Is comprehension instruction in the content areas different?
This weeks reading was full of information; rich, enlightening and useful information as a teacher and as a parent. All of the authors would differ in how they answer this question, however the essence remains the same. This is where I throw fancy words that I have come to comprehend much more clearly since taking this class. Words such as schema and metacognition.
Keene and Zimmerman, Mosaic of Thought The Power of Comprehension Strategy Instruction, 2007, share with us that we have to build schema in our students. In simple terms schema is the building of the background knowledge or connecting with this knowledge to help us in understanding what we read. They go on to write, "…understanding schema sheds light on the ways children connect the new to the known, recall relevant information, and enhance their comprehension with insights only they can bring." (p71-72). Each of the authors from our selected text readings will agree here that building and connecting with the background knowledge is key with all comprehension but especially the more complex the text becomes.
Keene and Zimmerman will add that creating a sensory experience or making a visual connection will help students understand more complex text. They interestingly refer to students who struggle and how they become disengaged in reading anything in and out of school. They encourage helping these students create images that will help them connect to the text through sensory and visual language.
All of the authors also agree that no matter what content you are working with and no matter if you are working with primary or intermediate grades, it is essential to ask questions, think aloud, model, and provide ample opportunities and time for your students to share with each other, write, draw, etc…
Each of the authors also suggest using multiple sources to really teach comprehension in the content areas. Fisher and Frey, Scaffolded Reading Instruction of Content Area Texts, 2014, write in regard to needing more complex text "…learners need a host of experiences with rich informational texts and a sliding scale of scaffolds and supports to access the information contained with them." (p349). They too encourage teachers reading aloud to students to model their thinking.
In fact a teacher modeling their thinking aloud to their students is one of the most effective ways to teach comprehension and metacognition. Metacognition refers to the student/reader's ability to listen to the voice in your head you hear when you are reading. This occurs as the student is either reading or being read to. The student starts making associations with what they are hearing. They might make connections with a character, or recognize a book that they have read before and enjoyed. They hear themselves making comments to themselves: Oh, mom read me this book. I have pet dog too. I love this book. I wonder if this author has another book I want to read.
Can we then answer our title question with a yes or a no? Not really because there are slightly different ways to address comprehension for fiction and non-fiction. Although the strategies that Harvey and Goudvis write about in Strategies That Work, 2007, are very similar to each other, when looking at content specific to Social Studies and Science they differ slightly for their discipline. But essentially the core strategies mentioned above are to be used across the board in different content areas for comprehension teaching.
Continue to Theme 3 Part 2 for more on this weeks readings.
Wife, Mom, Educator and Lifelong Learner