About Julie Coiro

Empowering Struggling Readers in
Grades 4-6 with Technology

Presented by Julie Coiro
SERC, March 21, 2002

Instructional Practices Grounded in Research
Computer Supported Reading Environments
Inspiration as a Software Literacy Tool
Anticipation Guides 
Discussions with One
Classroom Computer 
Fostering Literacy Connections Online Literacy Software Support Tools Related Resources 
for Teachers
PowerPoint Presentation: 
Research Based Literacy Support for Struggling Readers 

Lesson Procedures: Model of Strategy Instruction
from Duke, N.K. and Pearson, P.D. 
Effective Practices for Developing Reading Comprehension

  • An explicit description of the strategy and when it should be used.
  • Teacher and/or students modeling of the strategy in action.
  • Collaborative use of the strategy in action.
  • Guided practice using the strategy with gradual release of responsibility.
  • Independent use of the strategy. 
In a way, these procedures parallel the steps taken in a guided reading lesson.  First the teacher introduces the story, modeling particular instructional strategies while preparing readers for reading the new material.  Then, students read the text, practicing strategies they've learned with scaffolded guidance and prompting from the teacher as necessary.  Ultimately, students should be able to move away from the guided reading session and apply the strategies they've learned indendently back at their seat. 

What are the components of effective reading comprehension instruction?

Comprehension is a complex process that has been described by reading researcher Delores Durkin as "the essence of reading".  The Report of the National Reading Panel (2000) outlines eight kinds of comprehension instruction that appear to be effective and most promising for classroom instruction.  They include the following: 
  1. Comprehension monitoring in which the readers learns how to be aware or conscious of his or her understanding during reading and learns procedures to deal with problems in understanding as they arise.
  2. Cooperative learning in which readers work together to learn strategies in the context of reading.
  3. Graphic and semantic organizers that allow the reader to represent graphically (write or draw) the meanings of relationships of the ideas that underlie the words in the text.
  4. Story structure from which the reader learns to ask and answer who, what, where, when and why questions about the plot, and in some cases, maps out the time line, characers, and events in stories.
  5. Question answering in which the reader answers questions posed by the teacher and is given feedback on the correctness.
  6. Question generation in which the readers asks himself or herself what, when, where, why, what will happen, how, and who questions.
  7. Summarization in which the readers attempts to identify and write the main or most important ideas that integrate or unite the other ideas or meanings of the text into a coherent whole. 
  8. Multiple-strategy teaching in which the reader uses several of the procedures in interaction with the teacher over the text.  Multiple-strategy teaching is effective when the procedures are used flexibly and appropriately by the readers or the teacher in naturalistic contexts. 
Others have outlined similar comprehension strategies that should be included in any effective reading program. 
  •  I've written a summary of five basic reading comprehension strategies that include predicting, monitoring, confirming, reflecting and elaborating in an online article called Literacy Skills and Strategies.
  • Keene & Zimmerman (1997) wrote an incredibly comprehensive book for educators called Mosaic of Thought in which they give detailed classroom applications for integrating the findings from almost 20 years of studies of proficient readers.   I've outlined the seven strategies of that good readers use in the table below as well as summarized some ideas about why they are useful and how teachers can model the use of this strategy in the context of their own reading and during instruction. 
  • Comprehension activities for struggling readers should include the same strategies.  Richard Allington has created a similar list  that he describes as "powerful instructional activities for fostering the development of reading comprehension", especially in struggling readers.  His list includes activiting prior knowledge, summarizing, story grammar lessons, imagery, question generating, and thinking aloud.  You can learn more in his book What Really Matters for Struggling Readers: Designing Research-Based Programs (2001) 
  • Laura Robb, author of Reading Strategies that Work (1995), invites learners to apply comprehension strategies before, during and after reading.  You can view these ideas in the chart below
  • Linda Hoyt's book Revisit, Reflect and Retell: Strategies for Improving Reading Comprehension (1999) includes a huge list of practical ideas for classroom use during book conversations, oral retellings, written reflections, work with informational text, and artistic responses to text.  Visit the link above to to preview the table of contents for over 150 specific lesson ideas!

Metacognitive Strategies of Proficient Readers
Why Useful
Demonstrating Use of Strategy
1. Activate prior knowledge help recall  That reminds me of…
It made me think of…
I read another book where…
This is different from…
2. Determine the most important ideas help focus The most important ideas are…
So far, I have learned that…
Based on my knowledge of…
3. Ask questions of themselves, the authors and the texts they read help clarify I wonder…
I was confused when…
4. Create visual, auditory or other sensory connections help deepen understanding I visualized…
I could see (smell, hear, taste)…
I could picture…
5. Draw inferences help make critical judgements and make unique interpretations I’m guessing that…
I predict…
It would be better if…
I really liked how…
If I were the main character…
What I didn’t like was…
6. Retell or synthesize help understand clearly Now I understand that…
I have learned that…
This gives me an idea…
7. Use fix-up strategies when   comprehension breaks down help to be an independent reader I tried these fix-up strategies…
I reread that because…
A part I had difficulty with…
Keene, Ellin & Zimmerman, Susan (1997). Mosaic of Thought: Teaching Comprehension in a Reader’s Workshop. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Critical Comprehension Strategies

Recently, Joseph Yukish, Lois Lanning and Kate England (2001) have made an argument for narrowing these seven strategies down to just four critical comprehension strategies.  The use of each strategy encompasses the application of several comprehension skills that are listed below each critical strategy.  You'll notice that the skill of questioning falls within each of the four areas; they explain that questioning is extremely important but since it looks different when used within the context of each critical strategy, they felt it was important to include it in each area instead of adding a fifth critical comprehension strategy. 

  • Identifying essential information
  • Identifying type of text
  • Identifying genre
  • Questioning
  • Sequencing events
  • Synthesizing information
  • Being aware of text language
  • Activating information
    • text to self
    • text to world
    • text to text
  • Questioning
  • Evaluating
  • Analyzing
  • Synthesizing personal and vicarious experiences
  • Reading for a purpose
  • Questioing
  • Looking back (chart, illustration, name or other information)
  • Rereading to support word analysis and/or comprehension
  • Predicting, confirming, or revising thoughts about story
  • Problem-solving words
  • Synthesizing known information with text to check for understanding
  • Questioning
  • Determining theme / opinion / perspective 
  • Determining author's purpose
  • Making predictions
  • Drawing conclusions
  • Making judgements (critiquing)
  • Synthesizing personal connecions with text to make generalizations