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Literacy Skills and Strategies
Author: Julie Coiro
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Much of the current literature on reading instruction supports the idea of teaching students a series of reading strategies instead of isolated reading skills. (For a detailed review, the article What Does Research Say About Reading identifies important trends in reading instruction and research). Reading strategies are tools that assist a reader in unlocking the meaning behind the printed word. These strategies can be helpful before, during and after the actual reading event. The same basic strategies that can be used by beginning readers are equally helpful to advanced readers.

This article focuses on the following concepts:

1. Basic Reading Comprehension Strategies
2. Reading Strategies versus Reading Skills
3. Teaching Reading Strategies through Strategy Intervention
4. Instructional Literacy Strategies
Basic Reading Comprehension Strategies

The essence of reading comprehension is creating meaning.  If we were to look at the thought processes of good readers as they interact with a piece of text, there are a few basic tools, or "thinking for meaning" strategies, that are being utilized. The table below illustrates these five building blocks to effective reading comprehension.

Reading Strategies versus Reading Skills

In simplest terms, reading skills instruction usually focuses on word identification; reading strategy instruction focuses on creating meaning. Reading skills generally fall under five categories; these include word identification, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and study skills. Many times, when readers learn these skills, they learn them in isolation and often, they're unsure when or why to use one skill rather than another in a real reading situation.

A reading strategy can be described as any interactive process of getting meaning from connected text. Laura Robb, author of several excellent books about strategic approaches to teaching reading, writes in her book Reading Strategies That Work, that "traditionally, skills are described as set of helpful tools that students practice in order to improve reading".  Robb believes that "a skill becomes a strategy when the learner can use it independently, when she can reflect on and understand how it works, and then apply it to new reading materials. When this occurs, the student has become a strategic reader."

Good reading instruction, then, should teach readers to use reading skills in the context of the thinking strategies described in the table above. For example, when a reader is taught a word identification skill, he/she should be taught to use many different contexts to predict what should come next, to examine the visual qualities of the word, to confirm or modify their prediction and to then move on.

Good reading teachers should introduce students to appropriate reading skills but present them within the context of effective reading strategies. The critical thinking strategies of predicting, confirming, monitoring, reflecting and evaluating must be brought to a conscious level in the reader's mind. Then, by providing readers with a virtual "toolbox" of procedures and making each reader responsible for choosing an appropriate strategy, students will be more actively involved in their own reading comprehension and self-correction.

Teaching Reading Strategies through Strategy Intervention

The variety of substrategies and procedures that have been identified to foster successful reading strategies can be called "strategy interventions". Different interventions can be used with different types of texts and they can be used before reading, during reading, or after reading.

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Emergent Literacy Skills and Strategies

Comprehension Strategies to Use Before Reading Comprehension Strategies to Use During Reading Comprehension Strategies to Use After Reading

Instructional Literacy Strategies

Anticipation Guides
Author's chair
Big Books
Book Talks
Choral Reading
DEAR (Drop Everything and Read)
dialogue journals
DOL (Daily Oral Language)
Environmental Print Reading
Focused Study
Guided Reading
Interactive Writing
Invented Spelling / Creative Spelling
Journal Writing
Language Experience Approach
Literature-Based Instruction
Literature Circles
Paired Reading / Buddy Reading
Point-of-View Stories
Reader's Theatre
Reader's Workshop
Reading Aloud
Reading Log / Reading Response Journal
Repeated Reading
Shared Reading
Story Grammar
Story Mapping
Sustained Silent Reading
Taped Reading / Reading Aloud
Webbing / Semantic Mapping
Word Bank
Word Wall
Writer's Workshop

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