Table of Contents

"<span style="font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif;">Many teachers perceive comprehension as an “either-or” situation. That is, to them, comprehension means either understanding main details or not. Such a stance is understandable if literal recall is the sole determination of comprehension. However, comprehension consists of more than recall. Constructing meaning from texts is a complex process that requires each reader to attend to relevant information but also necessitates connecting new information to existing knowledge bases and evaluating its significance. Thus, while the ability to remember details does demonstrate one level of understanding, that level is probably the least meaningful". Media Literacy is now recognized by the state of Texas as a valuable part of learning. Teachers are using it to teach reluctant readers how to think critically about literary ideas, such as characterization and plot. Some teachers are showing film clips and then opening up discussions on how a writer could describe a character so that the reader can actually imagine them. Author Renee Hobbs advises educators to view media from a more positive standpoint rather than a negative one.</span></span>

Reading Comprehension


Reading comprehensively is the process in which readers read a text and understand what they have read. They are able to grasp the main point of the text and evaluate what work. Comprehensive reading is imperative for students making their way through the middle grades, high school, college, and eventually the adult world. Too often students are only learning to read for information; they are unable to analyze and think complexly about what they have read. Thus, reading comprehension encourages proficiency both for the reader's experience and their work. [1]

What is Read:

1. Kids still use the textbook as a basic source of information, but they also venture far beyond it.
2. The subject matter includes authentic, interesting, and current issues that affect young people's daily lives.
3. Instead of relying upon a single authority, students consult a variety of sources and voices on the topic, constructing their own understanding of what is fact, what is true, what is right. The students are not only reading about settled facts and closed questions. They are also reading in the arena of the unsettled, the debatable, the still-emerging.
4. Students sample a wide variety of genres including textboks and other references works, newspapers, magazines, webistes, and popular trade books.
5. Reading selections have a range of lengths, from short newspaper and magazines pieces to whole books.
6. There's a premium on current information; many of the pieces used in a given unit were recently published.
7. Many of the readings take an interdisciplinary approach, using the tools of multiple disciplines, combining science, statistics, history, biography, and more.[2]

How it is Read:

1. The purpose for reading is not just to pass a test or get through the textbook. The students' work is to gather information, construct meaning, and apply knowledge about important issues.
2. The teacher selects some, but not all, of the readings; students also make choices of their own.
3. Not every student reads the same texts. There are some common readings and some "jigsawing" of related but different texts.
4. Teachers teach (and kids use) a repertoire of specific thinking strategies that help them enter, understand, and apply the material they read.
5. Teachers offer students practical tools that help them process different kinds of texts.
6. Teachers organize classroom structures and activities that deepen student engagement with key written materials.
7. Reading is seen as a social, rather than a solitary activity; there is plenty of collaborative work in pairs, teams, Book Clubs, or inquiry groups.
8. Instead of an exclusive focus on "right answers," there's also room for debate and discussion, for differences of opinion and interpretation.
9. Instead of receiving a string of 180 daily reading assignments, students do their subject area reading as part of longer, coordinated themes or inquiries.
10. Reading is linked to action in the real world: young readers engage in research, documentation, correspondence, and advocacy.
11. The assessment of kids' reading relies less on quizzes and worksheets, and more on complex performances, products, and exhibitions.[3]


Beers

Independent versus Dependent Readers


Dependent readers are often struggling readers. These students often fail to grasp the author's use of details, skip too many words,resist interpreting longer sentences, and fill in gaps in understanding by using their own personal experience rather than information presented in the text. Worst of all, "when such students realize that their limited understanding is not sufficient..., they merely press on, reading word by word, and hope that clarity will somehow magically emerge" . Perhaps one reason for the great number of dependent readers is a failure from teachers to see "that simply improving the cognitive aspects of reading (comprehension, vocabulary, decoding, and word recognition) does not ensure that the affective aspects of reading (motivation, enjoyment, engagement) will automatically improve" (30).

