Teaching Comprehension with Oral, Performance & Media Texts

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will identify characteristics and features of different forms of oral, performance, and media texts and discuss strategies for promoting students' comprehension, response, and analysis skills related to these forms.

Various Texts

Do you have students that dread starting the next new novel or groan when you ask them to pull out the textbook? Or perhaps you have students that struggle with comprehending meaning in a story or understanding new vocabulary words. Comprehension, or the ability to understand something, is critical for success in reading and other subjects. But comprehension practice does not just need to come from reading. Many students learn better through listening, acting out, music and other alternative texts.

Oral, performance, and media texts not only give students an engaging new format for examining the written word, but also provide unique opportunities to interact with text. These texts give students the ability to listen, speak, act out, and perform reading that help comprehension. Let's examine some various forms of oral, performance, and media texts that may be used in the classroom to promote reading comprehension and analysis.

Oral Texts

Oral texts are short poems and narratives that are recited. Poetry is a literary form of art that refuses to be defined in absolute terms, but there are some elements that commonly appear, such as rhythm and rhyme. Poetry is also often grouped into stanzas. It is best known for specific word choices that are not only descriptive, but often evoke emotion. One of the reasons reciting poetry is so great for teaching reading is that the same text is reread several times. With younger children, this promotes word recognition skills; with older children it builds fluency. Further, poetry offers the opportunity for students to be exposed to descriptive vocabulary they may not see in other types of text.

Another type of oral text is storytelling. Storytelling combines words, actions, and audience participation to narrate a story. Storytelling is commonly used in various cultures to pass down customs and traditions to the next generation. Storytelling builds background knowledge about history and diversity. Further, using actions along with the story promotes vocabulary development.

Performance Texts

Performance texts, such as plays and screenplays are another alternative for reading instruction. Plays are dramatizations of a literary work that are typically acted out in front of an audience. Plays depend on dialogue and actions to tell the story. Screenplays are similar to plays except the intent is to be performed on film rather than on stage. Typically, a screenwriter will add elements such as camera angles and special effects to a screenplay.

Using screenplays and plays help with reading comprehension because although students only have to learn their own lines, they have to track other students' lines as they are being read to stay caught up. Rereading the same lines promotes word recognition and fluency. In addition, because these types of texts are dialogue-dependent, students must combine emotion and action with their words so that the audience will fully understand the mood of the script.

Media Texts

Media texts, such as advertisements and music videos, provide another context for reading instruction. Advertisements, whether in newspapers, magazines, billboards, television, or on the internet, are designed to persuade consumers to either buy their product or buy into their ideas. Students need to learn to be smart consumers of media. Advertisements make a great mentor text for persuasive writing, but can also lead to conversations about propaganda and how to find credible sources.

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