That Is Some List!!!

photo of me graduating from the master's program in reading

I'm a reading specialist, now! Bring on the struggling students!

Fresh out of the master’s program in reading, I created a list of things good readers do. The list was to be used with my students in my new reading specialist position. This list included:

  1. Preview the text.
  2. Activate your background knowledge.
  3. Set a purpose for reading. (What do you want to find out? What do you want to learn? What do you want to do?)
  4. Make predictions as you read and modify them when necessary.
  5. When you run across unfamiliar vocabulary words, try to figure out what they mean by using context clues, looking them up in a dictionary, or asking someone else what they mean.
  6. Monitor your comprehension. As you read, make sure you ask yourself if what you are reading is making sense. If it is not making sense, use one or more comprehension strategies to try to make it make sense.
  7. THINK while you read! Don’t just read the words and expect to understand.
  8. Make inferences and then, as you read further, retain them, modify them, or reject them based on additional textual information. Good inferences combine our personal experiences with textual clues. They are supported by the text and consistent with our experiences. (What’s your line of reasoning?)
  9. Make evaluations–especially about what characters do.
  10. Visualize (or act it out).
  11. Draw a picture.
  12. Try reading it aloud.
  13. Reread or read ahead.
  14. Summarize what you read in your own words.
  15. Use study guides when available.
  16. Answer questions.
  17. Ask questions.
  18. WONDER
  19. Read with good fluency.
  20. Know that some answers are found (1) from just the text, (2) from just your head, and (3) by combining information from the text with information in your head.
  21. Read the titles, headings, and captions.
  22. Analyze figures, charts, and maps.
  23. Connect what you read to personal experiences; other texts–including movies, cartoons, TV shows, and songs; and to the world in general.
  24. Determine the most import ideas.
  25. Think about cause and effect. (What caused this to happen?)
  26. Think about the mood of the passage. (Is it happy, sad, scary, intense, dramatic, etc.?)
  27. Think about the author’s purposes for writing the passage.
  28. Think about the time the story takes place and connect it to your background knowledge of that time period.
  29. READ A LOT!!!!!!
  30. Discuss what you have read with someone else who has read the text, too.
  31. Write about what you read. Include your “Ah has” and connections.

  32. Now reading this list, you might be thinking, “That is some list!!!” which it is. It’s a great list of things good readers do while they are reading to help them understand. However, it is loaded with jargon that struggling readers often do not understand, isn’t it? That’s what I thought, too. So I decided to think up some kind of mantra that would help struggling readers. This is what I came up with:

    You get out of reading what you put into it. Good readers do MORE than just read the words. Good readers think, wonder, reflect, and connect while they read.”

    That is much more manageable isn’t it? I’m not saying I did not teach my students the other items on the list, but I felt that these were the most essential things that good readers do. I still believe it. Yet, this mantra was still a bit cumbersome. One day I looked up at the four words (think, wonder, reflect and connect) written on the white board and realized they made a great acronym–”TWRC” that rhymed with “work.” From that day on, I consistently used it with my struggling readers and I think it made a positive impact on their reading comprehension. I was especially pleased when they would enter the classroom by saying, “I’m here to work hard and TWRC hard, Mrs. Petersen!”

    Here is a conversation I often had with students who were still at the beginning phase of becoming a TWRCr:

    Student: Teacher, I don’t get this!
    Me: Did you TWRC while you read that part?
    Student: No, not really.
    Me: Well, what do you think you should do now?
    Student: Reread it and be sure to TWRC.
    Me: Good thinking! Let me know how it goes.


    Student: I get it now! I must have missed…

    I am not saying this was always the response, but it happened enough to know I should keep it in my teacher tool belt. In addition, the phrase “Happy TWRCing!” is fun to say to each other (and a good reminder) before reading. Well, at least my students and I loved it. :)

    Note: If you have taken the time to read this post, would you please take a second to click on the stars below to rate this post? Thanks a bunch–I really appreciate the feedback. :)


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  • junemorgan

    If adults had to go through this process, no one would ever, ever read. There would be no consumers to read, no publishers to publish, no authors to write. That is why many kids do not read. Some teachers will not let them read until they have skilled them to death!
    What is the bottom line? We want kids to be able to read, to comprehend, to discuss what they have read. Kids are skilled so much that they don't want to read because they have had enough.