**However, we all struggle through certain texts. What matters is how readers deal with the struggle. Dependent readers give up. Independent readers use multiple strategies to navigate through a given text.Readers who struggle with reading comprehension often lack faith in their ability to understand a text, even if they can read texts they enjoy outside of class. They are passive with reading, and do not engage the text with questions or predictions, but rather merely push through or give up. Teachers need to be able to encourage reading of outside texts to help give them confidence in their own reading. [4] Therefore, what we need in classrooms is an attention to specific behaviors of dependent readers. Consider their struggles and provide them with strategies. In addition, we know what good readers do when they are reading, so modeling these strategies is not difficult, just unnatural for most teachers.




What Good Readers Do:

1. "Recognize that the purpose for reading is to get meaning" (34).


2. "Use a variety of comprehension strategies" (34).
3. "Make a range of inferences about the text" (35).
4. "Use prior knowledge to inform their inferences" (35).
5. "Monitor their understanding of the text" (35).
6. "Question the author's purpose and point of view" (35).
7. "Aware of text features" (35).
8. "Evaluate their engagement and enjoyment with a text" (35).
9. "Know the meaning of many words... [or] use the context as a clue" (35).
10. "'Hear' the text as they read the words" (35).

Perhaps the easiest way to teach strategies is through mini-lessons, which model the strategy through thinking aloud. According to Beers, “we need to teach comprehension strategies explicitly and directly” (41).

The strategies include:
1. clarifying
2. comparing and contrasting
3. connecting to prior experiences
4. inferencing (including generalizing and drawing conclusions)
5. predicting
6. questioning the text
7. recognizing the author’s purpose
8. seeing casual relationships
9. summarizing
10. visualizing




How to teach the strategies:

1. First, decide what specific strategies you want to model and what text to use.


2. Next, tell you students exactly what strategy you’ll be practicing while reading this passage.
3. Then, read the passage to students, modeling the strategy or strategies you are using.
4. Next, during read reading situations, give your students multiple chances to practice the strategies you’ve demonstrated.
5. Continue modeling as students’ needs indicate or when the genre changes.
6. Finally, give students opportunities to try the strategy without your coaching or support (42-44).

We must teach students that “comprehension is both a product and a process, something that requires purposeful, strategic effort on the reader’s part—anticipating the direction of the text (predicting), seeing the action of the text (visualizing), contemplating and then correcting whatever confusions we encounter (clarifying), connecting what’s in the text to what’s in our mind to make an educated guess about what’s going on (inferencing)” (45-6).









Strategies

There are multiple strategies educators use to encourage comprehensive reading. One specific strategy is the use of Transactional Strategies Instruction, which develops comprehensive skills by stimulating interpretative dialogues that act as vehicles that engage students. The use of a video clip is a medium that students are comfortable and familiar with outside of the school. Incorporating that medium into the lesson engages their interest. Mrs. Rochester shows a clip then uses a character wheel to draw attention to specific areas of the scene:



1. Thoughts
2. Physical Appearance
3. Setting
4. Behavior / Actions
5. Speech / Dialogue
6. Reactions of Others

After the students have focused on these areas and discussed them as a class, Mrs. Rochester will them give them a piece of text (usually a paragraph) and have them use the same character wheel to identify the specific areas by underlining in the passage. Using the video clip first allows for the students to build their confidence and grasp a good understanding of the type of comphresion they should be seeking. For reluctant readers, [5]

** Another effective strategy to encourage reading and help to develop reading comprehension is to use media literacy activities. Often times teachers consider the technological world at odds with the reading word, but when one realizes that movies, music, social pages are all types of "texts" that are "read", then teachers can incorporate deeper reading of these "texts" as an instrument to encourage deeper reading of printed texts. Encouraging students to deeply read nonprint texts will help them to realize that they can deeply read printed texts with a greater level of comprehension. [6]




Thinking Strategies of Effective Readers:

1. Visualize: make mental pictures or sensory images


2. Connect: connect to own experience, to events in the world, to other readings

3. Question: to actively wonder, to surface uncertainties, to interrogate the text

4. Infer: to predict, hypothesize, interpret, draw conclusions

5. Evauate: to determine importance, make judgments
6. Analyze: to notice text structures, author's craft, vocabulary, purpose, theme, point of view
7. Recall: to retell, summarize, remember information
8. Self-monitor: to recognize and act on confusion, uncertainty, attention problems[7]


