Considering a text’s context, making predictions about a text’s information, and identifying a text’s patterns all are reading strategies that support:
- understanding the main idea
- actively engaging with the text as a reader, as engagement promotes understanding and meaning-making
Just as it’s important to consider your own background knowledge when reading a text, it’s important to consider the text’s background or context. Based on your skimming of the text, you might consider the following questions about the text’s context:
- Who wrote the text?
- Do you know, or can you infer, anything about the author?
- What was the author’s purpose?
- In what type of publication was the text published?
- When was the text published? Is it current, outdated, historical? What is the significance of this time period in this field of study?
- Who is the audience for the text? What would that audience expect to find in the text?
- How might the type of audience affect the purpose and content?
You may have heard of the concept of “context clues” in reading, which refers to figuring out the meaning of an unfamiliar word by looking at nearby words in the sentence. The idea of context in relation to a whole text is similar. Understanding the variables surrounding that text – the author, audience, etc. – can help you better understand the author’s intention and engage more fully in making meaning of the text.
- What type of information do I expect to find in this text?
- What type of information would it be logical to include, based on the author’s purpose and/or main idea?
- How do I think that information will be presented?
- Will I end up agreeing or disagreeing with this author’s ideas and evidence?
Predictions do not only occur before reading a text. You often consider your predictions as you read, and revise them based on the information that you are accruing from the reading. After reading, you may go back to consider your predictions in light of the information you gained from the text. As you can see, predicting is another skills that supports active reading.
The following video was made for an audience of elementary reading teachers. It clearly explains the importance of predictions in the reading process, and discusses how adult readers apply predictions toward the end.
Skim the article, “Piracy Gave Me A Future.” Ask relevant context questions and make predictions about what to expect in the article. Also consider your own reactions to the article’s predicted content. Then look at one reader’s context questions and predictions.
I think the author’s context is that he grew up in poverty, but is no longer poor. I got this insight into the context of the article immediate from skimming the subheading under the title, as well as skimming the rest of the article. I predict that he will try to justify a case in which stealing is o.k. I’m not sure of the place in which this text was published, but I assume that it’s some sort of publication that includes discussions of social and/or ethical issues. I think that the author is writing to an audience that’s not poor, with the intention of giving them some insight into what poverty is like. The context is that the author is also writing to a somewhat educated audience; I can surmise this simply because of the language that came to my attention while I skimmed (for example, “counterintuitive,” “fluency”). So I’m predicting that the author will try to make some sort of argument in favor of stealing, for an audience that is most likely is against the concept of stealing, but has not experienced poverty or the need to steal themselves. Based on my skimming, I predict that it might be more of an emotional or ethical instead of a logical argument. Personally, I’m against piracy, because it does not acknowledge another’s rights to goods or information, but I will try to keep an open mind as I read.