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Reading Comprehension

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1 Reading Comprehension
Comprehension Strategies That Work Today there is a wide body of research supporting the effectiveness of explicit comprehension instruction and the need for students to become metacognitive – to think about their own thinking as they read. How is it that good readers instinctively know how to comprehend what they are reading? (Share personal experience about Julia and Jesse). This year we will be looking at adopting a new reading series. As we take a close look at an “instructional program” we need to make sure that it is more than the usual basal. In 1979, Delores Durkin jolted the reading world when she concluded that the questions in basal readers and on worksheets were the primary focus of comprehension instruction in classrooms. Teachers thought they were providing instruction in comprehension through the use of story questions. Durkin suggested that teachers were assessing rather than teaching students to be better readers. One of the leading books about reading comprehension is Mosiaic of Thought by Ellin Keene and Susan Zimmermann. It is a book that talks about a journey of teachers who had conversations about comprehension and how they could specifically teach their students how to think while they were reading. This group, called the PEBC – Public Education and Business Coalition formed in the 1980’s. They launched their Literacy League in Denver, Colorado as a result of the writing that was going on in their Language Arts classrooms. These Language Arts classes were converted into writing workshops where students were writing everyday in the writing workshop format. Students were writing from their own experiences and sharing their writing with classmates. Students were taught to replicate the process used by real writers, and the result was more compelling, detailed writing and greater student engagement. (Sound familiar). The teachers decided to try this same approach in their reading classrooms They made significant changes in their classrooms but there was still concern. (read quote from book on page 17). That is what today is all about. What is it that we need to specifically teach our students so that they become proficient readers. As we begin our own discussion about reading comprehension, let’s think about how we as adults comprehend when we read for pleasure or when we read to learn. Let’s see if we can figure out what we do as readers. Our first step in this journey is to learn a little bit about what type of reading we do. (complete Literary Hunt – 20 minutes) Now let’s see what a leading expert has to say about adult readers and how that can help us teach students. (watch video clip – Envisionment until 7:32) We must have as our goal of educating children to become real readers, not simply students who answer test questions correctly but leave school with no interest in picking up a book ever again. IF we want engaged, active readers and citizens, we must make reading a joyful experience. There is no program, no recipe, no prescription that will ever supersede the power of a well-informed and caring teacher. Teachers must stay informed about what works (and doesn’t) and guard the right to make decisions about their own students. They must also be committed to making reading a meaningful and joyful experience, so that when their students leave school, they continue their reading journeys.

2 Metacognitive Strategies
Monitoring for meaning Using and creating schema Asking questions Determining importance Inferring Using sensory and emotional images Synthesizing So how do we specifically teach our students how to think when they read? How do help all students develop those habits that good readers seem to do naturally? We explicitly teach students comprehension strategies to ensure that they simply don’t become decoders but also learn to create meaning naturally and subconsciously. Today’s students face a wider variety of texts and must be able to think critically and make judgments far earlier than in the past. Our complex global society calls for all children to be able to think and learn at high levels. Explicit comprehension instruction arms all of them – not just those students who are college bound – with the tools to do so. So what are these comprehension strategies. Different authors/researchers call them different things but they all mean the same. (show strategies) We will spend the rest of the day discussing and learning how to specifically teach some of these strategies to our students. Because of time we are going to focus on Monitoring for Meaning, Using and Creating Schema, Asking Questions, and Using Sensory and Emotional Images. As you will see, I have developed some Reading Mini Lessons in the same format as our Writing Mini Lessons. Even though we will not have time today to discuss each of these in detail, I will be writing Mini Lessons for all of the Comprehension Strategies. Before we take a closer look at these strategies let’s first clear up some questions that you may already have about teaching comprehension in general.

3 Should children study different strategies based on their reading level?
It is important to remember that one strategy is not inherently more difficult than another. Instead it is the difficulty of the text in which students apply the strategies that makes comprehension more difficult. In the same classroom students will study the same strategy but apply it in different levels and genres.