One strategy that can be used in the classroom is the "conversation spark." This technique allows students to stop while they are reading and think about what they are reading. "Giving students the room to pause and say something about a text creates a focused opportunity to make predictions, make connections, and ask questions. This strategy not only sparked interesting conversations, it helped improve students' comprehension as they found themselves actively engaged with a text."
Reference - double click to edit
Reference - double click to edit


Students must internalize and take responsibility for what they are learning. They need to be active participants instead of passive recipients. One teacher uses the method of Literature Circles in her high school literature and English classes. She allows her students to have the opportunity to take ownership over their readings and this method fosters and enjoyment of reading. These circles encourage students to think beyond the surface with these texts and allows for lots of creativity. This activity allows dependent readers to become independent readers who find enjoyment in reading.
Reference - double click to edit
Reference - double click to edit



Often times children will not comprehend what they are reading because they don't care about what they are reading or have no way to relate to the text. One teacher utilizes stories that the students can relate to. Using this method increased reading comprehension. Especially in the elementary grades, teachers should use books that their students can relate to or share similar experiences. By making reading personal, the student is more likely to enjoy what they are reading and understand the concepts.

Reference - double click to edit
Reference - double click to edit









Model for Teaching Challenging Texts




Slide1.jpg
When using this model, keep in mind that we remember:
10% of what we read,
20% of what we hear,
30% of what we see,
50% of what we both see and hear,
and 70% of what we talk about to others.
This model helps to reinforce each of these-- the text is read, seen, and talked about out loud in order to help reading comprehension.

Reference - double click to edit
Reference - double click to edit



Another model for teaching challenging texts is called "Reading Apprenticeship." This is a model that encourages students to look more deeply at what they do and do not understand about a text and to talk with other students about their questions. Then every learner also becomes a teacher. It is a collaborative effort on both the teacher's and the students' part to encourage understanding and ownership of the texts. Students are encouraged to think about how they thought and how they figured out the answer to their comprehension problems by using things like: background knowledge, personal experience, discussion, dictionaries, etc. [8]

Daniels and Zemelman talk about the importance of creating a "key" to open connections between text, prior knowledge and personal experience. What the key opens is a particular schema for the subject at hand. "Cognitive researches have found that we human beings store our knowledge in mental patterns called schemata... It helps to think of a scheme as a web that stores and connects all the information in your mind related to a given topic. You have a schema in your head for your mother, on for hospitals, another for football, for weddings, for rivers, and for Star Wars movies. Most of us adult Americans have a schema for Columbus, which both contains and interconnects all the bits and pieces of information we have about the explorer: words, pictures, stories, maps, image4s, readings, attitudes, and feelings."[9]




The Big Word Problem

According to many students, "comprehension is not the problem; it is all those big words." [10] The know the terms and ideas connected to comprehension and they use graphic organizers and stickynotes.



William Nagy addresses the problem on vocabulary instruction by saying that the two part of the problem are 1) many students fail to receive in-depth vocabulary instruction. They memorize a definition, but don't fully understand the word, and 2) it's important to maintain the proper proportion of known words versus unknown words when selecting works for a student to read.







Methods to Find the Relationship Between Words and Comprehension

Explaining

"Read aloud from diverse texts, highlighting words that impact comprehension of the texts;


Use word play to stretch language;

Use word problems and riddles to stimulate thinking about multiple meanings for words;

Highlight high-utility words and keep them on a word wall to create a foundation for concept or thematic words;

Collect words to support writing; and,
Use words from titles, headings, and sub-headings to show how words can help us predict as a way to support reading comprehension." [11]






Modeling As the Next Step

"We can demonstrate for students those strategies that will support them when they encounter unknown words and discuss how and when they might be used, thus giving students a repertoire of moves they can make when comprehension breaks down." [12]









Supporting Transfer To Independence

Independent reading, with teachers suggesting good titles for their students for that reading, "these readers will have ample opportunity to apply the word-learning strategies" listed here. [13]









The Six Traits of Reading

Decoding


"Decoding means using all the cueing systems: symantic cues (Does that word make sense in this context?), syntactic cues (Is that how we talk in English?), and graphophonic cues (Does that word look and sound right?)."

