Are you listening?

Uncategorized Feb 19, 2023


The first step in my RIP close reading strategy is “Read.” The word “read” seems incredibly simple, but in fact, we all know - it’s complicated. 

When a student starts to read, there are many things happening all at the same time. Word recognition, sounding out syllables, comprehension of word meaning, fluency and much more. But what causes the brain to understand what is being read? My belief in close reading comprehension relies on how students read the words in their mind or aloud. I discovered that if they read like a “zombie robot” with no expression, reading comprehension is pretty much out the window. However, if students read with expression - in their minds or aloud - reading comprehension soars. Every single time. 

How do we foster that skill? How do we get them to read like an actor performing an audio book? 

It begins with the title of our article - “Are you listening?” As the classroom teacher, you have to listen to how the words are being delivered when a student reads aloud. If you hear the “zombie robot” version, STOP them. Direct them to add expression whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. Read a few words and give them an example of what great expression sounds like. 

Another great tool is audio books. Find one that brings the text to life. An incredible example is Jim Dale’s performance of all seven of the Harry Potter books. These are perfect examples of high quality vocal expression. 

An activity that I love to use is reader’s theatre.  You don’t need scripts. Simply assign the narrative reading to a few students to do in turn, and cast the character’s voices for the dialogue like you would a play. Start by allowing them to sit in the comfort of their desks. You’ll get more buy-in. Once they feel comfortable, start performing the stories in front of the class. 

When students are doing silent reading, encourage them to utilize this great expression in their minds. Ask them to move their lips while they read the words. Studies have shown that when students take the time to mouth the words silently, they  avoid skimming and scanning - the death of close reading comprehension. 

Finally, one directorial note. Make sure your students are observing punctuation when they read. Stop at periods. Pause at commas. Use correct inflection for question marks and exclamation points. Again, observing punctuation pulls them away from skimming and scanning the text. 

These practices are the beginning of great close reading comprehension for students of all ages. And, I guarantee this - it will increase the joy of reading for everyone. 


Darren’s RIP strategy is featured in Weekly Writer under the section “RIP & WRITE.” The platform features one fiction and three non-fiction grade appropriate passages every four lesson. These activities are a great way to practice close reading comprehension in preparation for state based assessments. 


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