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  • Reading Countess

    While I understand your misguided comment, I would like to point out that as the most experienced reader in the room, it is the teacher's job to bring the fine art of reading to life for the novice reader. “Skills” that have become second nature to us because we have had a lifetime to practice them and integrate them into our reading, are a mystery to newbies. We must make the art of reading visible to them-thinking aloud the process and showing them that reading IS THINKING. Without explicit instruction, discussion, think aloud, and modeling, kids (mistakenly) assume reading is a cinch and that if they struggle to understand, that they must be dumb. Reading is an art, and as such, it must be shown how to do properly.

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  • Julie Niles Petersen

    Joan: If I understand correctly, you are saying that if adults had to do everything on this list in a step-by-step fashion with everything we read, we would probably not read much. To that, I agree. Many (not all) teachers are spending more time teaching comprehension strategies than they are letting the students actually read. I think this is your main point and it has grave implications because the less we read, the less background knowledge we acquire and the less background knowledge we have, the less we are able to understand other texts.

    Yes, Joan, the bottom line is that we want kids (and adults) to be able to read with good comprehension so that they can have good discussions about the content. That is how we learn. I have found that giving struggling readers time to share aloud what they wonder as they read has a positive affect on reading engagement and it usually lead to great discussions. Unfortunately, I do not think the typical classroom teacher allots much time for sharing wonders. As I said in the post, “the more we put INTO reading, the more we will get out of it.

    The one thing I disagree with you on is this statement, “Kids are skilled so much that they don't want to read because they have had enough.” This might be true for proficient readers, but it is not true for struggling ones. I have worked with many struggling readers who inaccurately believe that good readers read the words and understand as if by magic. And when they don't understand, as Reading Countess said, they think they are not as smart as their peers. This is unfortunate.

    Earlier today, there was a great comment by @TrudyNorton on Twitter in response to this post. She said, “Thanks for sharing this list. Sometimes we pull skills apart so much we forget how to put them all together for easy access.” I think this is a great summary of the main point of my post. Especially since many items on the list can be considered thinking, wondering, reflecting or connecting. Even struggling students understand the meaning of these words (more or less). However, their level of TWRCing is typically well below that of those who do not struggle with reading. Thus, we need to model good TWRCing with students–especially the strugglers.

    Reading Countess: You are also correct. Teachers are the most experienced readers in the room. The items on the list *are* second nature to good readers. Reading IS thinking! That is why it is so important to model what good readers do and why I think the acronym TWRC is so helpful. However, giving this list to a struggling reader would not be very helpful. They do not understand most of these words. I was actually surprised by how many students at the 5th & 6th grade level did not know the meaning of “comprehension.” I think getting these students to understand the gist of reading is very helpful. Good readers DO think, wonder, reflect, and make connections as they read. They also have tools they can use when the reading is difficult. The tools are the items on the list. However, good readers do not use every tool on the list with every text. But, good readers do TWRC while reading any text they want to understand more deeply.

    Please let me know if I have misinterpreted any meaning, or if you disagree with what I said. After all, I am a TWRCr and I do love to TWRC! :)

    For all readers of this post, please click on the word “like” below this post if you agree with what I have said. I would love to know what you think.

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  • Ingrid Veilleux

    Research says most early readers need direct phonics instruction (perhaps assumed but possibly missing?).
    31 criteria for good reading is quite long.
    Most effective criteria (within memory span of children has only 2-5 concepts – maybe for adults too – that would explain the comment from June). Which are most important to you/according to research?
    I agree that via the specificity of your list, the teacher has specific targets for instruction (in fact, each item represents a manageable 'chunk' for instruction and 'chunking' is a significant teachers so that we don't over- or under-whelm learners).
    Categorizing under 2-5 umbrella categories, might be helpful. Then people can 'go deeper' with each category.
    Great list. Lots of food for thought.

  • June Morgan

    I truly didn't mean to upset the world. All I intended to say was that, along with skill development, students need to practice. Yes, your list is a mega list. Currently, I am in the process of taking a MS reading course to renew, for one more time, my 38 year certificate. In this course, we were given 6 major reading strategies. The list could be categorized into those strategies. I love reading and model that love to any student. It all fits together: skills and practice. One cannot be successful without the other.
    Congratulations on your degree. We need enthusiastic replacements for those of us who are on the downside. BTW, one of my degrees is in reading. I look forward to your future posts.

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  • Reading Countess

    YES–perfectly stated, as always. Oftentimes people outside our profession, or even those who do not teaching reading per se, believe that the job of a reading teacher is an oxymoron. These same people think that kids learn to read simply by reading. Yes, time to practice what we have explicitly taught through a myriad of methods: think aloud, mini-lessons, small group, talking buddy, read aloud…is crucial. It is an integral part of my workshop, and should be in every reading classroom. But again, EXPLICIT instruction so that the supposed ease with which proficient readers read is revealed is an absolute must. Thanks for your succinct and thoughtful response.

