Purposeful Reading: Engaging Students in Content Text
I had the opportunity to observe a guided reading lesson in a second grade class last week. The children were reading a book called Wonderful Worms, by Linda Glaser. The teacher did a fine job of introducing the book to the children and worked hard to set the purpose for reading. The teacher said, "I want you to read this book to find out why the author named this book, Wonderful Worms." As purpose setting questions go, this is a good one, because it was general enough to allow the children to think about the whole story and specific enough to allow the students to focus on the main message of the story. As Tim Shanahan has pointed out here, when purpose questions are too specific they may take student attention away from a fuller understanding of the text. The teacher added to the purpose setting by asking the students what questions they had about the story. These questions tapped into the students' own curiosity on the topic and so were also helpful in setting purposes for reading.
Despite these fine efforts by the teacher, not all the students in the guided reading group were buying into it. One boy sped through the pages very quickly and when the teacher went to his side and asked that he read aloud, his oral reading showed lots of speed, but little meaning making. The overall impression was that this child's purpose was to get through with the task as quickly and as painlessly as possible. He wanted to be done with the exercise and comprehension be damned. All the good work of purpose setting was lost on this reader.
Student purposes and teacher purposes are often in competition in a reading assignment. Very often students who are asked to answer questions Russ on Reading: Purposeful Reading: Engaging Students in Content Text: