Literacy Skills and Strategies
Author: Julie Coiro
Portions of this article are also reprinted at Suite101.com
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 StrategiesBasic Reading Comprehension Strategies
2. Reading Strategies versus Reading Skills
3. Teaching Reading Strategies through Strategy Intervention
4. Instructional Literacy 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.
Predicting Typically, good readers begin by quickly glancing over the text and making some type of prediction about what they are going to read. They may look for familiar words or topics, which may then trigger thoughts from their own background knowledge about the topic. Often, they go one step further and establish a purpose for reading based on the type of text (fiction, non-fiction) and its format (book, newspaper, textbook, magazine, etc.). Monitoring As the reading process occurs, good readers are actively self-monitoring their understanding of the text. They continue reading if everything makes sense, and more importantly, if they do not understand, they are able to stop and self-correct. They problem solve "on the spot", drawing from the pool of strategies that they have learned. Successful readers use various strategies at different times, depending on the type of text and the situation. Confirming Good readers are almost always aware of the goal of the reading assignment, and at certain points, will stop to confirm if their earlier predictions were correct, or if the text "fits in" with similar thoughts about the topic from their own background knowledge. Reflecting Usually, the ultimate goal of a reading comprehension assignment is to promote further thinking. Although, outside of the classroom, readers are rarely asked a series of questions about what they have read, most successful readers take time to revisit the text and reflect on their understanding of it. Often, this is done informally, but readers should be able to recall some of the most relevant parts of what they have read through organized retellings or summarizations. Reflecting may also involve more personal responses to the text as well. Elaborating Finally, successful readers should be given opportunities to analyze, integrate, and critically elaborate on their reflections. They should be encouraged to offer their own opinions and to apply what they've read to other readings and situations. By interacting with a reading assignment in this way, it becomes part the reader's own experience, and is much more likely to be remembered in the future.
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
DEAR (Drop Everything and Read)
DOL (Daily Oral Language)
Environmental Print Reading
Invented Spelling / Creative Spelling
Language Experience Approach
Paired Reading / Buddy Reading
Reading Log / Reading Response Journal
Sustained Silent Reading
Taped Reading / Reading Aloud
Webbing / Semantic Mapping
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