ParaPro Reading Study Guide: Student Strategies

Intro Paragraph

Help Students Use Pre-reading Strategies, Such as Skimming or Making Predictions

The questions here will focus on what you, as a teacher, should do to help students with the material or with making inferences about a topic.

Examples of questions you’ll see include:

  • What would be a good pre-reading strategy for learning about the subject?
  • By looking over the passage, what kind of genre do you think the story falls under?
  • By reading the title, what prediction would you make about the type of story this is?

The following is some advice to keep in mind for pre-reading strategies:

  • Activate background knowledge. Activities where students are asked to write down what they know and what they want to learn are good ideas. This allows them to integrate new ideas with what they’ve already learned.
  • Have students read about the background of the topic. For example, if you’re getting ready to read A Christmas Carol, learning about Charles Dickens and what life was like in England in the mid-1800s would be a good way to learn more about the story.
  • Learning new vocabulary. Before getting into the text, it’s good to go over new words they’ll come across that align with the text.

The following is some advice for making predictions:

  • Know how a title can give an indication about what a story is about before even reading a passage. For example, “Adventures in a Time Machine” can give an indication you’re about to read a science fiction story.

Look at the example below:

Example 1

A paraprofessional is about to do a unit on Medieval Romance, including stories about King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable. What would be a good pre-reading activity to determine how much students know about King Arthur?

  1. Have students read a story about King Arthur
  2. Ask students to complete a K-W-L chart to determine their knowledge about King Arthur
  3. Have students read about the history of England
  4. Ask students out loud what a Medieval Romance is

When considering this answer, think about this question: What would activate their knowledge the most? Reading a story about King Arthur may help students learn something new about him but it doesn’t show the teacher how much students already know on the topic. The same can be said reading the history of England, which doesn’t even tie into King Arthur. Asking students questions in class orally doesn’t hit the whole class; you may only get the answers of a few students who know something about King Arthur.

However, option B–Doing a K-W-L chart–gives every student the chance to write down what they already know about King Arthur along with what they want to learn. They can also go back at the end and write down what they learned after the unit. This is a good pre-reading activity along with a post-reading one.

Let’s look at another example about making predictions:

Example 2

Students are asked to make predictions about what a story is about by reading its title and skimming through the excerpt from the beginning of a story.

Title: The Princess and the Cook

Once upon a time, in a castle far, far away, there lived a princess who hated every meal that was ever served to her. In the span of one year, more than 200 cooks were dismissed by the princess. One bite and they were out.

The princess continued to send out her servants to find the perfect cook but they kept coming back with failures. Finally, the princess made a mandate to them. “If you don’t find a cook that pleases me, I will feed you all to the dungeons.” So her servants went out to search in faraway lands everywhere to find a cook that would make the princess happy.

The paraprofessional asks the students, “What kind of genre do you think this story fits under?” Which response from the students would best be accurate?

  1. Science Fiction
  2. Fairy Tale/Fiction
  3. Non-Fiction
  4. Playwright/Drama

The answer here would be option B. The title gives a hint because many fairy tales involve princesses. But by just skimming and reading the first line, one can conclude that this is how fairy tales begin, which are fictional stories. Playwrights/dramas can also have fictional elements but are written in a specific style with stage directions and lines.

Ask Questions About a Reading Selection To Help Students Understand the Passage

The questions in this section focus on helping students with strategies to better understand words or texts. It’s important for paraprofessionals to know effective ways to assist students when they are confused with something.

  • Understand that words can have different meanings
  • Students need to know effective ways to understand words within passages
  • Be able to teach students how to understand main ideas and details

Here’s an example of what you may encounter:

Students are struggling to understand the word “gait” within a passage they are reading. What would be an effective strategy a paraprofessional could use to help the students understand that word?

Things you should do as a paraprofessional include:

  • Have them look at the words around it, using context clues to help them determine the word.
  • See if there are any roots that they are familiar with to help them determine the word.

Things you SHOULD NOT do include:

  • Telling students just to look in a dictionary
  • Simply provide them with the answer if they ask you the meaning of the word
  • Have them ask other students
  • Just tell them to pass over it and come back to it later on.

The same goes for if a student is trying to figure out the main idea or supporting details of a passage. Go through effective strategies for trying to figure it out.

Look at the following passage:

Example 3

A woman from England recently found ways to detect Parkinson’s Disease by uncovering an unusual scent from those who first contract it. Joy Milne discovered this unique power when her husband unfortunately became stricken with Parkinson’s and she noticed a musty smell replacing his usual scent.

Milne was brought in by Edinburgh University and successfully identified 12 out of 12 patients who had contracted the disease, including a control member who was in the very early stages at the time and found out a few months later he came down with it. Scientists believe an alteration in a person’s skin can lead to this change in odor, which Milne was able to detect but others can’t.

