The Science of Reading ComprehensionThe term Science of Reading has been the focus of attention for several years (see my January, 2020 post). The term refers to the research that reading experts, especially cognitive scientists, have conducted on how we learn to read. This body of knowledge, over twenty years in the making, has helped debunk older methods of reading instruction that were based on tradition and observation, not evidence. Much of the discourse around instruction based on the Science of Reading tends to focus on the importance of explicit instruction for phonemic awareness, phonics and fluency. But what does the research tell us about effective instruction for comprehension?
The Power of Transition WordsWhat are transition words and phrases? Sometimes called linking words, transitions connect sentences, paragraphs and sections of text. They also allow us to connect ideas when we speak. Instruction about transitions supports student reading and writing. When students are aware of transitions while reading, they provide powerful clues to support comprehension. When students include transitions when writing, the message and ideas they want to convey are clear and organized.
Patterns of OrganizationExpository text typically incorporates five common patterns of organization, and transition words and phrases often signal the use of these patterns in text. These patterns are sometimes referred to as text structures. They are more commonly found in informational and opinion types of writing, but may also be used in narratives.
The Writing RevolutionI’ve long been a fan of Judith Hochman’s work related to teaching basic writing skills to older students who struggle with writing. In 2012, the Atlantic published a riveting article titled “The Writing Revolution” that chronicled the experience of a New York City high school as they sought to understand why so many of their students could not write. They determined that Judith’s sentence instruction practices were a big part of the solution. Now Judith has written a book with Natalie Wexler (with a forward by Doug Lemov) titled “The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in all Subjects and Grades.”
Teaching Basic Argument Writing ComponentsOver the past two years since Keys to Literacy published my Keys to Argument Writing professional development module and the associated training book Keys to Content Writing I am often asked by teachers advice for how to teach argument writing (and opinion for elementary grades). The place to start is to introduce students to the structure of argument/opinion writing.
Teaching Grammar: What Works and What Doesn’tI have been recently working with my Keys to Literacy colleagues to develop our new Keys to Early Writing professional development program -- we will pilot it next month. An important piece of comprehension and writing instruction for young children, (and also for older struggling writers) is teaching sentence structure. What’s the best way to teach sentences? A recent article by Lauren Gartland and Laura Smolkin in The Reading Teacher titled The Histories and Mysteries of Grammar Instruction presents some interesting history about grammar instruction and some suggestions for effective teaching, but first let’s address why students need explicit sentence instruction...
Text Driven Comprehension and Close Reading InstructionBasic comprehension strategy instruction, close reading instruction, and text-driven instruction are closely related. Comprehension strategy instruction provides the foundational, basic comprehension skills that students need to get “under their belt” in order to apply the more complex, critical thinking skills required to closely read challenging text. Basic comprehension strategy instruction should be text-driven -- i.e., taught and practiced using content-related text. Teachers will not be effective if strategies (such as main idea and summarizing skills) are taught and practiced in isolation. Likewise, close reading skills need to be text-driven – i.e., using challenging content-related text....
Teaching Text StructuresThis blog post is devoted to encouraging teachers of all grades and subject areas to teach students about text structure. It is an excellent way to improve writing and reading comprehension.
Text structure is the arrangement of ideas and the relationships among the ideas; readers and writers who are familiar with text structure recognize how the information is unfolding. Common Core Reading Standard #5 focuses on teaching text structure.
As students advance to middle and high school grades, the text that they have to read and write become increasingly varied in style, vocabulary, text structure, purpose, and intended audience....
What Makes a Text “Complex”?Many educators I meet while I am delivering literacy professional development ask this question:
“What makes a piece of text complex, and how can I determine if the text I use is complex?”
The Common Core literacy standards place significant emphasis on the need to teach students how to read challenging, complex text, as noted on pages 2-3 of Common Core Appendix A (Research Supporting Key Elements of the Standards).
This focus is driven by research showing that as demands that college and careers place on readers have either held steady or increased over the last fifty years, the complexity of K-12 reading texts have unfortunately trended downward in difficulty. The result is that there are too many students entering college or the work force without the ability to read and understand the text they will encounter...