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High School — Reading
Reading Process: Concepts of Print, Comprehension Strategies and Self-Monitoring Strategies

As we navigate the world around us, we must frequently read and understand written language. We are constantly developing and applying strategies to understand texts that range from street signs to literary works.

At the high school reading level, students should purposefully interact with texts. Beginning with their study of the reading process, students grasp that texts hold meaning and that the organization of a text contributes to its message. Throughout their academic careers, students encounter increasingly challenging texts in all subjects. They must continue to develop comprehension strategies.

When we read, we pull various tools from our comprehension toolbox. We imagine what comes next--how Jane Eyre will react to being locked in the spooky red room, or what will be the result of a chemical reaction outlined in a science textbook. We compare and contrast literary characters. We recall details and summarize a novel, or explain the gist of a chapter. We infer and draw conclusions, extracting essential knowledge and making it our own. These strategies help us gain a complete understanding of what we read. As students read independently, they must rely on their own judgement to select texts and to take control of their reading process.

In addition, independent, non-assigned reading is crucial to academic achievement. Of course, independent reading also leads to a lifelong appreciation of literature and its insights into the human condition.

The Ohio Academic Content Standards establish the following expectations for student performance in the area of Reading Process:

  • Students develop concepts of the meaning and organization of printed text;
  • Students learn to monitor their own comprehension strategies by asking and answering questions about the text, self correcting errors, and assessing their own understanding;
  • Students demonstrate their understanding of text by analysis and evaluation.

The content in this Teaching Tool is based on Ohio's Academic Content Standards and Benchmarks and includes types of questions asked on the Ohio Graduation Test. While various suggestions and activities for working with students are included, this Teaching Tool is designed to complement a rigorous, research-based curriculum, not to substitute for one.

Reading Process: Concepts of Print, Comprehension Strategies and Self-Monitoring Strategies

1. Reading Process

Click on the following benchmarks for more information and for links to annotated OGT items.


Benchmark A: Apply reading comprehension strategies to understand grade-appropriate text.

Benchmark A: Apply reading comprehension strategies to understand grade-appropriate text.

High school students learn such comprehension strategies as predicting, comparing, contrasting, summarizing, drawing conclusions and inferring. The challenges of applying these strategies increase at the higher reading levels. Discuss with students the steps they take and strategies they use in their individual reading processes.

Comparing and contrasting -- Remind your readers that we compare and contrast all the time, from noting what is similar and different in ourselves and others to deciding which items to purchase. Before writing or analyzing texts that compare and contrast, use the following discussions to spark your students' thinking about the skill of comparing and contrasting--in literature and in life.

Ask students to sit directly across from a partner. Give them the following task: Spend two minutes writing all of the things that are the same about you and your partner (such as eye color or age). Then take two minutes to write down the things that are different (such as hair color or gender). Remind students to organize their notes. For example, students might list the similarities in one column and the differences in another.

After students have completed this exercise, ask them to write five questions to find out more about their partners. Remind them to be considerate in the questions, and stipulate that students can pass on questions they do not wish to answer.

From these exercises, your students should determine the following:

  • We focus on consistent traits when we compare and contrast, noting the variables in those traits (such as eye color, hair color, height and gender).
  • We may notice apparent similarities and differences when we initially compare and contrast (such as physical characteristics), but we must ask pointed questions to conduct a more in-depth and accurate comparison.

Next, read an excerpt from a novel that includes two characters. Have students work in pairs to compare the characters. Talk about the different strategies individuals use to note the comparisons, such as graphic organizers like Venn diagrams, H-diagrams, two-column lists, bulleted lists under characters' names etc. Ask each student to explain his or her process.

Use this discussion to remind students that any compare or contrast writing must focus on generally consistent characteristics. For example, if asked to compare and contrast the characters of Ulysses (from Tennyson's poem) and Beowulf, students might focus on the heroic characteristics.

