Content Literacy 101

Directed Reading-Thinking Activity 
(From "Content Area Reading and Writing")

The Directed Reading-Thinking Activity (DR-TA) "engages students in making predictions about a text, reading the text, and discovering the accuracy of those predictions." Students begin by activating their background knowledge (based on things like the title,) then read the text, stopping at predetermined points to make predictions. Then, after they finish reading, students go back to their original hypotheses, and see if they have been confirmed or need to be modified.

Why use it?
The DR-TA is an "effective tactic to advance comprehension and develop metacognitive skills." It helps students make the connection that they should be thinking before they read, while they're reading, and after they finish reading. It can also turn reading into a kind of game, by seeing who can come up with the best predictions. 

How do I use it?
Step 1: "Decide what text you are going to use to conduct the DR-TA. The text could be part of a chapter in a content textbook, the first section of a novel or story, a poem, or an article.

Step 2: Read the text and mark promising stop points, where you will ask students to make predictions about what will happen next or what will be examined next. Start by asking something like, Looking at  the title, what do you think this chapter (or article or story) is going to be about? After the title, break the text at sensible points, such as at headings or after a course of meaty paragraphs if the text is extensive and complex.

Step 3: To reduce students' temptation to read ahead, provide them with a sheet of paper to cover the text and ask them to slip it down the text only as far is your next stop point. (You can also later use the same sheet of paper to have students make a graphic organizer or map of the information given in what they've read.) Or you can put the text on a 
transparency or into a PowerPoint presentation and expose the text section by section.

Step 4: Get your questions ready so that at stop points you will be prepared to guide student responses. As students respond, you might ask some students to explain why they thought what they did. Ask questions such as, Given what the author has already written, what do you think will happen next? Why do you think so? or What topic do you think the writer will explain next? Why?"

Tips for using DR-TA:
  1. "Be flexible about the choice of text...I had excellent experience with texts that are more figurative or narrative. Highly literal texts may work less well; however, you should experiment with your students to see what works with them."
  2. "Be patient when first using DR-TAs...Students may need to warm up to the technique and to build some trust in your accepting their guesses.
  3. "As students warm up to DR-TAs, their motivation to read rises. That's actually one reason why I usually ask students to cover the text we're reading with a blank sheet of paper. Covering the text reduces the temptation to read ahead, a temptation that seems to grow on some students as their motivation to read heightens.
  4. "DR-TAs should not be used too frequently. Although they are relatively easy to prepare compared to other reading activities, their interest to students can be kept alive if their welcome isn't worn out by too much use."

(All steps and tips from: Content Area Reading and Writing by Norman Unrau)