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Capturing the Reading Process

Capturing the Reading Process

When students have explored the general concepts of metacognition and metacognitive conversation with nonreading activities, an activity called Capturing the Reading Process can direct them from thinking about their thinking to thinking about their thinking while reading. In Capturing the Reading Process, students read a specific text to themselves and think about what processes they used as they worked through the text: What mental moves did they make? What exactly did they do with or to the text?

The teacher captures examples of these moves from students on a class list that makes their collective thinking visible. One student may notice, for example, that she lost focus and had to bring her mind back to the text; another may volunteer that neither his partner nor he could understand a specific sentence, so they skipped it; yet another student may offer her process of trying to picture the kind of chemical reaction she was reading about. Box 4.3 describes how Capturing the Reading Process prepares a class to build a “living” Reading Strategies List.

Building a Reading Strategies List

Many Reading Apprenticeship teachers tell us that building and continually referring back to the Reading Strategies List is one of the most important literacy routines they embed into their teaching. By probing students’ thinking and reasoning and asking them to share specific examples of their reading processes, teachers help students develop a type of inquiry conversation that is metacognitive and that students can apply to any text.

The Reading Strategies List that a class begins with one particular text will continue to grow as students encounter new texts and new types of texts and so identify new reading processes. The list should be conceived of as a living document, one that remains posted and available for adding to and revising.

It is likely that the list will grow more elaborated as well as longer. For example, if students in a history class have nominated the strategy “ask questions” for their Reading Strategies List, they may at some point want to elaborate with discipline-specific strategies, such as “ask questions about the author’s point of view” or “ask questions about whose point of view is not represented.” In a science lab, students may elaborate “ask questions” with “ask questions to identify variables” or “ask questions to identify patterns,” for example.

Likewise, if students begin with more specific examples, these can later be grouped and labeled—as examples of asking questions, or setting a purpose for reading, or visualizing, or making personal connections, and so forth. (Chapter Seven introduces a number of these umbrella cognitive strategies.)

Over time, even though the Reading Strategies List becomes a less necessary support, students will continue to refer to it when they need ideas for solving particular reading problems. The list also serves as a history of their own growing repertoire of problem-solving strategies.

Walter Masuda, who used the Reading Strategies List in his community college English 1A class, sees its development as an important contribution to students’ understanding of metacognitive conversation and an important resource. “Students’ high regard for the usefulness of the list,” he says, “has convinced me that I should use it in all my writing classes.” (Classroom Close-Up 4.2 includes the list that Walter’s students developed and were able to refer to.)


By sharing their reading processes, students begin to appreciate the great variety in strategies and approaches that different readers bring to a text. They will also see that different people’s knowledge and experiences shape the meanings they derive from texts—that meaning is constructed in the interaction between individual readers and texts, not solely in the texts themselves.

Capturing the Reading Process is students’ introduction to creating a living and growing classroom Reading Strategies List.


  • Choose a slightly challenging text that will be intriguing to students.
  • Give students time to read silently; monitor to see when most students have finished the reading.
  • Ask students to write down a few notes about what they did to make sense of the text: what read- ing processes they used to solve comprehension problems, stay involved in the text, or make con- nections from the text to other knowledge or ideas.
  • Model one or two examples of your own reading processes from the beginning of the text, such as the following:
    • When I read the second sentence, about reading under the covers, I could picture that in my mind.
    • When I came to the pronoun “they,” in the third sentence, I had to check back to the first sentence to be sure “they” meant Kevin’s books, not his parents.
  • As partners and small groups are sharing their reading processes, circulate to listen in and, as needed, model how to probe for specifics (suggestions follow).
  • Invite students to share their strategies first with partners, then in small groups, and then with the class. Help students be specific by probing their reasoning and thinking:
    • What did you do?
    • How did you do that? Where in the text did you do that?
    • Can you give us an example from the text?
    • Why did you decide to do that?
    • How did that help your understanding?
  • If students are having trouble articulating their reading processes, introduce some problem-solving strategies:
    • Did anyone have to reread any part? Which part? How did that help?
    • Did anyone think of something else that was related to this text? What was the connection? How did that help?
    • Did anyone have trouble with this part? How did you get through it?
    • Did anyone make a guess about the meaning of an unfamiliar word? How did you do that?
  • Record students’ ideas on a class list. (Save the list. It will serve as the beginning of the Reading Strategies List that the class will continue to develop.)

Walter Masuda was intrigued by the support that a Reading Strategies List might offer his community college writing students. His students in English 1A were experienced with annotating text, and Walter saw the Reading Strategies List as an opportunity for students to move easily from private annotations to shared discussion of ways to approach difficult text.

To start, students read and annotated an excerpt from a challenging essay, answering these questions:

  • What were some of the thought processes you used as you were reading the passage? You can include anything you were thinking just before, during, and⁄or after you read the passage.
  • Which passages were particularly challenging for you? Why?
  • What did you do to make sense of those challenging passages?

After completing the questions independently, students shared with a partner what they had written, and then the whole class engaged in a discussion of the challenges and strategies students had identified.

Walter recorded their ideas as follows:

Reading Strategies List

  • Imagine myself “in the reading.”
  • Reread or read more slowly and deliberately.
  • Get meaning from context first; use dictionary later as a check on understanding.
  • Read passage aloud (or have someone else read passage to us).
  • Take a deep breath to quiet the mind.
  • Read the last paragraphs first so we know where the reading “ends up.”
  • Skip to a point in the reading where comprehension is better; go back later to difficult passages.
  • Summarize or paraphrase a difficult reading passage.
  • Discuss challenging passages with peers.
  • Break down reading into smaller chunks.
  • Develop a visual (graphic) road map of the reading.
  • Get a second opinion.
  • Go online to do some research.
  • Don’t freak out if at first you don’t understand something. Keep reading, because an explanation or clarification may be coming up later in the text.

In Walter’s view, the power of the Reading Strategies List is that “by giving developing writers access to the thought processes of more expert readers and writers, we give students who might otherwise be at risk for failure the tools they need to succeed. It’s one thing to admonish low-performing students that they need to pay more attention to their reading, or that they need to work harder on essay orga- nization, and quite another to give them the ‘habits of mind’ that could actually make a difference in their reading and writing performance.”

Reading for Understanding, pp.94-97

DMU Timestamp: October 19, 2017 02:40

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