Based on these activities and discussions, have your students generate a list of rules about comparing and contrasting. The rules might include:

  • When comparing, list traits that are shared;
  • When contrasting, highlight traits that are different;
  • Initial observations normally uncover a superficial comparison;
  • Questions about your topic can reveal more significant similarities and differences.

Recalling and summarizing -- The ability to restate information in a concise form becomes more challenging for students when they encounter 19th century British literature or scientific abstracts. Discuss the following note-taking and summarizing techniques to prepare them for those types of challenges:

  • Two-column note-taking offers students a method for organizing main ideas and supporting details. Ask students to practice this summarizing technique as they read or listen to a text:
    • Draw a line down the center of the page to divide it into two sections;
    • Record major headings or concepts in the left column and write supporting details in the right column.
    Select a text that is organized for easy note-taking (such as a five-paragraph essay with a clearly stated main idea and supporting details) to model this procedure. Use an overhead projector to take your own notes on the sample text and describe your process as you do so.
  • Group summaries allow students to support each other's ideas.
    • Divide the chalkboard into sections, or provide groups with sheets of chart paper for each division of the text. For example, if students are summarizing a chapter from a textbook, organize the board or the sheets according to the major chapter headings. This way, the form of the summary will mirror the organization of the text.
    • Each student (or each group) reads a specific section, contributing summary information on the section. Be sure that students write complete sentences in their own words as they summarize.
    • Combine all of the suggestions from the charts or the board into one summary.
  • Provide summary guidelines for students, including the following points:
    • Exclude unnecessary details. Remove descriptive adjectives and repeated information to pare down the text to the basic points.
    • Reduce list size. Instead of long lists of words, use a key word or phrase to identify categories of information.
    • Outline the information. Consider the organization of the text (e.g., thesis statement, topic sentences and supporting details). Rephrase these crucial elements in clear, concise sentences so that someone who has not read the passage can gather the most important ideas.

Develop the essential question -- Challenge students to write their own essential questions. An essential question encompasses the who, what, where, when, why and how of a text. Can students think of a question that this text answers or addresses? What are the major issues, problems, concerns, interests, or themes in the text?

Avoid plagiarism -- Plagiarism occurs when a writer steals and passes off the ideas or words of another as his or her own or uses another's production without crediting the source. Instruct students to avoid plagiarism by quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing.

  • Quotations must be identical to the original wording of the author who is quoted. A quotation is taken word for word from a source and must be attributed to the original author.
  • Paraphrasing is the process of putting the words from a text into your own words. The author of the text must be credited, since the paraphrase represents a presentation of her ideas.
  • Summarizing involves putting the most important points of a text into your own words. This broad overview raises only the key ideas. When summarizing a writer's work, students must always document the source.

Making inferences and drawing conclusions -- Inferring involves "reading between the lines" to determine what an author is trying to say. Understanding what you read is a process of combining your thoughts, experiences, knowledge and questions with the meaning of the words on the page.

Uncover the subtext -- Help students to read between the lines by discussing the underlying meanings of literary passages, encouraging students to dissect the author's words. Ask them to consider the following:

  • What point do you think the author is making?
  • Can you select a quotation that supports the point you think the author is making?
  • What is the subtext, or the underlying meaning?

Click here to view an annotated item from the 2005 Ohio Graduation Test that addresses this benchmark.

Click here to view an annotated item from the 2005 Ohio Graduation Test that addresses this benchmark.

Click here to view an annotated item from the 2005 Ohio Graduation Test that addresses this benchmark.


Benchmark B: Demonstrate comprehension of print and electronic text by responding to questions (e.g., literal, inferential, evaluative and synthesizing).

Benchmark B: Demonstrate comprehension of print and electronic text by responding to questions (e.g., literal, inferential, evaluative and synthesizing).

Encourage your students to think about the kinds of questions they ask and are asked as readers. As they become familiar with various types of questions, have them identify--during class discussion and on assignments and tests--whether a question is literal, inferential, evaluative or synthesizing.

Literal questions check a reader's ability to identify information that is directly stated in the text. Students must locate facts and details in text to answer literal questions. Students will need to be clear about the question asked and be able to find the relevant information.