Building Context
Context is the background knowledge that is necessary for their success."
Comprehending
Comprehending means "reading the lines-- the literal level of reading."
Interpreting
Interpretation is "reading between the lines...figur[ing] out 'What's the point?'"
Synthesizing
Synthesizing is the ability to "connect with the text to bring their own beliefs, experiences, and expectations to bear on the printed word."
Evaluating
Evaluating is deciding on whether to agree with the text, "contrasting and sometimes agreeing with the author." [14]









Are the "Super Six" Strategies Super?

The “super six” reading comprehension strategies are the following: building background and making connections, predicting and inferring, questioning, monitoring, summarizing, and evaluating. While these strategies can be very effective, teachers must use them cautiously so that the strategies themselves do not become the focus. Furthermore, if the strategies become “curricularized,” they limit and “cheapen” the students’ ability to think about texts. Four alternatives to the rigid “super six” reading stategies are: 15 minute Focus Lessons (on a literary device of something concrete and relevant to the text of the day); Guided Instruction (in which the teacher models aloud to the students what they will then practice on their own); Collaborative Learning with Students in small groups; Independent Learning (practicing being responsible on your own). (Citation)









A.C.T.I.V.E.

Amy Goodman created an acronym that gets kids to actively engage with the text.









A: ASK (Ask questions)







C: Connect (Creating connections)
T: Track down (tracking down/determining important information)
I: Infer (Making inferences)
V: Visualize (visualizing)
E: Eureka (synthesis)

ASK: Have students have a question marathon, make question wheels, teach students about different types of questions, etc.
CONNECT: Read a passage aloud and think aloud your comments--> test-to-text connections, text-to-self, text-to-people, text-to-history, etc.
TRACK DOWN: Point out the difference between important information and interesting information for students, use sticky notes to mark important parts of the story.
INFER: Remind students that inferring is done by reading between the lines.
VISUALIZE: Read aloud vivid passages and have the students draw what they see.
EUREKA: Show students how parts become a whole by giving them a cupcake-- have them brainstorm all of the ingredients (and then let them eat the cupcake!) A jigsaw puzzle can represent this as well, for those of us who can't bake. (Citation)




















Vocabulary & Comprehension








The relationship between comprehension and vocabulary seems obvious: the more words a student knows, the more he or she is better equipped to comprehend a text. However, the relationship between reading and vocabulary is not quite as directly connected. Vocabulary lessons are often taught in an ineffective manner—that is, merely providing definitions of words does not necessarily provide an understanding of the word for the student. In an experiment done with children (the age was never mentioned), one group was given a basic lesson of the meaning of vocabulary words (which were taken from the passage) before the group was handed the passage to read. The other group received no vocabulary instruction before reading the passage. Shockingly, both groups received similar grades on a comprehension test. In other words, learning definitions of words is not enough to improve comprehension. Students need to develop an “in-depth” knowledge of words from explicit and incidental interactons in order to fully grasp the meanings; readers must also develop the skills to understand the meanings of sentences without understanding every word. (Citation)











Media Literacy & Comprehension

"Many teachers perceive comprehension as an “either-or” situation. That is, to them, comprehension means either understanding main details or not. Such a stance is understandable if literal recall is the sole determination of comprehension. However, comprehension consists of more than recall. Constructing meaning from texts is a complex process that requires each reader to attend to relevant information but also necessitates connecting new information to existing knowledge bases and evaluating its significance. Thus, while the ability to remember details does demonstrate one level of understanding, that level is probably the least meaningful". Media Literacy is now recognized by the state of Texas as a valuable part of learning. Teachers are using it to teach reluctant readers how to think critically about literary ideas, such as characterization and plot. Some teachers are showing film clips and then opening up discussions on how a writer could describe a character so that the reader can actually imagine them. Author Renee Hobbs advises educators to view media from a more positive standpoint rather than a negative one.




