Sunday, November 23, 2014

Reading Comprehension Strategy Instruction for the Teen Learner in Content Areas

     Across America, literacy frustrations are a daily event and a reality in classrooms. Teachers ask, "How can we plan successful lessons when kids struggle to read?"  One tip for teachers is to continue to teach reading comprehension explicitly beginning with early readers and continuing throughout high school. Even though many children are able to decode words and read seemingly fluently when in third grade, this does not mean that their comprehension level increases as they age. reading is not a technical skill that a child learns once and then has it! Rather, it is a developmental process that continues to expand and becomes more refined as a student continues to engage in various types of text over a complete lifetime. 
   Today, every teacher needs to be a teacher who supports literacy.  This doesn't mean that a math teacher doesn't teach math, that would be absurd! It simply means that no matter what subject a teacher specializes in in grades k-12 that s/he must be cognizant of the reading and writing process. There are many things that teachers of all levels and subjects can do to promote literacy. Also every educator needs to help ensure that every child that graduates is able to read and comprehend material that s/he will be presented with in life.
    The last place that educators can guide students to become proficient readers and writers is in high school. Hopefully by high school, most students are proficient in reading and writing, but just in case they are not, there are strategies that teachers can use for everyone that do not single out individual kids as non-readers  Today I will go into detail about five important, yet easily administered strategies.

  1. Schema or Activation of Prior Knowledge:  Schemata is comprised of all the information and experience stored in a person's memory. Each person's schema includes the total for all previous thoughts and actions toward a certain topic. Given the fact that schema is everything in a person's background knowledge, it helps to connect new information with the old. A visual representation or an over view works particularly well when activating prior knowledge. It helps to influence the interpretations of new text.  Learning makes sense for students when they can connect to something they already know that is familiar to them. When students connect the new with the old they have that "aha" moment that makes learning meaningful. Activating prior knowledge is a key component when a student uses context clues to define an unknown word. In this situation, the student uses surrounding words and sentences to "define" or make meaning of the unknown word in the text.
  2. Metacognition:  Metacognition is an awareness or actual control over the skills necessary to understand the knowledge that has been gained. Metacognition is taking into account all aspects of a given topic and making inferences, connections, and adjustments to process understanding. A teacher can coach a students metacognition with guiding questions and probes that help students to make valid conclusions and connections. Think alouds work especially well when modeling metacognition.
  3. Scaffolding to the Zone of Proximal Development: Just like construction workers and those who use scaffolding in architectural situations, educational leaders use scaffolding too. Scaffolding is a series of lessons designed to explicitly teach and model instruction by guided practice to help the students become more independent learners. Instruction that supports students as they gain proficiency and then gradually disappears as they become proficient is called: scaffolding. Teachers use activities designed to incrementally build upon each other until success is gained and the students are independent. The Zone of Proximal Development is the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can do with help. The ultimate goal is to gradually release the scaffolds so that the learner becomes responsible for his/her own learning.
  4. Bloom's Taxonomy of Questions:In 1956, Benjamin Bloom, as most of us know, and a team of psychologists devised Bloom's Taxonomy. Bloom's Taxonomy is a great way to activate and determine a student's reading comprehension level. One way I have used Bloom's is to have students ask and then answer a question from each of the six domain areas: knowledge,  comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation after reading a selection.  I of course provide students with visuals of Bloom's Taxonomy and sample questions and common verbs for each domain. Eventually given modeling and persistence even my struggling readers are able to use Bloom's taxonomy to improve their reading comprehension.
  5. Summary Writing:  Initially summary writing after reading text is quite difficult for students. I use graphic organizers to activate knowledge of what the students have read. Giving students a visual helps them to organize the facts prior to writing. The purpose of summary writing is to get students thinking about what they have read. This improves comprehension by reinforcing what they have read with writing. I have two graphic organizers that I rely quite heavily on. There are many graphic organizers but I like to remain consistent so that my students can quickly activate their prior knowledge to have a mental image of the graphic organizer.  One is for writing paragraphs. The second, is for three paragraph essays. Once the graph organizers are complete, writing the summary is a snap! 
       Once students move from elementary school to middle school they must adjust to an increasingly departmentalized school program.  Often teachers focus on content, but using a few, sound comprehension strategies will benefit all students even those who are proficient in reading fluency and comprehension. Since reading comprehension is a developmental skill, all learners will be benefited by reading strategy instruction in the content areas.

Educator Links:
Tips for Composing Teachers Comments on report Cards

Edcamps: The New Professional Development

Parent Links:
Just the Facts: ADHD and Dyslexia

How to Get Kids To Listen Without Yelling:

Mitt Aubin"s Book Review:

David Adler's picture book, Fraction Fun is an awesome book to introduce fractions to young students.Fractions are such a difficult concept. Adler teaches them in a common sense, logical way that make sense to kids. He even introduces the terms numerator and denominator. Kids like this book because it is colorful, fun, and they get it! Fraction Fun is a great book for educators and parents alike!

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