When answering questions about details in a text, students do not have to recall the information from memory. Instead, they need the skills to locate such information in the text. This difference is important because it changes the focus from memorizing information to finding information. Have students underline, circle or highlight the words or phrases that provide the response to literal questions.

  • Examples:
    • When was the summit of Everest first reached?
    • According to the article, one reason amateur radio is popular is _____________.

Inferential questions push the reader to play an active role in making meaning out of a text. While authors provide lots of information, the reader must carefully determine all that is implied by the facts and details. Inferential comprehension involves reading between the lines or finding clues in the text when the meaning is implicit and not obvious. By making inferences and extending the meaning of a text beyond the text itself, students will quickly discover the rich and complicated ideas that many different types of texts present.

  • Examples:
    • How would you describe the narrator?
    • Why did Macbeth see Banquo's ghost?

Evaluative questions provide an opportunity to move beyond a specific text. Students' knowledge, experiences and values form the basis for judging the quality of an author's work.

  • Examples:
    • Why was Antigone motivated to risk her life for others?
    • Should the government raise the minimum wage?

Synthesizing questions challenge readers to consider information from one part of a text in relation to another part. Readers often need to internalize the facts presented in a text so that they can recognize them when they are rephrased, and apply the information to new contexts. In doing so, readers bring together the separate elements of a text to form a whole.

Readers might ask such synthesizing questions as:

  • Where else might this story take place?
  • What other texts have I read that raise this theme?
  • What other books have I read like this one?
  • Does this character remind me of anyone? How do the similarities between these characters highlight the common traits of certain types of people?
  • Examples:
    • What is the relationship between the characters?
    • How does this character change over time?

Click here to view an annotated item from the 2005 Ohio Graduation Test that addresses this benchmark.

Click here to view an annotated item from the 2005 Ohio Graduation Test that addresses this benchmark.

Click here to view an annotated item from the 2005 Ohio Graduation Test that addresses this benchmark.


Benchmark C: Use appropriate self-monitoring strategies for comprehension.

Benchmark C: Use appropriate self-monitoring strategies for comprehension.

Whether reading for enjoyment, for information or for literary experience, readers use strategies to guide their reading process. Help students monitor their own understanding by setting purposes for reading, skimming and scanning text, looking back, note taking and summarizing.

Set a purpose -- Why am I reading this? is the primary question students revisit as they read. A clear purpose for reading helps us look for particular things, and determine specific questions to answer as we read. Setting a purpose is most often done when students are reading school assignments; however, they can get more out of leisure reading by challenging themselves to set purposes, which might include paying attention to an author's use of language.

To teach students how to determine reading purposes, have them ask:

  • Am I reading to gather information about a certain topic?
  • Am I reading for entertainment?
  • Am I reading to think about language?
  • Am I reading for information I need to complete a task?

Look over the book -- Students should begin by getting a general sense of the book they are about to read. Discuss with students the information they can get from the title, the cover, the illustrations, the diagrams or other visual cues. Ask them what the arrangement of the chapters or the sections of the book suggests. In addition, encourage them to think about the book's genre. For example, if they are about to read a collection of poems, what unique features of poetry will they want to keep in mind as they read?

Reading to gain information -- When reading for information, students must identify the organization of arguments, recognize essential details and understand the connections between the details, facts and main ideas presented. Students must become acquainted with methods of organization and the different purposes of informational texts as they will frequently use these texts to conduct research.

As students reflect on their reading processes, use the following questions to stimulate discussion:

  • Activate background knowledge -- Help students recognize what knowledge they bring to a first reading of an informational text:
    • What do I already know about this subject?
    • Where or when did I learn this information?
    • What do I now want to learn about this subject?
  • Keep inquiry open -- As students start reading an informational piece, they might ask the following questions:
    • What important information do the first few sentences of each paragraph present? The last few sentences of each paragraph?
    • What important words and phrases does the text highlight with italicization, bold lettering, or such phrases as "Most importantly..." or "It is critical to understand that..."?
    • What are the necessary words and phrases I should highlight, underline or note?
    • What information surprises me?

