Back To CourseEducational Psychology: Tutoring Solution
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Research on reading indicates that good readers use a variety of strategies to make sense of what they read. This is often referred to as making meaning, or literacy strategies. This same research has shown that effective readers use specific strategies when reading that show they understand or comprehend what they're reading. Six such strategies are: making connections, visualizing, inferring, questioning, determining importance, and synthesizing. Let's take a closer look at how these six literacy strategies affect reading comprehension.
The brain is a learning machine. Everything you do, think, and wonder has the potential to be stored as a neuron, or a cell in your brain. These neurons form communities by branching out and connecting to other neurons. The neurons are grouped by similarities, forming memories that make sense. For example, your understanding of the word 'round' helps you understand and make connections to several objects, including the moon or a ball.
Reading is no exception. When children read, they're reminded of previously stored knowledge, or schema. The books they read can be connected in three ways: text to self, reminding children of something that happened in their own lives; text to text, when a book reminds them of another they've read; or text to world, when the text reminds them of something they've seen in the world at large.
Encourage readers to make connections first text to self, then text to text, then text to world.
All readers make mental pictures, or visualizations, of the words they read. When readers visualize the text, they are then able to understand elements of the story, such as plot, in a deeper way.
To make learning visible, have children draw and talk about mental pictures that a story prompts.
All readers ask questions as they read. They wonder what will happen next, or what a character is thinking, or when the story will shift. By asking questions, children engage with the text and become more deeply involved, which allows them to understand and comprehend in a rich, powerful way.
Point out the natural questions being asked in your head as you read stories aloud to children. Create a question chart for the books you read aloud, and begin questioning pages in your students' reading notebooks.
As books become more complex, the plot becomes less straight-forward. Not all information is directly given to a reader, and we are left to connect the dots, or infer, on our own. For example, in the story 'Little Red Riding Hood', we know the wolf is mean and selfish because of the way he acts, not because the story actually tells us so. We've inferred this important concept.
Teachers should instruct inference by showing how students are already doing it on their own. Reread some simple stories and talk about what's in the text and what has been inferred.
Books generally contain a lot of information! However, not all information is important to the plot of the story. The description of what Little Red Riding Hood is wearing is fun to read but doesn't matter when it comes time to make sense of the plot. Explain to students that authors write to entertain and teach us. They use words to make the story interesting, but not all words are critical to plot.
The most complex reading strategy, synthesizing, is the process of merging ideas over the course of a text in order to further understanding. Like summarizing, synthesizing requires readers to read the full story. However, synthesizing doesn't just happen at the end of the book; rather, it happens as the reader gets new information. The reader pieces new insights together to understand and make new predictions throughout the book.
This complex strategy can be taught at any age. By its nature, it should be taught after students have had practice with the other five strategies.
Now that we know what the strategies are, let's take a look at how to use them in the classroom.
Reading instruction in most classrooms is taught in a manner often referred to as Reader's Workshop. The workshop helps students view and understand reading skills, then apply them autonomously in their own reading. Although different instructional strategies are used in workshop, the basic frame is the same: the teacher models the reading strategy, the students practice the strategy (either independently or in small groups or partners), and then the group comes back together to share their experiences.
In the first step in this framework, the teacher uses direct instruction to teach the chosen strategy. Almost without exception, this is completed by modeling the strategy by reading a text aloud and showing how to think about, talk about, and record (if necessary) the strategy. For example, when teaching text-to-text connections, the teacher, while reading a book aloud, will pause and say, 'This book reminds me of…', then talk about how recognizing and understanding these text-to-text connections make reading easier to understand. This thinking should be recorded on a piece of chart paper to make learning visible.
Next, students practice the skill in their own independent reading. The teacher typically creates a recording sheet for kids to write their thinking and discoveries, and while reading, students make note of their own text-to-text connections. During this time, the teacher is either reading independently with students or pulling groups to practice a skill.
Finally, after independent reading time is finished, the group comes together to further discuss the strategy, share how it was used, and celebrate reading.
The scope of strategies is meant to be taught over the course of a full year, so each is allotted several weeks to introduce, practice, and perfect.
Literacy strategies concern the ability to read, write, and understand text. When teaching literacy strategies, teachers should focus on research-driven methods. Recent research in reading instruction has identified six main strategies readers use to make sense of reading: making connections, visualizing, inferring, questioning, determining importance, and synthesizing.
Instruction for teaching literacy strategies is typically done in a workshop format. During workshop, teachers directly instruct students about the chosen strategy, modeling how to think about and record it if necessary. Children then go to practice the strategy, either independently or in small groups or partners. Finally, the children come back together to discuss how the strategy was used, share success stories, and celebrate their reading.
The strategies naturally build upon each other and should be taught sequentially over the course of a year, beginning with students as young as kindergarten-age, with some modifications. Though these young learners may not reach as far as synthesizing, teachers still lay the foundation for future learning by using specific vocabulary and instruction. As students cycle back through each strategy in subsequent years, they'll go deeper and deeper with their understanding, taking their emerging reading skills to new levels of understanding.
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Back To CourseEducational Psychology: Tutoring Solution
9 chapters | 328 lessons
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