Why is comprehension strategy instruction important?
This blog is the second part in the series for Theme 4. There was a lot of important information I wanted to share with my followers regarding comprehension strategy instruction. In this specific post I will address a few strategies that you may find helpful in your classroom, or as a parent you might find helpful in helping your child with understanding what they are reading/learning.
One of the most useful and easiest strategies that can help all students in your class is to introduce them to synthesizing through interactive read-alouds. Cummins explains to us in her book, Close Reading of Informational Texts, that through read-alouds we can help our students by coaching them and "ease the cognitive load they must bear. Students can then focus on thinking more deeply about the content being presented without having to worry about reading the text themselves." (p. 49).
Not only does Cummins express that this would be a good teaching experience but also a learning experience. She explains how students can engage in writing exercises to "help deepen students' understanding of the text and their ability to articulate their thinking."(p 49). One of her suggestions is having the students write letters in response to the text. This chapter gives the reader an actual lesson, timeline and follow up lesson. In my own classroom I could picture this as an interactive reading and writing journal where the students can address their letters to me and I can respond to them. I can also visualize this where the students can interchange journals with their peers and respond to their peers. Imagine the possibilities.
In all of the readings this past week regarding the introduction of comprehension strategies, the theme was the same, you must assess where your students are and keep in mind what your end goals for your students are as well. You need to be able to meet your students where they are. It may require at times going backwards to go forwards. Harvey and Goudvis lay this out beautifully in each chapter they dedicate to strategies.
Another strategy to teach in comprehension is visualizing and inferring. This strategy is perfect for the younger students who have large imaginations, and if taught what inferring is, they will be able to make inferences as early as pre-k. "Inferring is about reading faces, reading body language, reading expressions and reading tone as well as reading text," (Harvey & Goudvis, p 139).
Harvey and Goudvis have a terrific strategy lesson for inferring with Kindergartners. It is one that could be used with all ages as well and with those students needing more support with this strategy. The strategy is simple, one student is unaware of what the feeling is he has to guess. And the audience of other students provide clues to the student to help them guess what the feeling is. After a series of clues the teacher asks, "Can you infer what the feeling is?" When the child answers he is probed again..."How did you know?".
This same strategy, but in a varied lesson, is very versatile and can be applied to 5th grade science or 4th grade history. Inferring is reading between the lines. Visualizing is using our senses to create a picture. With 5th graders, Harvey and Goudvis show us how to have your student use all their senses to comprehend the text they are reading. In their example, a teacher reads a National Geographic article on Sea Turtles. She then has the students re-read the article and look at the descriptive words within the article. Now she asks the students to imagine being there and write what he would see, smell, hear, taste and feel. Harvey and Goudvis provide us with student samples for each strategy and from this one we can see a student who clearly was engaged in the response to text and clearly achieved a deepen understanding of the what he read and can show a level of interaction with it.
Harvey and Goudvis provide what seems like endless ideas on how to teach the comprehension strategies, and they provide endless student samples to prove their ideas work. They are careful to address all ages and reading across content areas.
Here are some strategy lessons the authors from this weeks reading share with us...I can not possibly share all of them with you. This blog would be endless. But as I begin to work these into my 1st grade classrooms and hopefully as you the reader do we can come together here and share our ideas. I have listed the books at the end of this blog if you would like to read more about these lessons.
Finally, we need to stop identifying ourselves as a teacher of a subject area alone. We are no longer just a science teacher or civics teacher. We don't just teach Math, Every single one of us is a reading teacher. Every single one of us wants our students to comprehend our material. To do so we must teach our students in our classrooms how to comprehend what we are teaching. If you teach Physical Science you have a responsibility to make sure your students can understand the concepts and texts they are reading. This is not the ELA teachers sole responsibility. If you teach Government then you must also teach comprehension. We are all teachers of reading.
Wife, Mom, Educator and Lifelong Learner