4 Should comprehension strategies be taught one at a time or in an integrated fashion?
Research supports teaching the strategies one at a time but in a cumulative fashion. In other words, teach monitoring for meaning first but once you teach asking questions, continually refer back to monitoring for meaning. Maybe the best way to think of this is depending on the type of text your students are reading they may need to “turn up or down the volume” of the strategies they are using.

5 What if I don’t have time to teach all of the strategies to my students? Which ones should I teach?
Schools or teachers who wish to focus on each strategy for a longer period of time (six to nine weeks) might think of assigning three or four strategies to each grade band – K-1, 2-3, This way students have had an in- depth experience with each strategy.

6 Two other factors are vital: Time to Read Time to Talk
Are there factors other than strategy instruction that are important in creating avid, thoughtful readers? Two other factors are vital: Time to Read Time to Talk The adage “the more you read, the better you get; the better you get, the more you read” is true and one of the few things that can be proven time and time again in research. The more children read, the more apt they are to become good readers who attain higher-order literacy proficiencies. Anything that stands in the way of allowing time to practice reading is a serious problem. Many times students get so caught up in decoding they forget to read. (read example from Strategies that Work pg 22) Too often children are asked to engage in literacy related centers, projects, and activities about reading, when what they should be doing is reading. There is an assumption that students cannot sustain independent reading for long periods of time while the teacher is otherwise occupied (small group instruction, conferencing). If students are taught to gradually extend the amount of time spent in independent reading every day from the beginning of the school year, they will rise to the occasion. At the beginning of the year you might allow 5-7 minutes of independent reading while you walk around conferring with students, help students make book choices, or assessing their performance level. Gradually you can increase the time so that independent reading lasts as long as minutes for older students. This will allow you to teach to specific skills to small groups of students as well as conferencing with students about their reading and comprehension.

7 Monitoring for Meaning
The umbrella under which the other comprehension strategies fall Continually attend to your understanding as you read Know what your purpose is as you read Know how to solve problems and change your thinking when meaning breaks down Our first comprehension strategy is Monitoring for Meaning. Reading comprehension is an ongoing process of evolving thinking. When readers read and construct meaning, they carry on an inner conversation with the text. They hear a voice in their head speaking to them as they read – a voice that questions, connects, laughs, cries. This inner conversation helps readers monitor their comprehension and keeps them engaged in the story, concept, information, and ideas, allowing them to build their understanding as they go. Monitoring comprehension is above all about engagement. When readers interact with the text, they are more apt to stay on top of meaning as they read. When readers are passive, not much happens and meaning eludes them. Passive may mean that readers are not interested in the text, find the text to be too difficult, or have insufficient background knowledge to understand. Whatever the reason, the result is that passive readers stray from an engaged read and lose track of meaning. Active reading is a dynamic process that puts the reader at the helm. (Do example of adult reading with research from National Reading Panel). Divide into groups. Have them read making note of what they do when comprehension breaks down. (do this independently) Share with group. Share with class (30 minutes)

8 Monitoring for Meaning – Mini Lessons
What is Reading? Huh? Noticing and Exploring Read, Write, Talk Look at examples of mini lessons for Monitoring for Meaning – hyperlink from slide

9 Using and Creating Schema
One of the most effective ways to improve comprehension is to “activate mental files” before, during, and after reading Schema allows students to monitor for meaning, pose questions, make predictions, draw conclusions, create images, and determine importance Proficient readers capitalize on different types of schema Memories and emotions from an experience Specific knowledge about a topic Specific knowledge about an author/illustrator and the tools he/she We can’t understand what we read without thinking about what we already know. Our schema – the sum total of our background knowledge and experience - is what each of us brings to our reading. When we apply our background knowledge as we read, we guide students to make connections between their experiences, their knowledge about the world, and the text they read. Connecting what readers know to new information is the core of learning and understanding. When students have had an experience similar to that of a character in a story, they are more likely to understand the character’s motives, thoughts, and feelings. And when readers have an abundance of background knowledge about a specific content area, they understand more completely the new information they read.

