Deep vs Superficial Reading

We all know that reading is important, and promoting reading is a crucial part of our jobs, whatever subject we teach. This is something which is a key aspect of Doug Lemov’s work. Researcher Nic Spaul also emphasises how important this is for our nation.

But there’s reading and reading. Are we really challenging our students to read deeply? In an era where the superficial and the trivial are celebrated, we need to work extra hard to promote deep reading.

According to Julian Hermida:
“A deep approach to reading is an approach where the reader uses higher-order cognitive skills such as the ability to analyse, synthesize, solve problems, and thinks meta-cognitively in order to negotiate meanings with the author and to construct new meaning from the text. The deep reader focuses on the author's message, on the ideas she is trying to convey, the line of argument, and the structure of the argument. The reader makes connections to already known concepts and principles and uses this understanding for problem solving in new contexts.”

Ideas suggested by Hermida to promote the deep reading:

  • Ensure that assessments require higher order understanding of texts;
  • Require students “to evaluate, judge, compare, and synthesise information” from more than one text, working in groups, then present to the class, possibly arguing for a particular point of view.
  • Create a social media profile for a character or personality who forms part of the story - eg Marie Curie, Shakespeare, Churchill, etc.
  • Create an outline of a documentary movie script on the topic.
  • An Amazing Race/Treasure Hunt - have different kinds of text in different locations, all on the same topic; students need to collect information and integrate it.

Basically, the idea is to create reading activities which:
“encourage students to read for a purpose, which they find motivating”;
and at the same time require students to use higher-order cognitive skills to process the texts.

Hermida, J. (nd). Strategies to Promote a Deep Approach to Reading Retrieved 17 February 2018, from 

Other links:
Nic Spaull: 
Doug Lemov:

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