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Teaching Students to Comprehend More Deeply. How can we help our students become more strategic readers to enhance their comprehension?. Help ME! A Reading Biography A Reflection on Entering High School. Fifth through eight grade came and went by,

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teaching students to comprehend more deeply

Teaching Students to Comprehend More Deeply

How can we help our students become more strategic readers to enhance their comprehension?


Help ME! A Reading Biography

A Reflection on Entering High School

Fifth through eight grade came and went by,

And I came to hate reading and they didn’t know why.

I expected high school to be the same,

To me, reading books is simply lame.

I did enough reading to just get by.

But I hated to read and they didn’t know why.

Teachers assigned me stuff day after day

“We’ll get him to read, We’ll find a way


Not a day went by without a real try,

But I hated to read and they didn’t know why.

Phonics, Textbooks, Grammar, Spelling.

Sometimes my teachers would end up yelling.

And look like they were about to cry

But I still hated reading and they didn’t know why.

You see, no one helps me how to do it

And so I am frustrated all the way through it


I just want to know the secret things

that readers do that make books sing.

And helps people love stories

And learn from them too.

But no one has helped me,

So sad and so true

No one has taught me

What I need to do


And that is why I just don’t get it

So if you can’t help me I’ll just have to forget it.

And give up interest in ever reading. . .and

Believe me I’d rather be lying here bleeding.


  • Do you have “Jack” in your classroom?
  • Is the frustration evident daily?
  • Imagine yourself in a situation where you don’t know the rules and can’t play the game.
  • How can you assist “Jack” ?

Meta analysis of several international

studies shows the following:

  • 2nd grade American students rank second in the world in reading
  • They fall to a middle ranking by the end of 8th grade
  • They are 29th out of 29 by the end of high school
          • -Wilhelm, citing Dick Allington
current practice
Current practice
  • Reviews of American education show we spend our time:
    • Teaching students information - the declarative knowledge (the what)
    • Instead we should be assisting students in better ways of reading, problem solving, and making meaning (the how)
    • Research shows that good readers employ certain strategies to enhance their comprehension. Our Grade Level Expectations in reading identify those strategies. (the why)
When students are asked to learn information without actively using procedures to construct meaning, they usually end up forgetting the content.
  • How do we support students in understanding and learning the information they read?
international reading association s statement on adolescent literacy says
International Reading Association’s statement on Adolescent Literacy says:
  • Students need direct reading instruction throughout adolescence as they struggle to meet the demands of more sophisticated kinds of literary texts, a variety of informational text and genres, and more substantial and complex content.
The statement goes on to say that we need to actively instruct adolescents at their current state of development.
  • What does this active teaching of reading look like?
active teaching of reading
Active Teaching of Reading
  • Find resources at the appropriate reading level for your students. You may want to bookmark Internet sites on the same topic but at different readability levels. Teach in the Zone of Proximal Development. (download Vygotsky’s Zone for more information.)
  • Examine the Reading Grade Level Expectations for one or two areas that may give your students difficulty when reading the text. (Download the CA Reading GLEs)
  • Choose one or two strategies to model that will link to the GLEs.
explicit instruction
Explicit Instruction
  • Explain the strategy
  • Explain why the strategy is important
  • Explain when to use the strategy
  • Model how to perform the strategy in the actual context of a reading.
  • After students have had sufficient opportunity to see the strategy modeled and they have discussed it, move to the next phase.
explicit instruction1
Explicit Instruction
  • Teacher then guides learner practice.
  • See handout sent to you for more information about the steps of Gradual Release of Responsibility.
  • Goal is for students to independently use the strategy in the appropriate context.
one strategy reciprocal teaching
One Strategy:Reciprocal Teaching
  • This strategy provides instruction and practice of the four main comprehension strategies - predicting, questioning, clarifying, and summarizing.
  • The purpose of this strategy is to gradually release responsibility to the individual to make meaning from the text.
  • Reciprocal teaching involves a high degree of social interaction and collaboration as students take on the role of the teacher in working together to construct meaning.
steps in reciprocal teaching
Steps in Reciprocal Teaching
  • Teacher chooses text(s) according to students zone of proximal development.
  • Teacher explicitly models each of the four basic strategies: predict, question, connect, and summarize.
  • Students must understand that skilled readers do this each time they read and it is imperative to good comprehension.
  • First this should be modeled with the entire class by brainstorming examples of each of the categories.
steps in reciprocal teaching1
Steps in Reciprocal Teaching
  • Next, students work in groups of four to answer questions for each category and share with the class.
  • When students first work independently, they may annotate a short text or complete a graphic organizer to record their application of the strategy.
steps in reciprocal teaching2
Steps in Reciprocal Teaching
  • Students then work in a small groups to share their annotations and construct meaning of the text. One student is chosen as “teacher” to facilitate the group’s task, progress, and time management.
  • Students must cite text references during discussion that focus the questions, what needs to be clarified, the accuracy of their predictions, or their comments in summarization.
steps in reciprocal teaching3
Steps in Reciprocal Teaching
  • All students add comments to their sheet to add to depth of understanding of text.
  • Bring closure to the lesson through whole group discussion or comments by groups about what was discovered.
  • A single text or multiple texts may be used to meet individual needs.
reciprocol teaching handout
Reciprocol Teaching Handout
  • Download one or both of the student handouts for reciprocal teaching.

Reading strategies are important only in so far as they assist

readers to construct meaningful understandings of texts.

Teaching strategies is only important only when they

assist readers to comprehend and respond to text.

