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Scaffold Mindful Silent Reading

By: Elaine K. McEwan

One way to scaffold mindful silent reading is by teaching students a set of prompts or procedures to use as they read. This type of scaffolding helps students to engage in mindful reading but gradually releases to them the responsibility for using a variety of cognitive strategies, such as activating prior knowledge and questioning the author. A sample lesson is shown below.

Another way to scaffold silent reading for comprehension is to teach six signals that indicate a need for comprehension repair. These signals function as prompts for struggling readers to help them internalize and routinize comprehension monitoring:

  • The inner voice inside the reader's head stops its conversation with the text and only the reader's voice is heard pronouncing the words.
  • The camera inside the reader's head shuts off, and the reader can no longer visualize what is happening.
  • The reader's mind begins to wander, and the reader becomes aware of thinking about something far removed from the text.
  • The reader cannot remember or retell what has been read.
  • The reader is not getting clarifying questions answered.
  • Characters are reappearing in the text and the reader doesn't recall who they are.

Source: Adapted from Heibert (2003) and Heibert and Fisher (2002).

One caveat before you are tempted to give your struggling students a handout with these six signals listed and announce that whenever these things happen, they need to refocus their attention. Struggling readers won't know what you are talking about. They hear no inner voices. They see no cameras or video recorders. Start from scratch and think aloud for students about one signal at a time. Explain very clearly what your inner voice is saying to you at various times. Tell them precisely where you zoned out and started thinking about what you were going to have for lunch. Then as you work with them in scaffolded silent reading groups, stop the reading every five minutes to talk about what their inner voices were saying when you called time. After spending a week or two with the inner-voice prompt, try the camera prompt. These will be new insights for your students and perhaps even for you as a reader.

McEwan, E.K. (2009). Teach them all to read. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.