Reading Strategies (and Activities) to Improve Reading and Develop Critical Thinking

This post is based on the teaching tip from our upcoming newsletter. Reading is a great way to develop creative and critical thinking. Here are some activity ideas to get the students thinking as they read a text. I hope you find the following activities helpful and let us know if you try any of them out!

1. Using questions to pull out the main idea:

Students read and answer the WH~ questions to complete the chart (in note form only)

Then students write one-sentence that summarizes the text using one of these two formula:



For example: In his second year at Hogwarts (WHEN), Harry Potter (WHO) defeated Voldemort by destroying the horcrux (DOES WHAT) in the Chamber of Secrets (WHERE) with the sword of Godric Gryffindor (HOW).

2. Sequence Important Events (especially for narrative texts)

Using Sequence Words:

Give the students a list of sequencing words.  Students (working alone or in pairs) make a poster using their own words to summarize the basic events of the text.

  • First,
  • Next,
  • Then,
  • Finally,

Using Pictures:

Have students draw pictures to represent each event in the text. Each picture should represent one event and they should be organized in the order they happened in the text. After the students finish drawing, have them explain their pictures to a partner using sequencing words.


3. Summarize Text

Summary based on pictures: Low level

Students draw a sequence of pictures that summarize the story (see Sequence Important Events, Using Pictures above)

Students then write a summary paragraph based on the pictures.

Note: Be explicit in modeling transitional words, e.g.  guide the students to write them on the picture before they write the paragraph.

chart 2

Summary paragraph(s): High level

In pairs, students verbally summarize the main idea of each page or paragraph in 1 or 2 sentences in their own words.

NOTE: They can finish up on their own for homework.

4. Interact with the text

Making Connections:

Students make personal connections to the text either through a written assignment or verbally with a classmate:

What in the text has some connection to your life?

  • I can connect with ______because…
  • I understand why ______because…

Asking Questions:

This can be done verbally after reading or as a journaling project while reading. If students write and answer questions as they read, they can much more deeply interact with the message behind the text.

As you read, write and answer questions related to the motive of the characters.

  • I wonder (why/how/what/when) this character…
  • Why is he/she doing….?

Sensory Details:

Students describe what they (or a character) can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel in the text. This is another great journaling activity or it can be an ongoing discussion after students read a short portion of a text.

Stop reading after each paragraph and discuss with your classmate:

  • I (or character) can see ___________
  • I (or character) can hear __________
  • I (or character) can smell ___________
  • I (or character) can feel ____________
  • I (or character) can taste ___________

Finding Evidence:

Students find evidence in the text to support claims made about the plot or the characters. This is effective when done as a journaling activity first and then brought into class to spark discussion. This is a great homework assignment.

  • __________ is ___________ because _________.
  • The reason why ___________ __________is because_______________.
  • It states in paragraph ___ that ___________. I find this to be true because___________.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Reblogged this on shauntheteacher91's Blog and commented:
    Awesome post

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