In Susan I. McMahon’s article “Matching Instructional Strategies to Facets of Comprehension”, she advocates changing our thinking about reading comprehension and the ways in which we strive for it. She contends that “instruction in content areas must stress deeper thinking over simple recall.” She considers the moments when students are beginning to delve into reading are the moments in which teachers should not stress literal comprehension, but should stress the ways in which the students are interacting with the reading and their opinions about the reading. She does not dismiss strategies of learning to comprehend reading, but she does encourage teachers to explain “how, when, and why to use strategies, we [should] also explain which levels of comprehension—literal, interpretive, or critical—they support”.

In Tracy Smiles’ article “Connecting Literacy and Learning through Collaborative Action Research”, she begins by stating that she is opinionated and that her students are opinionated (through a transcript of a conversation with her students). Smiles advocates reader-centered approaches to literature instead of text-based approaches. “engaging students in discussions of their initial responses to a text—however incomplete or inaccurate those understandings may be—will lead to refinement and enhancement of their interpretations”. Smiles conducted an experiment with her students as co-researchers into the ways in which peer-led literature circles influenced the students and affected their learning. She noted some argumentative processes, but more importantly, she noticed that they were willing and excited to assist her in the process of coming to more fully understand the reasons behind literature circles.

In Barbara Fagan’s article “Scaffolds to Help ELL Readers”, she explains that the interruptions in her ELL student’s studying of reading in their native languages stifled their abilities to learn how to read in English because they were not proficient readers in their native languages. She uses a T-chart to allow the students to organize their thoughts about the reading and to synthesize these thoughts logically onto a page. She also stresses the importance of showing students your reading processes and strategies as a competent reader. Fagan also emphasizes the use of sticky notes for students as tracks through their reading on which they write key words and ideas. This also allows the students to compare their tracks through the reading with fellow students. Finally, Fagan explains that she got feedback from her students about the two scaffolding methods for her benefit (to improve the strategies) and for the students benefit (to consider their learning processes).
  1. ^ Beers, K. (2003). When Kids Can't Read: What Teachers Can Do.
  2. ^ Daniels, Harvey and Steven Zemelman. (2004). Subjects Matter: Every Teacher's Guide to Content-Area Reading. pg. 15
  3. ^ Daniels, Harvey and Steven Zemelman. (2004). Subjects Matter: Every Teacher's Guide to Content-Area Reading. pg. 16
  4. ^ **
    Vacca, R. (May, 2001). Thank you, Mrs. Bean: Seeking Balance for Students who Struggle as Readers. Voices from the Middle. 8(4). pg. 8-14.
  5. ^ **
    Beers, K. (2003). When Kids Can't Read: What Teachers Can Do.
  6. ^
    Hobbs, R. (May, 2001). Improving Reading Comprehension by using Media Literacy Activities. Voices from the Middle. 8(4). Pg. 44-49.
  7. ^
    Daniels, Harvey and Steven Zemelman. (2004). Subjects Matter: Every Teacher's Guide to Content-Area Reading. pg. 24
  8. ^ **
    Greenleef, C., Jensen, R., and Jordan, M. (2001). "Amidst Familial Gatherings": Reading Apprenticeship in a Middle School Classroom. Voices From the Middle. 8(4). pg. 15-24
  9. ^ **
    Daniels, Harvey and Steven Zemelman. (2004). Subjects Matter: Every Teacher's Guide to Content-Area Reading. pg. 26
  10. ^ Allen, J. (2003, September). "I Can Comprehend...I Just Can't Read Big Words". Voices from the Middle , 11(1), 60-61.
  11. ^
    Allen, J. (2003, September). "I Can Comprehend...I Just Can't Read Big Words". Voices from the Middle , 11(1), 60-61.
  12. ^ Allen, J. (2003, September). "I Can Comprehend...I Just Can't Read Big Words". Voices from the Middle , 11(1), 60-61.
  13. ^ Allen, J. (2003, September). "I Can Comprehend...I Just Can't Read Big Words". Voices from the Middle , 11(1), 60-61.
  14. ^
    Lain, S. (2003 September). Dimensions of Reading. Voices from the Middle. Middle . 11 (1), 24-28