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Good Readers vs. Great Thinkers

good readers vs great thinkers.pngFor today’s learners to be successful, knowing the “why” behind a text is more important than just being able to read it with accuracy. What if a student could go beyond good reading to great thinking?

What’s the difference between the two? Great thinkers are good readers, too, but great thinkers also frequently ask higher-order questions, tend to think critically, and evaluate the text when reading.

Going "beyond good" requires more from teachers and students, but by making instructional adjustments to these three areas, all students can practice great thinking!

Want a free Good Readers vs. Great Thinkers poster? Download here!

1. Organization

Good readers delight in reading, and they want to dive right in. Good readers also link their own lives to the text through many different text types, not just the types they enjoy reading every day.

But great thinkers go beyond good reading by previewing a text for the lay of the land; they want to know how it’s organized so they can better navigate their way through it. For the same reason, great thinkers know the purpose for the texts they read. Any predictions they make are done so using prior knowledge and text evidence—a combination that gets to the root of the CCSS’s close reading requirements, in tandem with critical higher-order thinking skills, such as judgment and evaluation.

2. Extra time

Students (and people, in general!) don’t always allow themselves extra time for the tasks that make learning neat and tidy. Some good readers who are dealing with the speed and accuracy of fluency instruction may have been told to skip words and “read around” the content, searching for words that may give them further insight on the topic. However, a useful skill that sets apart a great thinker is the ability to slow down, reread, and even stop to ask questions if meaning is lost.

What’s more, great thinkers choose texts well. A good reader may have more of a tendency to choose books “out of reach.” But great thinkers are much more likely to take extra time; they'll consider their desired text based on a combination of interest, purpose, and personal reading ability. 

3. Evaluation beyond text evidence

Students who are good readers have skills that help them make sense of the text: retelling, summarizing, and writing to respond based upon prior knowledge and experience. But great thinkers make more connections and inferences by connecting different parts of the text to one another, and even to other books they may have read. Great thinkers fill in the gaps and create their own meaning.

Good readers tend to rely only on their eyes—they end up reading first and thinking later. Great thinkers use their whole mind to actively think about the text and what it means to them.
Good Readers Great Readers
Dive right into the book. Preview the book first to see how it is organized.
Make predictions about the text by using prior knowledge. Makes predictions by using a combination of prior knowledge and text evidence.
Read and recognize different text types. Know the purpose of the text type they are reading.
Read the text carefully. Read and reread (and reread…) the text carefully.
Move on even when meaning is lost. Stop to ask themselves (and others!) questions if they don’t understand.
Try to read anything and everything. Make wise choices about the books they read based on interest, purpose, and ability.
Retell and summarize what happened. Make connections between what happened in this book, other books, and different types of texts.
Read and interpret what the author explicitly tells them. Make inferences to fill in the gaps and create meaning.
Write about the book from a first-person perspective, based on personal experience. Write about the book from a first-person perspective, as well as the perspective of the author, based on text evidence.
"More important than the right answer is helping students learn how to ask the right questions."
—Jill Eggleton

One of the best skills a teacher can give to a student is the ability to think critically. With the recent shifts in state standards, critical thinking and higher-order questioning have become increasingly important. When teachers can target certain skills that help all students become great thinkers, the whole classroom goes “beyond good.” 


Download a full-size Good Readers vs. Great Thinkers poster here!