Developing Comprehension Activities for Students
in Grades 3-8 Using On-Line Tools
Presented by Julie Coiro
Literacy Initiative Professional Development Series at SERC
December 4, 2001 and January 9, 2002
Introduction On-line Tools More Tools Projects
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:
Others have outlined similar comprehension strategies that should be included in any effective reading program.
- 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.
- Cooperative learning in which readers work together to learn strategies in the context of reading.
- 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.
- 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.
- Question answering in which the reader answers questions posed by the teacher and is given feedback on the correctness.
- Question generation in which the readers asks himself or herself what, when, where, why, what will happen, how, and who questions.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- Your handout includes ideas from Laura Robb, author of Reading Strategies that Work (1995), for inviting learners to apply these strategies before, during and after reading. You can also 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 Amazon.com to preview the table of contents for over 150 specific lesson ideas!
Metacognitive Strategies of Proficient Readers
Strategy 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…
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.
Placing Reading Strategies in the Three-Part Reading Model
Strategies to Use
Strategies to Use
Strategies to Use
These activate past knowledge and experiences. These use past knowledge
to recall and understand.
These expand past knowledge and help create new understandings. Brainstorm
Identify Confusing Parts
Confirm, Adjust Predictions
Reflect Through: Writing, Talking, Dance and Movement, Drawing
Source: Robb, Laura. (1996). Reading Strategies that Work. Scholastic, Inc. page 14
Take a few moments to think of and share instructional activities that you use with your students to foster some of the reading comprehension strategies we've discussed.
Designate a group leader to jot down the list of ideas generated in your group. Be prepared to share them with the rest of the class.
Now that we've developed some shared meaning of the current research about effective reading comprehension instruction, let's explore ways that electronic tools and databases that you can access for free on the Internet can further enrich your literacy lessons. The following resources are for you to explore after today's session. Background Resources for Enriching Literacy Learning with Technology
- TeacherTap by Annette Lamb: Time saving starters for technology integration
- Web Enhanced Learning Environment Strategies (WELES): a reflection tool for helping you strategize on how to use the web to enhance your classroom instruction. This site provides you with ideas on how to enhance the strategies you use everyday in your classrooms, namely to FRAME learning activities within current and meaningful realities, INFORM students about lesson content, provide opportunities for students to EXPLORE information and knowledge, and arrange occasions to TRY out new knowledge.