Monday, May 13, 2013

Comprehension strategies

To hear some teachers speak, reading in the content areas is a new thing, unheard of before CCSS came to be. While this is clearly not the case, the CCSS have ushered in an era where reading comprehension is emphasized in a way it may not have been in recent times. Charlotte Rose Sadler, author of Comprehension Strategies for Middle Grade Learners published in 2001, demonstrates this with her book compilation of 56 basic reading comprehension strategies that can be used in the content area classroom. While the title focuses on middle school, these strategies are applicable to both secondary and primary readers as well. The book highlights some tried and true strategies like SQ3R, QAR and anticipation guides. Cooperative learning activities  are identified as comprehension activities, but they can certainly be adapted to be more than reading comprehension activities.

The author identifies Teams-Games-Tournament (TGT) (p. 28) as a reading comprehension activity. In this process homogeneous teams are paired against each other. For example two high, four middle and two low. Two teams play against each other and winning teams collect points. Important information from the week is used as the topic. My concerns fall into what to do with the points. While competition is a great motivator for many kids, they want the points to mean something. Adding them on to a test or homework assignment is a research proven bad idea. You could award candy, pencils, stickers or permission to leave the room first to winners. Unfortunately when everyone sits and listens, many will tune out. An alternate arrangement of groups of students heterogeneously matched who must write the answer on a white board or key it into a automatic response device after collectively getting the response may work with the first team getting five points and other teams with the correct response getting 3 might work, but there remains the challenge of the strongest students taking over. Used after a week of study, however, this remains more of a review activity than a reading comprehension activity.

The book is easy to read, short and exclusively full of strategies. Each strategy is given a page or two in which a brief introduction, procedure, examples and evaluation ideas are highlighted. If you are a person who wants detailed examples, this book does not provide it. There are no handouts, worksheets or forms. For someone with a wealth of strategies in their bag, it may provide a twist on how to use a strategy for reading that you may not have identified or a reminder about something you have not used in a while.

I bought the book on clearance sale from IRA and think it was worth what I paid, but would not have wanted to pay the full price.

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