Think alouds are not appropriate when students already know

how to use a featured reading strategy, when they do not have

a need to use the strategy, or when the strategy is so complex

that it lies beyond their zone of proximal development.

the what strategies for constructing deeper meaning
Ask Questions









The What: Strategies for constructing deeper meaning
how do good readers use these strategies to extend their meaning of the text
How do good readers use these strategies to extend their meaning of the text?
  • The following pages contain some of the strategies good readers use to comprehend what they read and are taken from the GLEs.
  • Each gives examples of how the expert reader uses the strategy.
  • Following that are ways teachers can model for students the use of the strategy.
ask questions of themselves the authors and the text before during and after reading
Ask questions of themselves, the authors, and the text before, during, and after reading.

Good readers ask questions to:

  • clarify meaning
  • wonder about what is to come in the text
  • determine the author’s intent, style, content, or format
  • to help interpret what they read
  • to focus attention on important ideas in the text
  • to deepen their understanding
  • listen to others questions to help understand the text
asking questions strategies
Asking questions strategies
  • Have a question marathon with your students. Record their questions based on the text. Evaluate which questions will actually make a difference in their understanding of a reading.
  • Introduce QAR - question answer relationships - provides teachers and students with a common vocabulary for discussing different types of questions and sources of information for answering these questions. There are four levels of questioning in this strategy: “right there” (LITERAL), “think and search” (interpretive), “author and you” (evaluative), and “on my own” (application).
  • For more information about this strategy, go to http://www.kimskorner4teachertalk.com/readingliterature/readingstrategies/QAR.htm
connect activate relevant prior knowledge before during and after reading text
Connect:Activate relevant, prior knowledge before, during, and after reading text

Good readers make connections by:

  • relating unfamiliar text to their prior world knowledge and experience
  • text-to-self - things you have experienced
  • text-to-text - things you have read about
  • text-to-world - things you have heard about
  • use what they know about an author and his or her style to predict and better understand a text
  • identify potentially difficult or unfamiliar text structures or formats
  • recognize inadequate background information and learn how to build the information before reading

Strategy for connecting:

Read aloud a short text and think aloud your comments. Show students

connections. Challenge them to define and create new connections that go beyond

the connections originally suggested.

summarize track down the most important ideas and themes
Summarize:Track down the most important ideas and themes.
  • Good readers make decisions about what is important in the text by:
    • Word level -pick out the words that carry the meaning of the sentence
    • Sentence level - pick out the key sentences that carry the weight of meaning for a passage or section. Often these sentences begin or end a paragraph, or in nonfiction, refer to a table or graph
    • Text Level - pick out the key ideas, concepts, and themes in the text. Opinion may change about what is most important as a passage is read. Final conclusions about what is most important are made after reading the passage.
  • Decisions about what is most important are based on prior knowledge and beliefs, opinions, and personal experiences.
  • It helps to point out what is unimportant to help students distinguish what is most important
  • Students need to work toward defending their positions, while realizing that

there is often more than one true set of most important ideas

track down important information or summarize
Track down important information or summarize
  • Give students a 3x3 sticky note and fringe it into 3-4 pieces. As they read challenge them to tear off a piece of fringe and use it to mark what they think is an important piece of information. This will mimic highlighting but allow the student to change their mind as read a passage and will limit how much they think is important.
making inferences
Making Inferences


  • Good readers use their prior knowledge and information from the text to draw conclusion, make judgments and predictions, and form interpretations about what they are reading.
  • Good readers draw inferences by:
    • creating personal meaning from the text - It involves a mental process of combining what is read with relevant prior knowledge. The reader’s unique interpretation of text is the product of this blending.
    • creating a meaning that is not necessarily stated explicitly in the text. The process implies that readers actively search for, or are aware of, implicit meaning.
    • revise based on the inferences and interpretations of other readers
making inferences1
Making Inferences

When good readers infer, they:

  • draw conclusions from text
  • make reasonable predictions as they read and revise those predictions as they read further
  • create dynamic interpretations of text that are adapted asthey continue to read and after they read
  • make connections between conclusions they draw and other beliefs or knowledge
  • make critical or analytical judgments about what they read

When good readers infer, they are more able to:

  • remember and reapply what they have read
  • create new background knowledge for themselves
  • discriminate and critically analyze text and authors
  • engage in conversation and/or other analytical or reflective responses to what they read
making inferences2
Making Inferences
  • At least once a day, read aloud a short passage and think aloud your inferences. Have students decide what types of inferences you are making. Try Two Minute Mysteries by Donald Sobol. These short text offers lots of opportunities for inferencing.
  • See this website for more examples and ideas.
  • http://www.kimskorner4teachertalk.com/readingliterature/readingstrategies/inferences.htm
what does this mean for our classroom today
What does this mean for our classroom today?
  • Reading today views readers as active participants in the reading process and invites them to move from passively accepting the text’s message to question, examine, or dispute the message from the author.
  • In order for us to engage in explicit instruction of cognitive strategies, we must become more metacognitive of our own thinking when reading and share it with our students.
  • After modeling the use of the strategy, students must become active participants in their reading of the text using the strategy.
think about your classroom
Think about your classroom
  • What behaviors do you see that are cries for help with reading?
  • Choose one student you will follow through this course. Write a one page reflection of what you see (i.e., reading level, specific grade level expectations that are needs of the child, etc.) and what you have tried to support this child. Send the reflection to each member of the group.
  • Choose one or two strategies to support this student and explain how you would teach it based on the information you have learned. Send this information to each member of the group.