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  • Ingrid Veilleux

    Hi June,
    I actually loved your comment. I fully agree that when we de-construct something, it sounds very complicated. I would be reluctant to embark on any 31 step project!!
    On the other hand, once we know something deeply, we recognize its complexity so this de-construction is wonderful. I've book-marked it for future reference.
    Let's not shy away from healthy debate as it is so good to question our own assumptions.
    And look at how many of us are passionate about reading and teaching!!
    Best wishes all.

  • Julie Niles Petersen

    Great points, Ingrid! I originally wrote the list after reflecting on all the reading comprehension strategies we discussed in the master's program. I certainly did not think then (or now) that good readers do each of the items on the list with each and every text, but they are things I wanted to be sure to explicitly teach my students. However, the list is overwhelming, isn't it? And I say that as an experienced reader. I wonder how struggling readers feel when reading this list.

    You mention categorizing the items on my list. I think that is what I did and came up with TWRC.

    I agree. It is a great list and has lots of food for thought. I still have so much to learn about teaching comprehension effectively, as do the reading researchers. Several of them are currently rethinking how comprehension strategies are being taught in the classroom. I am sure I will write future posts on this topic.

    P.S. I once heard that we have one minute of attention for every year we have been alive with a maximum of a 20 minute attention span. So, a one-year-old has a one minute attention span, a two-year-old has a two minute attention span, etc. Having heard this really changed how I taught first grade where students are five and six years old.

  • Julie Niles Petersen

    June, I did not think you meant to upset the world and I am really glad you took the time to post your original comment. Getting our intentions across in writing is not an easy task as our readers come to the text with differing experiences and beliefs and our text is read through the readers' lens, not our own. Our readers also make inferences that we also did not necessarily mean to imply. I am so glad you came back to add to the dialogue. :)

    Congratulations on going back to school! I hope you share your journey with us. What are the six major reading strategies they gave you? I have my suspicions, but would love to hear.

    Yes, skills and practice both need to be a part of a reading program and modeling a love of reading (and vocabulary) is SO important.

    I finished my coursework for the master's in the Fall of 2005, but thank you for the congratulations. :) Yes, I am enthusiastic, but it sounds like you are, too–even though you say you are “on the downside.” ;)

    I look forward to reading your future posts, June!

    P.S. I am sure I will post more about making inferences. It is one of my favorite areas of comprehension to research.

  • Julie Niles Petersen


    Well said! Well said! :D

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  • June Morgan

    The 6 reading strategies in this article include: Making Connections, Questioning, Visualizing, Making Inferences, Determining Importance, and Synthesizing Information. This article came from the following website: It was written by Barbara Kraemer-Cook.
    I don't know what level of students you will be working with, but I gave ONE CRAZY SUMMER to a self-proclaimed “I don't read” 8th grader. I just asked her to try it. She brought it back to me two days later. She read it completely. Of course, I had another one ready for her – just in case she asked for more. She did! That is what makes me happy!

  • Reading Countess

    Comprehension Connections is a great book that addresses these six strategies in a concrete manner for teachers to use as mini-lessons to kids. Again, the emphasis on MINI prior to independent reading time! :)

  • Julie Niles Petersen

    The six reading comprehension strategies you mention are definitely big ones, Joan.

    Reading Countess, thank you for sharing the book that addresses them and the reminder that the mini lesson's emphasis should be on MINI! :)

    I have worked as a reading specialist with students from kindergarten through sixth grade.

    Getting self-proclaimed non-readers to become literacy enthusiasts is a challenging task, but when you succeed, it is so exciting! Some day I hope to be as good as Donalyn Miller (aka the Book Whisper).

    Readers: If you are not aware of Donalyn's blog, you can check it out here:

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  • Ka19maynard

    Hello Julie,
    I am doing my reading specialist practicum ! I love your list ! Isn’t it amazing that we learned to read and comprehend without all the explicit instruction in comprehension . Well , that is my experience but we read more. Keep up the great work ! I am on a mission to raise the profile of reading . Chanelle

    • Julie Niles Petersen

      Hi Chanelle,

      You and I may have learned to comprehend what we read without explicit comprehension instruction. (But, then again, I don’t remember much about how I learned to read.)  What is important to keep in mind is that many students will not be able to comprehend without explicit comprehension instruction. Some struggling students do not even know they need to think about what they read–they think that good readers read the words and magically understand what they read.

      Thank you so much for your compliment and for taking the time to comment. I wish you much luck on your reading specialist practicum and on your mission in raising the profile of reading.