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Comprehension Strategy Instruction. A Good Choice. Much of the comprehension strategy instruction (CSI) today is based on a review of the research reported in “Developing Expertise in Reading Comprehension: What Should Be Taught? How Should It Be Taught?” by P. David Pearson and colleagues

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a good choice
A Good Choice
  • Much of the comprehension strategy instruction (CSI) today is based on a review of the research reported in “Developing Expertise in Reading Comprehension: What Should Be Taught? How Should It Be Taught?” by P. David Pearson and colleagues
  • There has been multiple research studies since that time supporting CSI for students struggling in the area of reading as well as a part of the total reading program.
  • Harvard University’s suggested reading strategies for freshmen. (handout)
comprehension strategy instruction3
Comprehension Strategy Instruction
  • Comprehension strategies are a means to an end, not an end in themselves.
  • Comprehension strategies are tools readers employ in order to make meaning from text.
  • Comprehension means that readers think about what they are learning as they read. As they build their store of knowledge, they must also develop understanding. They must go beyond literal understanding in order to develop insight and to think more deeply and critically.

The goal is for students to be able to use the reading strategies flexibly and independently, applying them if and when they enhance learning.

  • Learning how to drive a stick shift step by step
  • Practicing the process with prompts
  • Driving with minimal attention
  • Driving under adverse conditions with increased attention
  • Learning to comprehend strategy by strategy
  • Practicing the process with verbal and written prompts
  • Orchestrating strategies with minimal attention
  • Reading more challenging texts with increased attention

Teaching requires careful listening. Being a sensitive observer helps answer the questions: How do I know what my students know and are able to do? How will I use what I learned about students today to help them learn more tomorrow?


Developing a Common Language

It is helpful to readers if we settle on a common language across grade levels within a school.


Tools for Active Literacy

  • Think-Alouds
  • Read-Alouds
  • Interactive Read-Alouds
  • Lifting Text
  • Guided Discussion
  • Anchor Lessons with Anchor Charts
  • Rereading for Deeper Meaning
  • Sharing Our Own Literacy by Modeling With Adult Literature

Strategies That Work, second edition

thinking aloud
Thinking Aloud
  • makes our thinking public by showing how we construct meaning
  • demonstrates how proficient readers think
  • is central to CSI
  • remains focused and focuses student attention
  • includes identifying the purpose of the demonstration
  • ends with students sharing what they noticed
choosing a think aloud text
Choosing a Think-Aloud Text
  • Short selection or excerpt with several natural stopping points to pause and think aloud
  • Interesting/provocative text which is relevant, compelling or intriguing
  • More challenging than a text that most of the children could read independently
  • Should come from a variety of genres
  • May be new, or familiar and well-loved

Mosaic of Thought, second edition

practice approx 20 min groups of three
Practice – Approx. 20 min.Groups of three
  • Find one book that you think all or a portion of would be a good selection for a think-aloud and one book that you think would be a poor selection.
  • Share with your small group the reasoning behind each of your selections.
  • Share opposing view points. (We need to become more accustomed to having our thinking challenged.)
reading aloud
Reading Aloud
  • If the only reading aloud we do is for the purpose of instruction, we will be losing the opportunity of demonstrating reading for pleasure.
  • We need to read aloud every day for the sheer joy of it.
  • We need to lift language into the air, savoring its beauty and power as well as its ability to provoke laughter and tears.
interactive reading aloud
Interactive Reading Aloud
  • Focuses on listening comprehension
  • Students do not have a copy of the text
  • Teacher reads and guides the discussion while students listen and talk to each other
  • Teacher jots down student thinking
  • Decoding doesn’t interfere with understanding
  • Not a strategy for teaching fluency, but when students take what they learn and apply it to independent reading, it can impact both comprehension and fluency
steps for interactive reading aloud
Steps for Interactive Reading Aloud
  • Activating background knowledge
  • Modeling
  • Guided practice
  • Sharing thinking
lifting text
Lifting Text
  • Overhead transparency of the lifted piece of text, charts, big books
  • Copy for each student
  • Gather students close with copies and clipboards
  • Read, stopping to point out how the strategy is used and to allow students to share
  • Newspaper articles, portions of textbooks, excerpts from longer fiction and non-fiction texts
  • Reason through the text together
guided discussion
Guided Discussion
  • Show your thinking first, give students clear, explicit language for talking about their reading before they join in
  • Move quickly from thinking aloud to guided practice
  • Not a free-for-all discussion, focused conversation
  • Develop a line of thinking by listening to each other and building on one another’s comments
  • Clear up misconceptions
anchor charts
Anchor Charts
  • Identify and choose your most effective mini-lessons as anchors
  • Refer back to that lesson
  • Co-construct anchor charts to record student thinking so that you can return to it to remember processes
  • Elaborate and add to previously constructed anchor charts
types of anchor charts
Types of Anchor Charts

