Quality reading strategy instruction year-round is essential for your students to develop reading comprehension strategies that will help them make sense of texts. Your students need to know when and how to use these strategies in any genre. While all reading strategies are important to making meaning of the texts we read, today we’re going to focus on two and how they relate to understanding argumentative texts.
Comprehension Strategies That Will Help Your Students Understand Argumentative Text
Evaluating Details and Determining Key Ideas
Key ideas are the ideas your students need to understand to comprehend the text. Your students need explicit instruction in looking for how details are related and organized to determine which key ideas those details support.
When reading argumentative texts, the ability to pull out key ideas will help your students identify the author’s claim and the key points the author uses to support that claim.
Ways to Support and Build This Strategy:
- You can use pictures to help students evaluate details and determine key ideas. This is an engaging, concrete way to focus on the thinking process behind this strategy. Give your students time to examine the photo and ask, “What is the picture mostly about?” Guide them in a discussion about how they made sense of the details in the picture to determine the key ideas.
- Using interactive notebooks alongside short texts helps students organize their thinking about the details that support the key idea. These central idea interactive notebook pages are great practice with multiple styles of graphic organizers to help students visualize their thinking.
As readers, we draw on our background knowledge to help us make inferences about the text based on the evidence that is presented. The more text evidence we collect, the more certain we become about the inferences we make. This is an abstract concept that needs to be explicitly taught, modeled, and practiced throughout the year.
As with any genre, your students will need to make inferences throughout the text to understand the author’s message. In argumentative text, inferences will also need to be made about who the author’s intended audience is based on clues gathered from reading the text.
Ways to Support and Build This Strategy:
- Pictures, again, are an amazing tool. You and your students can make inferences about photographs, illustrations, and artwork. Be sure to discuss the evidence used to make these inferences, as this is what we need to rely on most.
- Think alouds during read aloud help make your thinking visible to the students. This is an excellent way to model using this strategy to understand text.
- Have a one-sided phone call in front of the class. (Don’t let them know it’s fake.) Read more about this free activity here.
- Interactive notebooks and graphic organizers alongside texts are a great way to help the students understand how to use this strategy to better understand what is being read.
- Task cards provide great ongoing practice of the strategy as they provide repeated practice in short, engaging chunks.
- While I love using task cards for extended practice, I do not recommend using them during your explicit instruction of the strategy. Using a longer, authentic text to model and guide students in making inferences is better for that as it shows the students that the goal of inferring is to understand what we are reading, not just to master making inferences.
Other Important Skills to Practice:
Your students need to have a basic understanding of author’s purpose to help them understand the genre as a whole. One of the things that sets this genre apart is, after all, the author’s purpose. This blog post has a lot of information about how to move beyond PIES with author’s purpose.
Fact and Opinion
Students also need to be able to distinguish between fact and opinion. Teaching this first will help students understand the validity and effectiveness of an author’s claim and rationale. Consider doing a sorting activity or using task cards to ensure students understand the difference.
What If My Students Haven’t Mastered These Things Yet?
I called these prerequisites, but they all need to be continually reviewed and practiced in authentic text. So, don’t worry if you don’t feel your students have mastered them before you need to start your argumentative text unit. You’ll continue to help them build their comprehension skills as you discuss the texts you read throughout the unit and the rest of the year.