What is the difference between reading strategies and reading skills: Two faces of the same coin

Differences between strategies and skills

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Differences between strategies and skills










Goal/Problem free



Teach, explain, model through think aloud, guided applicationgradual release of responsibility-independent practice

Teach, practice to mastery, assess, reteach, if necessary

Essential Skills for Reading Comprehension

  • 1. Decoding
  • 2. Fluency
  • 3. Vocabulary
  • 4. Sentence Construction and Cohesion
  • 5. Reasoning and Background Knowledge
  • 6. Working Memory and Attention

Reading sub-skills (techniques) and strategies

  • 1. Prediction
  • 2. Skim reading
  • 3. Gist reading
  • 4. Scan reading
  • 5. Intensive reading
  • 6. Inferring meaning ( of vocabulary in context, or of the writer`s point of view)
  • 7. Extensive reading


  • Skimming is sometimes referred to as gist reading where you’re trying to glance over the material to grasp the main idea.
  • The way you do this is to read the first and last paragraph and check for any dark headings.
  • Skimming may help in order to know what the text is about at its most basic level.
  • You might typically do this with a magazine or newspaper and would help you mentally and quickly shortlist those articles which you might consider for a deeper read.
  • You might typically skim to search for a name in a telephone directory.


  • Scanning involves getting your eyes to quickly scuttle across sentence and is used to get just a simple piece of information. You’ll be searching for specific words or phrases that will give you more information and answer questions you may have.

Intensive Reading

  • This type of reading has indeed beneficial to language learners as it helps them understand vocabulary by deducing the meaning of words in context.
  • It is described by Spratt (2011) as general comprehension is not the focus and examining and studying the language takes center stage, which is also called reading for detail. Hatami & Asl (2017) add that intensive reading consists in extracting specific linguistic elements from short portions of text; which means that the text is used as a linguistic object to analyze grammatical patterns as well as particular and concrete lexical items.

Extensive reading

  • Extensive reading involves reading for pleasure.
  • Because there is an element of enjoyment in extensive reading it is unlikely that students will undertake extensive reading of a text they do not like.
  • Yamashita (2015) identifies this sub-skill as that where great quantities of easy and interesting reading materials are consumed, allowing the reader to enjoy reading and to read quickly which leads to the high volumes of consumption. This pleasure reading is mostly done out of the enjoyment of discovering and learning from the text.

Case study

  • Elizabeth Roy, a JSS teacher of English and Social Studies, was eager to attend a training course for English teachers in Cape Town. She hoped to learn some ways of helping her Grade 9 students read better. For some reason, her students read their English textbooks with more interest than they read their Social Studies texts. She wondered whether it was because English textbooks had stories and such things about people, while Social Studies talked about facts.
  • When she shared her concerns with the experts, she realised that she was not the only one whose students behaved like this. Other colleagues were facing the same problem. 


  • The experts decided to make this a complete session. The next day, they had the participants, including Elizabeth, work on exercises related to the textbooks that they taught. They took Elizabeth and the others through a series of interesting activities that made them read the same texts for different purposes, with varying speeds and with a focus on different aspects of the passage. Elizabeth realised that if she could get her students to actively engage with the text through a variety of activities, they would read other subject texts with the same interest as they read their English textbooks.
  • Elizabeth tried out some of the techniques and exercises she had learned in her class, and found to her pleasant surprise that the students’ interest picked up, and they slowly began to perform better in Social Studies too. She realised that no matter what kind of text we read, if we read actively, we will get the maximum benefit and joy.

Points to ponder

  • Is it necessary to teach children how to read different kinds of texts? Do we use the same or different strategies to read different texts?
  • Should we use other subject texts to teach reading, or would the English textbook be enough?

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