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Elementary student in class thinking pensively about the lesson
Dr. Joanne Meier
Sound It Out
Joanne Meier

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.

In a recent blog post (opens in a new window) by Prof. Daniel Willingham, a UVA Professor and Cognitive Scientist at the University of Virginia, Willingham wonders whether teachers are spending too much time teaching strategies. Willingham fears the “collateral damage” of too much strategy instruction is bored kids who never get the opportunity to sink into a book (my words, not his).

Willingham reviewed the research (opens in a new window) on comprehension strategies. Research generally supports teaching children strategies. Evidence suggests that strategies are learned quickly, and can provide a short-term boost to comprehension.

But in considering how often the instruction takes away from a child’s reading, Willingham asks, “How can you get lost in a narrative world if you think you’re supposed to be posing questions to yourself all the time? How can a child get really absorbed in a book about ants or meteorology if she thinks that reading means pausing every now and then to anticipate what will happen next, or to question the author’s purpose?”

This issue doesn’t feel that different to me than problems with prereading. When thinking about effective instruction, it may be that the questions to ask are about time. How many minutes are available for instruction? How many of those minutes are used for strategy instruction (or prereading)? Is that the best use of those minutes? I’d love to hear what you think.

About the Author

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Publication Date
May 3, 2012