To fully understand any sophisticated text, a reader needs to do more than recite the words and recall the basic details. That kind of comprehension represents the very lowest level of thinking on the hierarchy of thinking skills created by educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom in the 1950s, known as "Bloom's Taxonomy." To achieve the deepest levels of understanding, the reader has to apply higher order thinking skills such as inference, analysis, synthesis and evaluation.
For deeper comprehension, readers need to do what is often called “reading between the lines,” using the higher order thinking skill called making inferences. The reader combines textual information with prior knowledge to comprehend ideas the author implies through descriptive clues. For example, a writer may describe a young girl with tears running down her cheeks and holding a letter and the reader infers that the girl has just received sad news.
To find the main idea in a nonfiction passage or to recognize the theme of a literary work, readers must analyze the text looking look for patterns and the clues the writer emphasizes throughout an entire text. For example, the plot of a novel could revolve around the trials and obstacles a pair of lovers face over the course of a relationship to explore the theme of how love conquers all. Each obstacle or barrier the fictional couple deals with forms the pattern that develops and reveals the theme.
When readers synthesize, they take knowledge learned from a text and use it to create something new. For example, after reading nonfiction texts about the American Revolution, a reader could write a short historical fiction story set at the time of Boston Massacre. The fictional piece would incorporate the factual information learned in the nonfiction reading. Synthesis tests a reader's ability to transfer or apply knowledge to new situations, which is one of the primary purposes of learning anything.
To evaluate a reading selection, the reader makes a claim or states an opinion about all or part of a text and supports the claim with valid reasons and text evidence. For example, a reader could could doubt the inevitability of a character’s actions in a chapter of a book or they might fault the logic of a writer’s conclusions at the end of an article. To support the evaluation, the reader organizes a logical argument based on text evidence and real world facts.
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