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Reading Clinic: A Strategy Inventory for Every Reader

"I read only what I have to and nothing else," fourth grader Josh once said to me. Josh had excellent grades but no personal reading life. His words replay in my mind whenever I face a new group of students.

How can we turn students like Josh into readers? We must set aside time to learn what our students already know about effective reading  —  then build on those strategies. Here's how.

Primary and Intermediate Activity:

Purpose: To document students' use of reading strategies (book selection, prediction, visualization, etc.)

Materials: One Reading Strategy Record Sheet per student

Time Needed: nterviews take about 10 minutes per student.Try to do two each day, while other students are working in small groups or reading individually.


  1. Prepare interview questions like those shown here.

    Book Selection

    • Why do you check out a book to read?
    • How do you know if you can read the book?

    Before Reading

    • What do you do before you start reading a book?

    While Reading

    • If you are alone and can't pronounce a word, what do you do?
    • If you are alone and don't know what a word means, what do you do?
    • What do you do if you don't understand a paragraph or a page?

    After Reading

    • When you have completed a book, what do you do?

  2. Hold interviews in a quiet place. As students answer your questions about reading, take notes on the Reading Strategy Record Sheet. Try to record what students say without paraphrasing.

  3. When you've completed all the interviews, reread your comments. List the reading strategies each student uses in the Notes section of each sheet.

  4. Hold a quick conference with each child, reviewing what he or she knows about reading.

  5. Together, set one or two goals for the student to work on over the next few weeks.

  6. On chart paper, list all the strategies students use and the positive reading attitudes they've shown. Discuss the list as a class, pointing out how much students already know.

  7. In a notebook, write the goals you and students have set. Use them to plan reading strategy mini-lessons.

  8. Store students' Reading Strategy Record Sheets in folders. Return to these to discuss progress halfway through the school year.


Use this sheet to record students' comments during your interviews with them.

Student's Name:

       Book-Selection Strategies: 

       Before-Reading Strategies: 

       During-Reading Strategies: 

       After-Reading Strategies: 


      Student's Goal(s):


Read-Aloud Resources

The best way to bring children and books together is by reading aloud daily. Here are five great read-alouds.

Sing a Song of Popcorn: Every Child's Book of Poems, selected by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers, illustrated by nine Caldecott-medal winning artists (Scholastic, 1988). Grades K and up.

Her Stories: African American Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales, told by Virginia Hamilton, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon (The Blue Sky Press/Scholastic, 1995). Grades 1 and up.

The Rattlebang Picnic by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Stephen Kellogg (Dial, 1994). Grades 3 and up.

Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight, retold by Rosemary Wells, illustrated by Susan Jeffers (Holt, 1995). Grades 1 and up.

Maii and Cousin Horned Toad: A Traditional Navajo Story by Shonto Begay (Scholastic, 1992). Grades 2 5.