Reading to perform a task -- When they take on instructive texts, students build their critical reading skills by asking such questions as, "Is this information reliable? How does this information help me complete the task I am working on?"

Challenge your students to keep a journal for one week of all the texts they read to perform tasks, such as signs, maps, advertisements, telephone books, websites, recipes, personal notes and written instructions. Ask them to reflect on their reading processes. Discuss the following questions as students share their observations in class:

  • Consider text organization. The world of information requires different navigational strategies for various purposes. Ask your readers to consider the following questions when reading to perform a task:
    • Is the text organized as a narrative (includes an introduction, a section of development and a conclusion, like a short story)?
    • Is the text organized sequentially (with one unit or item following another in a logical order, like an alphabetized telephone book)?
    • Is the text organized categorically (divided into units or groups of information, like a website)?
    • Is the text organized visually (arranged graphically, like a map)?
  • Evaluate context. Discuss various situations that require us to read to perform tasks.
    • How does our prior knowledge or understanding of these situations affect the processes we use when we encounter such texts?



Help With Fundamentals

These activities can help you address the fundamentals of Reading Process with your students.

Activity 1

Novel Endings

Ask students to write the next chapter of a piece of literature they have studied in class. Drawing on the story's characters and events, students should write a plausible follow-up to the author's original ending. For example, students might consider writing a chapter to describe the other characters' reactions to Edna Pontillier's suicide in The Awakening or a postscript to Romeo and Juliet, in which the Montague and Capulet families meet in Verona after the young lovers die.

After students write their new endings, have them trade with a partner or share them aloud. Ask the listeners to point out which events in the new ending are logical, based on what they know of the characters in the story. Have the listeners list the character traits or actual events from the story that back up their classmates' predictions. If the new endings do not seem logical, discuss why.

Activity 2

Literary Game Show

Ask students to create game show questions about a novel you have recently completed in class. Students should gather in groups to create literal, inferential, evaluative and synthesizing questions about the text. Groups can quiz one another as they choose from the four question categories. This creates a fun review of a text and establishes metacognition about the kinds of questions we use to discuss literature.

Activity 3

Beginning the Reading Process: Selecting Texts

Help your students develop as independent readers by encouraging them to find books that reflect their interests. Take a walk with your students through a library or book store. Ask them to head to the shelves that attract them. Afterwards, ask them What made you walk into this area? What drew you to this particular shelf of books?

In addition, provide your students with a personal interest survey. Give them time to think about what inspires or motivates them. Remind students that there are articles, journals, books and Web sites about every interest--from video games to knitting to rugby. Create opportunities for students to read widely in an area of personal interest.

Additional Instruction and Practice

These activities may be useful for students who require additional instruction and practice with Reading Process.

Activity 1

Power Summaries

Ask students to summarize a relevant text, such as a chapter of a novel or a poem. Have students present the most important themes and ideas from this selection by sharing their findings in a PowerPoint presentation. Discuss with your students how a PowerPoint slide demands limited text since viewers see the slides as an enhancement to a speaker's presentation. This will encourage students to be concise in their summarization. Using the presentation they have prepared as an outline, students will also practice speaking about a text in their own words.

Activity 2

Talking to Yourself

Challenge each student to write a one-page interior monologue (as if the character is talking to himself) in which the narrator is anxious about receiving some news, such as the grade on an important test, or an offer for a high-paying summer job. Tell students, however, that they are not allowed to tell their reader how the character feels. In other words, the speaker cannot say, "I'm so nervous!" or "I can't wait!" The writers must use the character's actions and speech in ways that show, not tell, the character's emotions.

The point of this exercise is to help students create a text that allows a reader to infer the speaker's emotions and develop insight into the character.

