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Subject-Specific Resources

Reading Comprehension and Considerate Text

Studies have shown that students find it easier to understand and learn from text that is considerate, or reader friendly. Features of considerate text such as clear titles, heads, and subheads; visual aids; and directly stated main ideas promote comprehension and recall of information—if students use them. This article describes major features that characterize considerate text and ways that a teacher can encourage students to use them.

Characteristics of Considerate Text
Three characteristics help define considerate text: clear text structures, coherent writing, and audience awareness.

Clear Text Structures
The first characteristic—clear text structures—refers to the sequencing of ideas or actions. Considerate text features logical patterns of organization such as these:

  • Chronological order, or the presentation of actions or events in the order in which they actually occurred or should be performed
  • Comparison and contrast, or the presentation of similarities and differences between two or more people, places, or things
  • Cause and effect, or the presentation of interactions between at least two actions or events—one of them a cause, or reason, and the other an effect, or result
To complement and draw attention to text structures, considerate text may also include graphic organizers or other visual aids. For example, text that compares and contrasts might be accompanied by a Venn diagram that sums up similarities and differences.

A second characteristic of considerate text—coherence—refers to the clarity with which the parts of a text are connected. In considerate text, connections are made explicit through the use of features like these:

  • Heads and subheads that "chunk" text for readers and help them see how sections of text relate to each other
  • Directly stated main ideas that help students understand central points and see their relationship to supporting details
  • Use of transitional words and expressions that signal and clarify the relationships between actions, events, or ideas. For example, cause-and-effect relationships may be signaled by transitions like because, consequently, and as a result.
Audience Awareness
A third characteristic of considerate text—audience awareness—refers to the degree with which text anticipates and fulfills readers' needs. Considerate text seeks to meet students' comprehension and study needs through the use of features like these:
  • Prereading questions or activities that encourage students to activate their prior knowledge of a subject
  • Clear titles and introductions or overviews that preview main ideas
  • Vocabulary aids that help students understand key terms
  • Questions or other types of comprehension checks that help students evaluate how well they understand what have they read
Classroom Uses of Considerate Text
Teachers should not assume that students automatically recognize or effectively use the features of considerate text. Struggling readers may overlook aids to comprehension, while other readers may skip over helpful features in the mistaken belief that skipping will save time. Here are some ways that teachers can help students reap the benefits of considerate text.
  • Teach text structures
    Before assigning students to read considerate text, determine which structure is key to understanding the text. Define the structure in class and list any transitional expressions in the text that signal the structure. Then distribute copies of an appropriate graphic organizer and direct students to use it to take reading notes. Or organize students into post-reading groups and direct group members to complete the graphic organizer together.

  • Encourage students to use text features to predict content
    Before students read considerate text, read aloud the title of the text. If pictures or photographs accompany the text, draw students' attention to them. Then ask students to predict what the text will be about. Follow up by reading aloud any heads and subheads in the text and asking students whether the additional information verifies or contradicts their predictions. Allow students to change their predictions if they wish. Conclude by having students read the article to check their predictions.

  • Model how to find directly stated main ideas
    Point out that main ideas are often directly stated at or near the beginning of a text or chunk of text. Distribute copies of a well-constructed essay or informational article, and read aloud the title and the introductory paragraphs. Explain how the title and main idea interrelate. Then identify the main idea or ideas in the introduction. Follow up by pairing students and challenging them to underline the main idea of each paragraph or unit of text. Have student pairs report their findings to the class and explain their reasoning.

  • Provide payoffs
    Help ensure that students are rewarded for using the features of considerate text. For example, if a text contains vocabulary previews, build pop quizzes around the vocabulary words. And if a text includes summaries or questions, keep them in mind when you construct quizzes and tests.

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