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Study Guide developed by Karla Porter, M.Ed.

The content of this web page was developed as an aid to either student or entry level teachers who have immediate need in their classroom for information related to reading or for anyone wishing to further understand this general topic area.

This web site is being evaluated and updated during this development phase. Please contact the WSU Development Team Coordinator, Dr. Vicki Napper, with comments or suggestions for this web page. All contacts and comments welcome.

WSU Development Team

Active Reading Phase

Sometimes silent reading may be enough, particularly as students read stories, novels, and certain passages from content area textbooks.  However, much of the time students need to be active learners thinking their way through a text.  To promote active thinking which will help students focus their attention and think about interpretations and interrelations consider the following strategies:

Index for Active Reading Phase
Immediate Feedback
Time Lines
Study Guides
Using Visual Imagery
Mind Mapping
Story Mapping
Note taking
Venn Diagram/Similarities and Differences
Anticipation/Reaction Guide
Problem/Solution Organizer
Spider Map


Active Reading Strategies:

Question-Answer:  Questions should not only be asked during the prereading phase, but continue as students gain more information.  Questions may come from the text, from the teacher, or ones the students have generated themselves.  As you formulate questions, it is good to keep in mind what types of thinking skills you want your students to use.  Do you want an emphasis on knowledge or comprehension, application or analysis, or synthesis and evaluation?

QAR (question/answer/relationships):  The QAR (question/answer/relationships) is a strategy which teaches students how to locate and answer comprehension questions. Students are taught to locate primary sources of information from the brain and the text.


Text questions: To identify text questions, students first read a selected passage. The teacher follows with questions that have answers that come directly from the text. Categories of text questions include:

  • Here it is… answers are exactly found in the text.
  • Search a little …answers require students to search the text and come up with conclusions.

Brain questions: Following text questions, the teacher asks questions that have answers that are not directly found in the text. These questions require students to take the information they have read and make assumptions and predictions. Categories for brain questions include:

  • Author + me…the answers are not necessarily in the story, but the student forms conclusions based on the information given by the author.
  • Alone… the answers are not found in the story. The student bases his conclusions and answers upon personal experiences.

Web site to visit:
Asking Questions

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Immediate Feedback: One reason many teachers continue oral reading into the upper grades is that it allows for immediate feedback.  This gives the teacher an opportunity to interrupt reading and ask questions.  Oral reading interspersed by questions and helps promote more interactions between text and reader.

Time Lines:  Depending upon the content area, timelines are invaluable in assisting students to organize time periods, events, and locations.  These may be constructed by the teacher or individually by the student.  This activity directs students attention to sequential order of events, but it also gives them something to do while they are reading which increases interaction between the reader and the text.

Web sites to visit:

Time Line Generator

Time Line (Printable)

Sequencing (Printable)

Write/Design Sequence Graphic Organizers

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Outlining:  Outlining helps students see main ideas, supportive ideas, and interrelationships among them.  Ideas for outlining include:

  1. List four of six main points of an assignment leaving blank lines for the two the students must discover on their own.
  2. Provide all supporting points of an assignment leaving the main points for the students to figure out.
  3. Have students identify key points in an assignment. Copy these onto small pieces of paper and arrange the pieces in order.
  4. Have students draw a pyramid with key ideas at the top and subordinate ideas below.
  5. Have students copy main and subordinate ideas onto a large sheet and connect these with lines indicating degrees of subordination.

Paraphrasing:  Readers seldom understand something until they can put it into words themselves.
  1. Have students identify passages that might present comprehension difficulties for them and ask them either in groups or individually to paraphrase that section of the assignment.
  2. Have students get into groups to share their individual paraphrases noting similarities and differences with other students.

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Summarizing:  Written summaries help teachers discover how much students have comprehended on an assignment.  When students know they are to summarize assignments, they tend to be more focused and active as they read the assignment.

It is important to let student know what you will be looking for in an assignment:

  • main ideas
  • supportive details
  • sequence/chronological order
  • author's purpose for writing
Web sites to visit:

Main Idea and Supporting Details (Printable)

Main Idea : Mind Map, Network Tree

Study Guides:  Study guides give students specific tasks to do while reading.  They can produce overviews and other activities, but can also give students specific tasks to complete while reading:
  • answering specific questions
  • completing time lines and graphs
  • outlining
  • defining difficult words, terms, or concepts
  • relating material to previous information studied by students.

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Self-Monitoring:  When mastered, this skill will help students become lifelong learners.  Prior to reading particular assignments, teachers should take time to review techniques and show how they work by actually reading passages aloud to the group and demonstrating the following strategies:
  • adjust reading rate, slowing down for troublesome areas
  • reread difficult passages
  • ask questions, "What do you think the author is saying?" or "What do you think the main ideas of this section is?"

  • After brief introduction, both students and teacher silently read a common segment.
  • The teacher is questioned by students.
  • The teacher asks questions of students.
  • Go to the next segment and repeat above steps.
  • At a suitable point, when students have processed enough of the text to make predictions, the questioning stops.  The teacher asks:  What do you think the rest of the assignment is about?  Why do you think so?  Speculations are encouraged.
  • Students are assigned to read the remaining points.
  • The teacher facilitates follow-up discussion of the material.