10 Using Schema Mini Lessons
It Reminds Me Of Small Poems and Our Lives Relating Characters to Ourselves Look at Lessons from slide - hyperlink

11 Important to Understanding
My Connection Important to Me Important to Understanding Sometimes students will make connections to text that are not meaningful to understanding. For instance, a character in the book may have the same name as a student or the story may be about a grandfather and students will say, “I have a grandfather.” In these instances, it is sometimes difficult to tell students that these connections are unimportant (remember we want to build that trusting everything is important climate). What you can do is call these connections – Connection’s in Common. For instance, if you share a name, birthplace, or relative with a character, you have that in common. These connections do not lead to better understanding. To help the reader see the difference, have them do a three column chart like this one. Students record their connection in the first column and then decide if it is important to the reader or important to understanding. This way you are not telling the reader that their thinking is unimportant and doesn’t matter, but rather that their thinking does matter and they should decide the importance of the connection.

12 Asking Questions Proficient readers ask questions before, during, and after reading. Proficient readers understand that many of the most intriguing questions are not answered explicitly in the text but left to the readers interpretation. Proficient readers ask questions to: Clarify meaning Speculate about the text yet to be read Determine author’s intent, style, content, or format Locate a specific answer Questions are at the heart of teaching and learning. Human beings are driven to make sense of their world. Questions open the doors to understanding. Questioning is the strategy that propels readers forward. When readers have questions, they are less likely to abandon the text. Proficient readers ask questions before, during, and after reading. They question the content, the author, the events, the issues, and the ideas in the text. Show video clip from DVD Title 2 Chapter 10 Title 9 Chapter 1 – primary class

13 Asking Questions Mini Lessons
The More We Learn, The More We Wonder Some Questions Are Answered, Others Are Not Reading With A Question In Mind

14 Using Sensory and Emotional Images (Visualization)
Visualizing brings joy to reading When we visualize, we create pictures in our minds that belong to us and no one else Images are created from readers’ schema and words in text Readers’ images are influenced by shared images of others Visualizing is all about inferring meaning. When readers, visualize, they are actually constructing meaning by creating mental images. When we create scenarios and pictures in our minds while reading, our level of engagement increases and our attention doesn’t faultier. Images from reading frequently become part of the reader’s writing. They use these images to immerse themselves in rich detail as they read. The detail gives more depth and dimension to the reading, engaging the reader more deeply and making the text more memorable. (Activity: Use the pictures from Harris Burddick to demonstrate Visualizing and Inferring) (20 minutes)

15 Inferring Readers determine meanings of unknown words by using their schema, paying attention to textual and pictures clues, rereading, and engaging in conversation with others Readers make predictions about text and confirm or contradict their predictions as they read on Inferring involves drawing a conclusion or making an interpretation that is not explicitly stated in the text. Writers don’t spill their thoughts onto the page, they leak them slowly, one idea at a time, until the reader can make an educated guess or an appropriate inference about an underlying theme in the text or a prediction about what is to come. Inferring relates to the notion of reading between the lines. Readers infer when they take what they already know, their background knowledge, and merge it with clues from the text to draw a conclusion, surface a theme, predict an outcome, arrive at a big idea, and so forth. If readers don’t infer, they will not grasp the deeper essence of the texts they read. Sometimes readers’ questions can only be answered through an inference.

16 Determining Importance
Highlighting is easy. Determining what to highlight is hard To expand understanding you need to focus on information and merge it with what we already know about a topic Fonts, signal words, illustrations, graphics, text organizers, and text structures all signal importance in nonfiction and should be explicitly taught Comprehension exercises and test questions still require students to choose one main idea. However, determining essential ideas in authentic text such as a piece of historical fiction, a newspaper editorial, or a nonfiction trade book may not be so easy. What we determine to be important in text depends on our purpose for reading it. When we read fiction, we focus on the character’s actions, motives, and problems as they contribute to the overall theme. Nonfiction presents its own issues. When we read nonfiction, we are reading to learn and remember information. We can’t possibly remember every isolated fact. We need to focus on important information and merge it with what we already know to expand our understanding of the topic. One good reason to determine important ideas is that they are the ones we want to remember.

