What Do Good Readers Do When They Read: Skills for Struggling Readers

Your students sit quietly and stare at the pages, but when they get to answering the questions, taking the test, discussing or writing about what they’ve read, you discover that they haven’t retained anything that was on the page. 

The students are reading but not reading.  Good readers naturally do several things as they read to help them make sense of the information and retain what they read.  Most students need to be taught these skills (and they can be taught) just like they were taught sight words and phonics when they learned to read the words on the page. 

Frustrated readers often give up on reading for information
Frustrated readers often give up on reading for information

So…what do good readers do?

If you ask your students what good readers do, chances are they’ll tell you something like the following:

  • They read fast
  • The know all the words
  • The read a lot
  • They just get it

Students don’t realize the skills good readers employ as they read. Good readers engage in several mental activities as they read.

  • Activate Prior Knowledge: Using what a reader already knows about a topic or text structure to connect to new knowledge.
  • Picturing/Visualizing: Creating a mental picture as you read. It is based on sensory information in the text
  • Predicting: Using clues in the text to make an educated guess as to what’s coming next.
  • Connecting/Reacting: when a reader makes connections between his or her life or world or between this text and other texts. Reacting is when a reader has an emotional response to what he/she has read.
  • Clarifying: when a reader restates the ideas in the text in their own words.
  • Asking Questions: when a reader wonders about something in the text.
  • Identifying Problems: good readers know when they are struggling and their understanding is challenged. An example of this is stopping at an unfamiliar word.
  • Using Fix-Ups: when a reader uses a strategy to get through a problem spot. This includes rereading, asking questions, or using context clues to figure out the meaning of unfamiliar words.

Note: I am working on hubs that give examples of specific strategies for teaching these good reader skills.  I will link them below when they become available.

What about the good readers?

Most good readers don’t even realize they are doing this.  Teachers may have to point out to good readers what they do.  Also, strong readers can employ skills and strategies to slow down their reading and analyze and process on a deeper level.  This will help them retain information and be able to use it for higher-level thinking activities. 

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Comments 3 comments

Docmo profile image

Docmo 5 years ago from UK

Brilliant. I love the way you have classified what good readers do- this has really helped me as an avid reader understand my process. I will sue this in my teaching too..


shellyakins profile image

shellyakins 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks, Docmo. I'm glad you can use these in your teaching.

I think that school puts emphasis in lower grades on how to decode words. Then in the upper grades, students "practice" reading. Some students pick up on these good reader skills, but most need to be taught these skills and practice them. Reading is just like any other subject: teach skills then practice them over and over again.


shellyakins profile image

shellyakins 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks, Docmo. I'm glad you can use these in your teaching.

I think that school puts emphasis in lower grades on how to decode words. Then in the upper grades, students "practice" reading. Some students pick up on these good reader skills, but most need to be taught these skills and practice them. Reading is just like any other subject: teach skills then practice them over and over again.

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