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Using Visual Imagery: In this strategy students develop their own pictures for their story by completing the following steps:
  1. Read the first sentence or the beginning of the passage.
  2. Make an image in you mind of this.
  3. Describe your image together students.
  4. Repeat with other passages.

Mind Mapping:  A mind map, also called a concept map or a concept web, consists of a central word or idea.  Around the central idea are five to ten main ideas.  Each of these main ideas has another five or ten ideas which support it.  A mind map has a number of advantages.  The main idea is clearly defined and the importance of each idea is indicated by how closely if falls to the center.  Mind maps are easy to construct and easy for students to understand.

Web sites to visit:

Mind Mapping

Concept Mapping

Concept Web

Concept Map

Your Brain and Mind-Mapping

Mind Map

Using a Web

Concept Map (Printable Web 1)

Concept Map (Printable Web 2)

Concept Map (Printable Web 3)

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Story Mapping: (Usually used in literature)  This strategy instructs the reader about the interrelated parts of a story or selection and provides a framework which draws the reader's attention to the common elements of a story:

Setting:  Introduction of main characters, time, place
Beginning:  Event that triggers the story.
Reaction:  Response of main characters, what are their goals?
Attempt:  What efforts do the characters make  to attain their goals?
Outcome:  Results of attempt to reach goal.
Ending:  Consequences of the  main characters' actions and final response.

This can be completed individually, in small groups, or as an entire class.

Web sites to visit:

Story Map

Story Maps and Frames

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Jigsaw:  The Jigsaw helps students learn new material using a team approach.  Students are responsible for becoming an "expert" on one part of a lesson and then teaching it to the other members of their team.

  1. Select a unit of study and divide the sections into however many students are in each group.  The sections should not require more than 20-30 minutes to read.
  2. Have each student take one of the sections.  They are to read it and know it well.
  3. Have all the "experts" of each individual section in the class meet together to discuss their ideas on that particular section.
  4. After group discussions, each "expert" returns to his group and relates all the information about his particular topic.

By doing this students receive all the needed information, but they also have an in-depth knowledge of a certain section of the assignment.

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Note taking:  Many content classrooms on the secondary level are structured around class lectures, supplemented by textbook assignments.  Students must be instructed in the process of taking notes especially in regards to the different content areas.  Below is a specific note taking strategy aimed at not only providing students with a systematic means of organizing class notes, but also a way of responding and thinking about what has been read.

  1. Students use only one side of a 81/2x11 inch loose-leaf notebook paper.
  2. Draw a line down the middle of the page, or fold the paper in half.
  3. Record lecture notes or highlights of reading assignments on the left-hand side of the line or fold.
  4. The right-hand side is used to write comments or questions.
Web sites to visit:

Improve Note Taking with Mind Maps

Taking Notes from Lectures

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Journals:  Many teachers find that by having their students write their thoughts or feelings helps them to gain a different perspective in their reading material.  You may assign students to have a specific notebook which is only used for journal writing, or a designated area in their notebook for their writings.  These may be shared in small groups or in classroom discussions; however, because they are personal feelings keep in mind that many students may not want to share what they have written.

Web sites to visit:

Literature Journals/Reading Logs

Learning Logs

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Venn Diagram/Similarities and Differences: The Venn Diagram is made up of two or more overlapping circles.  It is often used in mathematics to show relationships between sets.  In language arts instruction, Venn diagrams are useful for examining similarities and differences in characters, stories, and poems.

Web sites to visit:

Venn Diagram

Venn Diagram Expanded

Venn Diagram (Printable)

Venn Diagram (Printable Version 2)

Write/Design Venn Diagram

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Anticipation/Reaction Guide:  An Anticipation/Reaction Guide is used to assess a class's knowledge of a topic before they actually begin a lesson. Ask students to list all the information they know about the topic in one column.  When they finish the assignment, read over what they knew and compare it to actual knowledge gained.  The second column can be used to write notes or compare the difference in what they learned.

Web sites to visit:

Two Column Guide (Printable)

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Problem/Solution Organizer:  The Problem/Solution Organizer helps students to identify a problem, to address the problem, to consider multiple solutions for the problem, and finally, to note the results that would come from their choices.  Several ideas for problem/solution organizers are given.  Students simply answer the questions as they proceed through the assignment.  The organizer helps them to focus on the material you want emphasized.

Web sites to visit:

Checklist for Problem Solving (Printable)

Problem and Solution (Printable Version 1)

Problem and Solution (Printable Version 2)

Problem/Solution Outline

Problem/Solution Outline

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Spider Map:  The Spider Map is used to describe a central idea: a thing, a process, a concept, or a proposition.  The map may be used to organize ideas or brainstorm ideas for a writing project.  The students write the topic, concept, or theme in the center of the map.  Main ideas branch out from the central idea with supporting details coming from the main ideas.

Web sites to visit:

Spider Map

Write/Design Spider Map

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Additional Active Reading Information and Strategies:

Web sites to visit:

Assisted Reading Strategies

During Reading:  Strategies for Constructing Meaning

During Reading Strategies

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Comments or Suggestions:
Bruce Schroeder, Project Coordinator
or Vicki Napper, WSU Development Team

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