17 Synthesizing (and Summarizing)
Synthesis is the mind creating a beautiful mosaic of meaning Synthesis takes place during and after reading. It is the process of creating a blue print for what we’re reading and then continually revising the plan as we recall or encounter new information You can’t synthesize without summarizing. Summarizing is about retelling the information and paraphrasing it. When readers summarize, they need to sort and sift through large amounts of information to extract essential ideas. Synthesizing happens when we merge the information with our thinking and shape it into our own thoughts. When readers synthesize information, they see the bigger picture as they read. Sometimes they add new information to their store of knowledge, developing thinking, and learning more in the process. Other times, readers change their thinking based on their reading, gaining an entirely new perspective. Synthesis is a uniquely human trait that permits us to sift though a myriad of details and focus on those pieces we need to know and remember. When children sit down at the dinner table and share the events of the day they are synthesizing. Synthesis is a way of saying, “I have been there, this is what I remember, and this is what I believe about what I know.” (Read page 233 in Mosaic of Thought)

18 Building a Literate Community
Foster passion and curiosity An environment that values collaborative learning and thinking Large blocks of time for reading and writing Explicit Instruction Language matters Authentic Response Text Matters Room Arrangement Accessible Resources Beyond explicitly teaching comprehension strategies; the classroom community must foster a literate community. Passion is contagious. Share your own In classrooms that promote thinking, students and teachers co-construct meaning in large groups, small groups, and conferences; through discussions, book groups, and partner groups. Reading volume is a strong indicator of reading achievement. The more we read and write the better we get at both. We need to build time for readers to read on their own and practice using strategies in self-selected text that they can and want to read Showing our thinking and modeling the mental processes we go through when we read give students an idea of what thoughtful readers do. What we say and how we say it makes a difference for our kids. Using respectful language that values kids’ thinking sets a tone that encourages their participation and their trust. In active literary classrooms students have multiple opportunities to respond to what they read. Talking, writing, and drawing in response to reading give kids an opportunity to make their thinking visible. Surround students with text of every conceivable genre, style, form, and topic. In classrooms that value thinking, kids sit at tables or desks in cluster so that they can easily talk to one another and collaborate. Comfortable meeting places can sit up close to the teacher helps to focus on instruction. Creating quiet spaces and nooks and crannies for kids to read independently or work in small groups. Kids thrive in intimate, comfortable surroundings. Resources that support literacy should be easily accessible. Overhead projectors, charts for recording kids’ thinking are essential. Clipboards act as portable desks. Pads of sticky notes and notebooks and journals fill student cubbies and desks.

19 Effective Teachers: Teach with the end in mind
Plan instruction that is responsive to the individual needs of students Model their own use of comprehension strategies over time Remind students that the purpose for using a strategy is to construct meaning and engage in the text Articulate how thinking helps readers better understand what they read

20 Effective Teachers: View strategies as a means to an end with the goal of building a repertoire of thinking strategies Gradually release responsibility for using strategies to the student, always moving them toward independent reading and thinking Provide opportunities for guided and independent practice Make sure students have opportunities to talk to each other about their reading

21 Effective Teachers Provide opportunities for students to respond by writing and drawing Take time to observe and confer, directly with students keeping records of these observations and conferences Use student work and talk to assess past instruction, guide future instruction, and evaluate student performance

22 Mosaic of Thought How can we rest until all our children have immersed themselves in a literary world that encourages and teaches them to read, reread, invent, explore, question, and imagine. Students need to know that reading is an action sport, and that the action takes place in their minds. Kids who think well test well.

23 Strategies that Work Good readers carry on an inner conversation with themselves when they read. Nothing enhances comprehension more than talking about what we read. Talking about books builds a community of learners. Students can’t get away with being passive participants when they are the ones doing the thinking.

24 Interrogating Texts: 6 Reading Habits to Develop in Your First Year at Harvard
Read excerpt from Strategies that Work and show actual document.

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