Components of the Reading Rope: Verbal Reasoning

Verbal reasoning is one of the eight strands of Scarborough’s reading rope. It refers to a student’s ability to make sense of spoken and written words. Within the reading rope, it is part of the larger strand of comprehension and contributes, along with the other strands, to a student’s growth into a skilled reader.

What exactly is verbal reasoning?

Verbal reasoning is the process by which our brains make sense of what we read and hear. The term verbal refers to having to do with words. And another way to think about reasoning is problem-solving. Therefore, verbal reasoning is, in a sense, solving the “problem“ of comprehending words.

What do verbal reasoning skills look like?

Verbal reasoning goes deeper than just recalling what one reads (or hears) in a text. It involves deeper understanding of what is being said implicitly as well. When we make inferences based on what text says and what we already know, we are using verbal reasoning skills. We can also use prior knowledge to make new connections between what we already knew and what the text says.

How to build verbal reasoning skills

Since verbal reasoning is a crucial process in comprehending text, it’s important to prioritize skill building in this area. Here are some ways to help strengthen students’ verbal reasoning skills.

Word Association Games

Not only do word association games help build verbal reasoning skills, they are also highly engaging. (After all, they’re games!). Options include simple word association, in which one person starts with a word and another player has to say the first word that pops into his or her head without pausing. The first person to hesitate is out. Another way to play this is to use topics or categories. Players would choose or be given a topic and need to come up with as many words that fit in that topic as possible.

Secret Word

Another word association game is called Secret Word. One player thinks of a “secret word” and gives clue words that relate to their word. Other players guess the secret word, and the first player tells them if their guess does or does not relate to the secret word, or if they guessed it correctly. For example, if the secret word is “refrigerator, then “food” and “cold” would be related words, but “arctic” would not be.

Read and Discuss Text Together

Any opportunity for reading aloud and discussing a story or book with students will improve their verbal reasoning. Engaging in discussion and having guidance on what they should be thinking about will help students practice the skills they need for deep comprehension.

Use Visual Reasoning

Sometimes when students lack verbal reasoning skills, they possess relative strength in visual reasoning. This means they have a lot more success processing what is happening visually, through pictures, illustrations, graphics, etc. Help these students flex their metacognitive awareness by using this strength to support the development of their verbal reasoning skills. Have them use visualization techniques as they read and/or have them actually create visual representations of text including drawings, notes, or thinking maps.

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