In our fast-moving world it’s important to teach 21st century skills. Critical reading is one of them. Information is the most valuable thing and critical reading actually teaches to work with the information given. It is an interesting approach that teaches students to think in their own way and as a result create something unique apart from other ideas. Using this method they can recognize an author‘s purpose, understand persuasive elements, recognize bias (which is extremely cool). It’s not about reading and absorbing the material totally, it’s about evaluating it.

Here is a short plan of critical reading. There are four steps you shouldn’t forget about:

— Previewing — jumping around in the text (just look through and highlight main ideas)

— Reading itself and annotating (you can also use note taking). Remember, this process is quite long.

— Thinking (ask yourself to answer the questions the author raises, try to express your own point of view)

— Evaluating (read one more time, try to analyze the text)

How can we teach critical reading?

1) We need to teach students to both read & think critically.

It can be reached by practicing different tasks like:

— comparison

Ask your students to compare two characters. You can work on comparatives and superlatives (e.g. “The second character is more complicated  than the first as …”), connectors (whereas, while etc.).

— analyzing stories

Don’t leave the story you’ve read without analysis. Ask your students to share their thoughts about things they’ve just read. If the student isn’t really talkative, ask some leading questions yourself (e.g. What’s the aim of the author in writing this text? What’s a moral of the story? Why did the author choose such kind of a structure? How are the facts, examples used and interpreted?)

— predicting

If you are working with a story, you’ll probably need to draw a tree with branches asking some questions like “What would happen next”? Then students will share thoughts and you’ll collect their opinions. You can also give a prize to those who wins at the end (a tasty candy is always a pleasure).

— debates

This can be easily practised with high-level students. You say the controversial phrase based on the topic of reading like “Facebook* is dying” and ask whether your students agree. If you teach individually, you should say that you disagree, and if you have a group, there will be different opinions anyway. Remember, the controversial question should be connected with the idea of the text you’ve read.

— creating a final

That’s one more creative task. Ask your student to suggest an alternative final of the story you read or listen to during the lesson.

Find more information about critical thinking.

2) There is one more effective method which will really help your student both while reading in the class and outside it. This strategy is called an “Insert” — students should mark statements according to their experience and interest. “V” means it’s a well-known, “+” means it’s new and interesting, “-“ means “I don’t believe” and “?” means they need more details. The can also use colourful pens.

3) Don’t forget to teach note-taking. Tell your students it requires time and patience. How to make notes?

— Use cornell notes.

— Use a marking system (stars/arrows/circles/numbers at key passages, color coded highlights, confusing sentences, evidence, unfamiliar words, etc.).

Should I use it during my lessons?

Not only! You can practise it as a home reading in order to save the time in the lesson. Give your students a hometask to read and take notes at home and then discuss all the things in a classroom.

*Facebook belongs to Meta Platforms Inc., whose activities are recognized as extremist and banned in the Russian Federation.

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