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Let's Get Active!

By Kristen Womack, M.Ed

We want our scholars (all ages) to become active readers in order to improve their comprehension. That is the goal. So, what is active reading? This just means that while students are reading, they are actually “doing” something with it. They are engaging with the text. Too often students just read straight through a text, get to the end, and have no idea what they have read. Active reading helps to prevent that. I actually require my students to keep their pencil, pen, or highlighter in their hand the entire time they are reading. So, even before they begin reading, they are prepared.

What does active reading actually look like? Here are various ways to be active during reading:

- Analyze the title: what do you think it is going to be about?

- Make predictions before, during, and after reading.

- Annotate as you read- which is my favorite: (highlight, circle, underline, etc. anything that seems significant or that stands out; write comments, questions, or summary statements in the margins and/or after each section.

- Imagine the events in the story as you read.

This is one of my ninth-grade student’s annotation for a passage.

Each of these strategies help to improve students’ comprehension and all of them do not have to be used at the same time. We do have to take the time to teach our students how to implement these strategies, but it is definitely worth it. I have personally seen the tremendous benefits of active reading with my own ninth graders each year. There is absolutely no wrong way to actively read, so what are we waiting for? Let’s get our students using these strategies today!


Annotating has proved to be extremely effective with my students. It engages them as they read and allows them to do all the hard work upfront. They are checking for understanding and making meaning of the text along the way, not waiting until the end. I love that I can actually see what my students were thinking throughout the reading.


My name is Kristen Womack, and I teach ninth grade English in Burlington, N.C. I am also the founder of Victory Learning, which provides students and parents with reading comprehension support, tutoring, and summer skills camp each year.

Education Expertise:

I received my Bachelor’s Degree from NC A&T State University (Aggie Pride!) and my Masters from Elon University. This is my 14th year teaching ninth-grade English, and I absolutely love it! I am convinced that my students tend to exceed expected growth because of our heavy focus on close reading strategies throughout the school year.

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