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Classroom Management: Setting a Purpose for Reading

Janelle Cox

The last time that you sat down to read a book, whether it was on your Kindle or you were holding a hardcover book in the palm of your hand, you had a purpose for reading it. You needed to unwind and wanted to get lost in a fantasy world, or you were inquiring for information about something. Whatever the case may be, you had a reason and a purpose for reading the book. Your students need a purpose as well. Maybe it’s to find an answer to a question or to practice reading for fluency. Whatever the case, they too need a purpose. Using classroom management to set a reading purpose helps students stay focused and engaged in what they are doing. This classroom management tactic helps motivate the students who to tend to rush through everything. With a clear and meaningful purpose, your students will gain more from the text. It can help them figure out what’s most important in the book, and help build their understanding so they can be successful readers. Here are a few classroom management ways how to teach your students how to set their own purpose for reading.

Specific Classroom Management Prompts to Teach Purpose

Before you ask students to read, make sure that you give them a purpose. You also must make sure that you are very specific. For example, you can say, “I would like you to read until paragraph three,” or “I would like you to read until you get to the part where Rosa Parks gets on the bus.” By being so specific, you are teaching students that they have a purpose for what they are doing. Here are a few more prompts to teach them purpose.

  • Read until you discover that …
  • Read until you find out where the story takes place.
  • Read until you meet the first character.
  • Close the book once you figure out the problem in the story.
  • Put the book down once you learn about …

There are many ways that you can prompt students with a purpose for reading. The suggestions above were just a few examples to get you started. Once students have found their purpose, you can then help them build comprehension about what they are reading. To do this, you can use another prompt, such as, “Write down a problem that you discovered while reading the story,” or “Retell the story using your own words to the person next to you.” Here are a few more examples of comprehensions prompts to help set the purpose.

  • Write down what you think will happen next in the story.
  • Write an alternate ending using the information that you have learned in the story.
  • Draw a picture of what you think the setting looked like in the story.
  • Tell your partner what the solution to the main problem in the story was.
  • Draw a concept map about all of the elements in the story.

Teaching Students to Set a Purpose for Reading

Now that you have introduced your students to the world of reading for a purpose, you can teach them how to set their own purpose for reading, all by themselves. To begin, discuss how the purpose they choose drives the choices they make while they are reading. They can either read for pure enjoyment (to just get lost in a good book), to find specific information (to learn about the stars), or to perform a task (read until you meet the main character in the story). Once students have decided upon their purpose, they can use before, during, and after reading strategies to help them gain more information, as well as help their comprehension about their main purpose for reading. Here are a few questions and statements students can ask themselves about their text.

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Before Reading – What can I expect to learn from this book? What do I already know about this text? What should I be learning?

During Reading – Reflect upon what you just read. Place a sticky note next to any questions that you have. Ask yourself if you understand what you are reading.

After Reading – Go over any sticky notes that were placed in the book. Summarize in your head everything that you just read in your own words. Reread anything that may have confused you.

Asking your students, as well as teaching them to ask themselves essential questions, is the key to setting a meaningful purpose. This in turn helps the student connect the passage to a much larger context.

Do you have any classroom management tips for teaching students how to set a purpose for reading? Please share your expertise in the comment section below, we would love to hear the ideas that work well in your classroom.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.

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