As a teacher what strategy will you use to help student develop the skills needed to know which strategy to use when they are struggling reading?
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As a beginning teacher, I struggled with this exact topic myself. Throughout my college career to prepare me to become a teacher of English, there was never any instruction on how to teach students to comprehend. I have found, though, that there are many quality, research-based resources available if you don't mind schooling yourself. I'll list a few titles, then give you an overview of some common strategies.
Mosaic of Thought by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmermann
I Read it, But I Don't Get It by Cris Tovani
7 Keys to Comphrehension by Susan Zimmermann and Chryse Hutchins
Research has identified a core set of skills employed by skillful readers of any age, and these books all address these skills as well as helpful implementation strategies. They don't work best in isolation, though. Students need to be taught each independent of the others and have ample practice with each individual strategy, but ultimately the goal is for them to work in tandem. They are visualizing, making connections, questioning, inferencing, monitoring comprehension and employing the appropriate "fix-up" strategy. In my room, I use a reader's workshop format. To teach questioning before reading, for instance, I start by modeling (after having had a workshop on reading voice and thinking voice) my thinking voice asking questions before I begin reading a picture book. Picture books can be quite sophisticated, and their length makes them perfect for a class period. I make sure to model on different days the strategy with both fiction and nonfiction. I also demonstrate both annotating directly in the text and using sticky notes to mark questions. For questioning, I use the book Be Good to Eddie Lee. Using the front cover illustrations and the title, I generate a plethora of questions, marking each on a sticky note. As I then proceed to read the book aloud, I look for the answers to my questions, and when one is answered, I quickly mark the answer with the specific sticky note question. When the book is finished, we start classifying the questions as either thick or thin. This segues perfectly into QAR.
This procedure is repeated several times, following the gradual release model, for each reading strategy. By the end of the year, students are self-monitoring, making connections, inferencing, visualizing, and questioning in order to better make sense of what they read. Skilled readers discover that they can deeper their understanding.
As far as the "fix-up" strategies, I conduct mini-lessons in the same format to teach students to recognize what it feels like to be disengaged from the reading. Once they recognize that they aren't getting something (the biggest chore to tackle according to my experience!), it is relatively easy to teach them strategies. Denotation, connotation, context clues, rereading, retelling, summarizing, the list of tools is long. If they are boggled by a particular word, then they need to learn how to determine the possible/probably meaning. If a character is suddenly "there," rereading might be the answer. If it is a concept in the story/article, then trying to retell or summarize it may be the answer.
There is no set prescription for teaching comprehension strategies, unfortunately. In the end, you just need to educate yourself on the research and find a way to make it fit your own needs and that of your students.
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