1 Learning to read for information
When we read in real life, we usually read for a particular purpose and to find out information. We usually don’t focus on individual words, but on the overall meaning of what is being communicated, or the particular details about something we want to find out. In Activity 1, you will think about some of the texts you encounter in your everyday life and how you extract the information you need from them.
Activity 1: Reading different types of information-based texts
Think about the information-based texts you have read during the last week. These might have included a newspaper, an online technical manual, a train timetable, a recipe, advertisements, road signs or your students’ written homework. List at least four that you can recall and then answer the following questions:
- Why did you read the texts?
- Which texts did you simply skim to pick up the key points? Which did you have to read slowly or more than once?
- Did you have difficulty understanding some of what you read? If so, how did you work out the meaning?
- What do you know about what your students have read during the last week?
Different texts will make different demands on your reading skills. An official document or instruction manual may include unfamiliar technical terms or jargon. A newspaper article may refer to places and issues beyond your experience and understanding. Your students’ homework might incorporate irregular spellings. Even proficient, fluent readers regularly face challenges of this kind.
People’s backgrounds and prior experiences play an important role in helping them to make sense of what they read. If you are already knowledgeable about a local health campaign, for example, a leaflet about this would be immediately comprehensible to you. Without this background knowledge, you might only be able to guess at the meaning of the leaflet. Students are constantly developing their knowledge of the world around them. Their ability to interpret what they read will thus be developing at the same time.