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Comprehension

Learning outcomes versus teaching tools

Over at Shanahan on Literacy, Dr. Shanahan wrote an interesting post We Zigged When We Should Have Zagged about the lack of comprehension strategies in the Common Core State Standards.

How much is too much strategy instruction?

Teachers teach reading strategies to help with comprehension. The most common strategies teachers use are likely those found by the National Reading Panel to have enough scientific evidence to conclude that their use can improve comprehension: comprehension monitoring, graphic organizers, question answering, question generation, summarization, cooperative learning, story structure, and multiple strategy instruction.

Problems with pre-reading

Pre-reading activities, the things teachers plan and do before reading a text, happen almost every day in elementary school. Pre-reading activities seek to improve a child's comprehension of a text by activating prior knowledge, and by providing time to pre-teach concepts or vocabulary students will encounter in a text.

Why getting out matters

I remember many years ago sharing a book with photographs by Bruce MacMillan with a group of inner-city preschool children. They were bright and vivacious and eager to share what they knew.

While I no longer remember the title of the book, I'll never forget a little boy's response when I asked what the full-color image of a black and white cow was. He exclaimed with authority, "A dog!"

Text sets: One theme, several books

Teachers often have a specific theme or content they want to cover, but have a wide range of reading levels in their classroom. One way to handle that situation is to have many books on that one theme, but the books are written at different reading levels. These are often called text sets. I wrote here about a text set on persistence. ReadWriteThink has some good guidelines for creating text sets.

Infographics for young kids

There seems to be an explosion of infographics these days! If you're not familiar with that term, an infographic is a visual representation of information or data. A lot of information can be displayed visually, both quickly and clearly (at least most times). As someone who has always been drawn to the visual display of information, I love a well done infographic. And I think they have potential value for the elementary classroom too, although most are designed for older students.

How important is it to match a reader to a text?

The Common Core Standards are national standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics. They've been adopted by over 45 states and six provinces, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. According to the Common Core website the standards "provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them.

Picture books in science class

We all love picture books, and hopefully a really good one finds its way into your hands at least once a day. What might happen less frequently is that you use a picture book to help you teach science. I've got a great resource (with a free PDF!) that will hopefully encourage you to use more picture books in science.

Comprehension posters for your classroom

I recently stumbled on a site that promises to consume far too much of my time! But I love the possibilities of Pinterest, a virtual pinboard. Pinterest lets you organize and share all the great things you find on the Web in a very visual way. It's free to join, but there's an invitation process you'll see on the site.

Alternatives to oral retellings

Many teachers and parents ask children to retell a story as a quick, informal way to assess a child's comprehension. Retelling can work well, but it's not without its pitfalls. For starters, it can be difficult to keep a group's attention while one student is doing a retelling. For another, a student may leave out an entire part of the story (that he understood) merely because he accidentally left it out. If the adult is familiar with the story, it's easy to step in and ask a question about the missing part.

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"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library." — Jorge Luis Borges