Activity 3

Calling all Readers

Consider starting a book club at your school. This is a great way to share your love of reading with students, to allow yourself some time for pleasure reading, and to generate enthusiasm among students. As a moderator of a student book club, you will have the opportunity to explore literature that your students choose independently and you will get to know more about their tastes and interests. Meet for an hour or two each month after school to discuss a book. Here are a few suggestions for getting your book club off the ground and maintaining the momentum:

  • Start by leading students in the creation of a student-generated reading list for the year. Encourage each person to share a book he or she loves and to recommend favorite authors.
  • Select books according to relevant themes (an academic theme for September as you head back to school, suspense for October, etc.).
  • Enhance the reading with theme-related foods. (For example, everything the students bring in as snacks for a discussion of Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees can be made with honey.)
  • Read books by local authors or that are set in proximity to your city, town or region and visit places described in the text.
  • Invite authors or speakers to join your meetings.

Advanced Work

These activities can help your students reach the next level in their understanding of Reading Process.

Activity 1

Writing a Critical Review

Encourage students to write reviews of the books they read independently or in class. Remind students to consider the following as they identify, summarize and evaluate the ideas and information the author has presented:

  • Clearly state your position about the book in your introduction.
  • Compare or contrast your point of view to that of the author by evaluating specific parts of the text.
  • Make a few key points about the book or article; do not discuss everything the author writes.
  • Conclude your commentary with a statement that is suitable to the purpose of your review. (Some reviews summarize the book's content and then evaluate it; others comment on the book and summarize only to give examples.)

Ask students to read scholarly book reviews in such publications as The London Review of Books or The New York Review of Books.

Activity 2

Synthesizing Classics and Culture

Literature addresses universal human struggles and celebrations. Readers of classic literature are able to participate in a cultural dialogue, and well-read students are empowered with the knowledge behind references, allusions and expressions they encounter in daily conversation as they enter college and the work force.

Encourage your students to connect their classroom literary explorations with their experiences in the world outside of school. Look for references and allusions in newspaper headlines, movies, commercials and songs. Shakespearean references are particularly common in daily life. References to "something's rotten in the state of Denmark," or "all the world's a stage," will resonate beyond just the readers who paid attention when they read Hamlet and As You Like It in high school. The references are familiar to many, but have deeper meaning to those who know the texts.

Ask your students to bring in examples of literary references in pop culture. Encourage them to conduct an Internet search of famous lines from literature to see how many resources they discover. This discussion will illuminate for students the value of literary experience beyond the classroom. In addition, the process of identifying relationships between academic texts and cultural experience challenges students to synthesize ideas.

Activity 3

Personal Recommendations

Students benefit from having you as a model reader. If you are an avid reader yourself, it is easy to convince young people of the value of a great story. Your enthusiasm trickles down to your students as you discuss the books, authors and genres you love.

Informally discuss what books you are reading for pleasure and which authors and genres you enjoy. (You may have more recommendations to share with them after vacations when you can leave behind the paper load and indulge in personal reading!) Take time to consider the interests of each of your students and come up with a short personalized reading list. This gesture communicates powerful messages to your class. By taking the time to notice their interests and finding a book or two that each of them might enjoy, you let students know that you care about their reading, that you are interested in knowing what they might like to read, and that books are a personal journey.

Keep a bulletin board in class for students to post recommendations for one another. This exciting hub in your classroom might evolve into a centerpiece that encourages a culture of discussing books. Leave paper and markers handy so that students can post personal notes or recommendations for one another. (You could refer to these as IRs, Instant Recommendations, since students communicate actively using Instant Messaging programs and enjoy IM'ing each other.) Other recommendations might come from individual students to the entire class. Ask students to post the relevant information for each recommended book (author, title, publisher and number of pages) and a brief description to entice other readers. You might use this as an opportunity to model correct citation forms, such as the order and punctuation of an MLA-style list in a works cited entry.

As you recommend books for your students and as your students suggest books to one another, encourage them to seek out other titles from authors they enjoy or from types of writing that are interesting to them. This process encourages students to develop self-monitoring strategies such as setting a purpose for reading, activating background knowledge, and developing inquiry--skills that will serve them in academic settings and beyond.