My suggestion is to start with the Reading Informational Texts (RIT) standards, for three reasons: 1) They apply to every subject, 2) They apply to every subject, and 3) Did I mention they apply to every subject? Even math teachers, who have their own separate standards, could benefit from understanding the RIT standards. Students who are skilled at paraphrasing stand a better chance when tackling word problems, for example.
Paraphrase the RIT standards one by one, stopping to ask: How can we teach this?
Let’s try it with RIT 5.1: Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
Here’s how I would paraphrase this: “What the text says explicitly” is asking for literal comprehension—in other words, paraphrasing. “Drawing inferences” is, well, drawing inferences: drawing conclusions, figuring stuff out based on what you’ve read—that which is implied but not directly stated. Here’s the difference:
ORIGINAL TEXT: The man fell down.
PARAPHRASED: He collapsed.
INFERENCE: He must have been sick.
How can we teach these key critical reading skills?
Teach students directly how to paraphrase, ask questions, and draw inferences. This is, in fact, the comprehension process, and you should teach it very early in the year to ensure that students are aware of it and use it consciously. Check out the “Comprehension 101” page on The Literacy Cookbook for details and tools you can use with your students.