As a result of all this, Milne has helped scientists come up with ways to discover if a person has Parkinson’s disease or not. By catching the disease early on, it can prolong the severity of the effects until much later on in life, perhaps indefinitely.

A paraprofessional is trying to help students learn how to figure out the main idea of the passage. What would be an effective way to do this?

  1. Have students write down key details about Joy Milne and tell them to look for one overall message
  2. Tell them the last sentence is critical in determining the main idea
  3. Indicate it’s directly stated in the middle of the passage.
  4. Look online to find the main idea.

The correct answer here is A. Main ideas are based on supporting details, and one must be able to find the overall message that the passage is trying to convey. Main ideas are not directly stated and both the introduction and conclusion are essential parts in helping students uncover the main idea.

Make Accurate Observations About a Student’s Ability to Understand a Text

This involves students’ ability to comprehend what they read. A passage is given with a paraprofessional asking a student a question about what they read to see if they can understand the text.

Look at the passage from The Great Gatsby as an example:

Example 4

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light on the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning –

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

A paraprofessional asks the students, “The narrator discusses the green light for Gatsby. What does it represent?

  1. A dream to recreate the past
  2. Hopelessness
  3. A boat ride
  4. The city life

The answer is A. While the narrator doesn’t come right out and say it, he gives you details and clues, including “his dream must have seemed so close” and borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Help Students Use a Dictionary

These questions will focus on a paraprofessional’s ability to help students use a dictionary in a correct way. As a teacher, you don’t want students to rely solely on a dictionary to learn what a word means. However, they need to know how one word can have different meanings and read each definition thoroughly. They should also use it when learning new vocabulary before a unit.

Ways to properly use a dictionary:

  • Showing students how a word can function as a noun, verb, and adjective.
    • Example: The word “ship” can be a noun because it’s a boat. But it can also be a verb in that you “ship” something through the mail or Fed Ex.
  • Learning vocabulary words and making a graphic organizer for class
    • Example: Prior to a unit, you can have students look up the word “Incredulous.” Have them write down its definition and then make a column for synonyms and antonyms. You can also have them use it in a sentence and come up with examples for the word.
  • Verify the spelling of a word when writing a paper.

How NOT to use a dictionary:

  • When reading in class, have them look up any word they don’t know. (Students should learn how to use context clues).
  • Have students look up words and go with the first definition that is listed in the book.

Look at the following example for the type of question you may see on a test:

Example 5

A student does not understand the meaning of the word “band” as it is used in the following sentence:

The coach asked the team to band together to overcome the deficit they faced in the playoff game.

The teacher asks students to use a dictionary to come up with the proper definition of the word. Which definition fits the way the word band is used in this sentence:

Band:  (Noun): 1. A flat, thin strip or loop of material to put around something. 2. A group that plays music in front of an audience. (Verb): 3. To come together as one, usually as a team. 4. To mark (something) with a stripe or stripes of a different color.

The correct definition here would be number 3. “Band” in this sentence is used as a verb as a way to come together.

Interpret Written Instructions

This section focuses on assessing how students follow instructions that are given to them. Unlike some sections where you can skim reading, this requires you to thoroughly read through the instructions and make sure the answer you choose makes sense.

The question will provide a classroom scenario.

  • Be sure to read the scenario over thoroughly
  • Read the answer choices carefully and look for what they’re asking.
  • If provided practice paper, use it to write down the instructions in order.
  • Remember–Don’t skim.

For example, look at the following instructions on an assignment students are given from reading the novel Frankenstein: You will work in pairs of two. Using the graphic organizer, find eight examples from the text that describe the monster’s appearance. Cite the exact quote and reference the page number it was found on. After you’ve completed the organizer, grab a large sheet of paper on the table in the front of the room. With your partner, do a sketch drawing; one student is drawing while the other lies on the ground. Once completed with the sketch, use your graphic organizer and the quotes from the text to draw what you found from the text. Be sure to use an arrow pointing to the part of the body described in the text quote. Look at the example in the front of the room to guide you. Once you’re complete, use the tape from the front of the room and hang it on the wall. Be prepared to present your poster.

Example 6

What are students to do once they’ve drawn their monster of Frankenstein?

  1. Hang the poster up on the wall and be prepared to present
  2. Grab a piece of sheet paper
  3. Tape their graphic organizer to the back of the sheet paper.
  4. Use the graphic organizer and write down quotes from the book with arrows describing the appearance.

The answer here is D. If you thoroughly read through the instructions, this is the next step that students should follow. The other answer options are out of order or are not even listed in the instructions.


Student Strategies Review Test

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