What does this even mean?? This question seems to pop up often in my reading life lately. You see earlier this year I decided to take the plunge and jump back into university life in pursuit of another masters degree. I knew that along with the joy of learning, there would be challenges. I anticipated the late nights and workload that would add to the already full life of a mom, wife, friend, and educator. However, what I didn’t anticipate was how being thrown into high level academia once again would help me to support students as they approach the complex texts they’ll see on their standardized tests.
For the first time in a long while, I found myself reading entire paragraphs and then realizing I had no idea with the author was trying to say. Sitting on my couch with articles about curriculum theory on my lap, I knew I had to work out some ways to find the meaning in these readings. I had to push myself through extremely complex texts and use strategies to help myself make meaning. This is not unlike the work that our students have to do when they encounter difficult texts in their testing.
So… here are some strategies that can help students work through the difficult and sometimes dull texts that they’ll experience in their assessments.
- When you find yourself confused, reread that section aloud or at least mouth the words. Hearing the phrasing aloud seems to help break the sentences down into manageable sections, and can help the reader make meaning.
- Pause after paragraphs or sections that were confusing. Ask yourself, “How does this section relate to the bigger ideas of the text?”
- Identify parts that make sense within a section that might feel confusing overall. Then ask yourself, “How does this part that is clear connect to this part (right before or after it) that seems fuzzy?”
- Take your time. The pace that you may be used to when your engaged and loving a favorite novel is not the same pace that will work for more complex texts. You may need to slow your pace and allow thinking time more often to connect the dots.
- When feeling frustrated, pause to take a few deep, centering breaths. You may even want to use some positive self-talk like, I can do this. You can’t let the feelings of challenge get you down.
Hopefully these strategies can help students find success in any text that they encounter. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t end with this last bit of advice for teachers who may be thinking about moving into a test prep unit. In my grad work, I was reminded of how reading texts that are hard can steal the joy from our reading lives and replace it with feelings of frustration. DO NOT let test prep passages be the only reading kids do during a test prep unit. Preserve time for kids to read texts that they can understand and love. Keep the joy in their reading.