Strategy Charts

Content Charts

Genre Charts

rereading for deeper meaning
Rereading for Deeper Meaning

The more the children hear or read a story, the better they comprehend it, and the more they love it.

sharing our own literature
Sharing Our Own Literature
  • Don Graves: “Those of us who teach reading must be readers ourselves.”
  • Bring in magazines, novels, newspaper articles, essays, poetry, etc… to share with students and to model your own reading processes.
  • Share reading material you are passionate about, demonstrating the importance of reading in your daily life.
let s not forget
Let’s Not Forget:

Provide ample time for text reading

  • Opportunity to orchestrate all of the skills and strategies that are important to proficient reading
  • Results in the acquisition of new knowledge which fuels the comprehension process
  • Teachers must assure students are actively engaged in actual reading, not reading related activities
  • P. David Pearson (Michigan State Univ.) and Linda Fielding (Univ. of Iowa) recommend that of the total block of time set aside for reading, students should be given more time to read than the combined total time allocated for learning about reading and talking or writing about what has been read
  • Avoid the Matthew effect

Balancing Authenticity and Strategy Awareness in Comprehension Instruction” Pearson and Fielding

simply allocating time for text reading is not enough
Simply allocating time for text reading is not enough.

Things teachers can do to increase the likelihood that text reading translates into improved comprehension:

  • Choice
  • Optimal difficulty
  • Multiple readings
  • Negotiating meaning socially

Balancing Authenticity and Strategy Awareness in Comprehension Instruction” Pearson and Fielding


Responding to Reading

  • Purposeful
  • Authentic
  • Open-ended responses tell us the most about what children understand or don’t understand when they read
  • Create a safe, respectful environment in order to increase risk taking
  • Teach active listening and conversation skills
  • A place to differentiate instruction
  • Discuss the handout about how children can record their thinking about text.
  • Clarify terms
  • Add other ideas

Gradual Release of Responsibility



Sharedand Guided





Gradual Release: Explicitly Taught

  • Naming and explaining the strategy gives students knowledge of the strategy.


Gradual Release: Demonstrating

  • Demonstrating explicitly gives students comprehension of what the strategy looks like.
  • Think Aloud


Gradual Release: Shared and Guided Practice

  • Shared and guided reading and discussing give the students the opportunity to do part of the work of using the strategy with support from teachers and peers.


Gradual Release: Collaborative Practice

  • Collaborative reading and discussions give students the chance to do more of the work of using the strategy with peer and teacher feedback.


Gradual Release: Independent

  • Independent reading and reflecting gives students the chance to practice it by themselves with new or familiar text.


Using the handouts “Optimal Learning Model Across the Curriculum” and “Planning for Gradual Release”, discuss the following talking points:

  • Where along the gradual release continuum do I tend to spend too much or too little time and effort?
  • Why is that the case?
  • How does my instruction need to change in order to adequately move myself and my students across the continuum?
  • How might things look different in my classroom if I implemented the gradual release model?