little red wagon instead of the covered wagon the author wrote about.

Model and then give students lots of chances to sketch their visualizations.  Once students can communicate their visualizations using sketches and dialogue balloons, I often use these sketches to assess understanding and correct misunderstandings.

Conferring: The Heart of Readers’ Workshop

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After you’ve researched and decided, it’s time to teach.  I generally start with pointing out something that the student is doing well.  “I like the way you _____, because ______.”  Then I choose a concise teaching point that I can write down on a sticky note.  I give the student a copy and have a copy for myself on my clipboard.

I always limit myself to one teaching point.  This could be anything from a grammar point to a point about how writers have to think like readers.  Here’s a sampling of teaching points from last week:

  • Writers have to continually ask, “Do my readers have the background knowledge to understand what I’m writing?”  If not writers have to explain more about what they’re writing.
  • Writers need to be careful of strings of adjectives and find the perfect adjective to describe something.
  • Sometimes writing goes on and on without letting the reader pause and take a breath.  Writers use punctuation to give those breaks to readers.
  • Some verbs are irregular in the past tense, like the verb put.  You can use the anchor chart about irregular verbs to find the correct way to write verbs in the past tense.

Conferring: The Heart of Readers’ Workshop

The second phase of a successful conference after RESEARCH is DECIDE.  We must decide what we are going to teach this child.  Think about:

  • What do we know about this child and where they are in their development of skills?
  • What is the conference history of this child.  Should we keep working on something?
  • What is the most important strategy that this child needs to know now?
We can’t beat ourselves up about our choices here.  Some days our reading intuition is working great, and other days it’s not.  Just remember, whatever we teach will be valuable.