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Into, Through, but Not Beyond

Text-Dependent Reading Instruction

Text-Dependent Reading

English-language arts teachers and reading experts certainly agree that pre-teaching a reading selection is an essential component of good reading instruction. To help students get into a text, teachers may need to pre-teach some vocabulary, establish a context for the reading, explain the genre, and introduce the author to facilitate optimal  comprehension. Additionally, teachers need to assist students in reading “between the lines” to ensure that students understand the reading as the author intended. Help through the text can include teaching vocabulary, pointing out literary devices, explaining literary references, and interpreting difficult passages. The close reading strategy is one of many means to this end.

However, at the beyond stage many English-language arts teachers and reading experts will part ways. Constructivists will argue that unless the reading is made personally relevant through various instructional means such as KWLs, dialectical journals, and reflective writing responses, the reading is essentially meaning-less. Comprehension is defined as meaning-making. Some reader-response theorists and practitioners would go so far as to minimize the role of the author and text in the reading process.

A brief example may be helpful. In a freshman English-language arts course, a constructivist teacher limits the through instruction to get to the meat of the instruction, that is, the beyond activities, with this discussion prompt: “When Shakespeare says, “To be, or not to be: that is the question” he argues that finding meaning in one’s existence should be the driving force behind all decision-making. It is only in the process of questioning one’s very own existence can one rise above the pedantic necessities of life and be self-actualized as true human being.” Students then complete “Agree or Disagree” quick writes to be followed by heterogeneously mixed groups (by reading ability, learning style, multiple intelligences, etc.) to share and process the responses. Risk-taking teachers might even bring up the “Is suicide ever a morally justified option?” angle. The culminating project would involve creating individual epitaphs on the purpose of life etched into artsy clay tombstones, which may or may not (individual student choice) be displayed at Open House.

Others would disagree with this approach. Some of those buying into the New Criticism or Formalism theories, would treat only the text as sancrosanct. The context of

Text Dependent Theories

the writing, the reader, and even the author are irrelevant to what the text says in and of itself. Most English-language arts teachers would not go that far. These non-constructivist, literature-based English-language arts teachers would focus (not limit) the reading experience to what the author says and means in the context of his or her own writing. Personal relevance is deemed to be superfluous or, at least secondary to understanding what and the character means and why the character says it. Thus, the personal connection to reader is minimized. Group discussion and writing responses would focus on the text and not the application beyond the confines of the text. This latter approach would be akin to that advocated by the writers of the Common Core State Standards.

In the same freshman course described above, a non-constructivist, literature-based  teacher begins the into activities with a brief class discussion regarding the historical, linguistic, and literary contexts. Next, the teacher and her students work through the three components of text: 1. Key Ideas and Details 2. Craft and Structure and 3. Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. For example, they might analyze Shakespeare’s word choice (the infinitive “to + the base form of the verb” as a repetitive and ongoing action that can express a generalization), ask for a summary of events that led up to this soliloquy, and interpret Hamlet’s words in light of the plot, predict how this crisis of thought may affect the next or ultimate plot event(s), etc. Students then add the “To be…” quotable quote to their character development charts as evidence that Hamlet serves as a dynamic character. Students finally compose a response-to-literature essay to this prompt: “If Shakespeare ended the play Hamlet at this point, would Prince Hamlet truly be considered a tragic character? Cite textual evidence from Acts I, II, and III to justify your point of view.”

Clearly, both lessons would be engaging and promote critical thinking. The constructivist approach is using the text to teach content. The non-constructivist, literature-based  approach is to teach the text as the author intended. However, the constructivist approach focuses on the beyond application of the text. The non-constructivist focuses on the through approach and minimizes the beyond. This is not to say that the non-constructivist, literature-based approach would not bring in outside source material or compare different texts to enhance comprehension.

My view is that English-language arts teachers have moved more toward the non-constructivist approach over the last dozen or so years, especially since the advent of the Common Core. As an MA reading specialist, I tend to believe that letting the literature speak its own voice to students (via author and text) will accomplish the ends of content and process acquisition better than imposing content on the text. The constructivist approach is essentially isogesis­-reading something into the text that is not there. The non-constructivist, literature-based approach is accountable to the rules of exegesis-how to properly derive meaning out of the text itself. And I personally think that Shakespeare would prefer his readers to follow the latter approach.

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Intervention Program Science of Reading

The Science of Reading Intervention Program

Pennington Publishing provides two reading intervention program options for ages eight–adult. The Teaching Reading Strategies (Intervention Program) is a full-year, 55 minutes per day program which includes both word recognition and language comprehension instructional resources (Google slides and print). The word recognition components feature the easy-to-teach, interactive 5 Daily Google Slide Activities: 1. Phonemic Awareness and Morphology 2. Blending, Segmenting, and Spelling 3. Sounds and Spelling Independent Practice 4. Heart Words Independent Practice 5. The Sam and Friends Phonics Books–decodables 1ith comprehension and word fluency practice for older readers. The program also includes sound boxes and personal sound walls for weekly review.  The language comprehension components feature comprehensive vocabulary, reading fluency, reading comprehension, spelling, writing and syntax, syllabication, reading strategies, and game card lessons, worksheets, and activities. Word Recognition × Language Comprehension = Skillful Reading: The Simple View of Reading and the National Reading Panel Big 5.

If you only have time for a half-year (or 30 minutes per day) program, the The Science of Reading Intervention Program features the 5 Daily Google Slide Activities, plus the sound boxes and personal word walls for an effective word recognition program.

PREVIEW TEACHING READING STRATEGIES and THE SCIENCE OF READING INTERVENTION PROGRAM RESOURCES HERE for detailed product description and sample lessons.

FREE DOWNLOAD TO ASSESS THE QUALITY OF PENNINGTON PUBLISHING RESOURCES: The SCRIP (Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict) Comprehension Strategies includes class posters, five lessons to introduce the strategies, and the SCRIP Comprehension Bookmarks.

Get the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies FREE Resource:

Literacy Centers, Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Advanced Reading Skills are Essential

Text Complexity

Advanced Reading Skills

Reading is the gateway to knowledge. Without refined reading skills, personal independence and options are severely limited. Poor readers can only know what others choose to tell them. Poor readers have limited socio-economic opportunities. This ramifications of an increasingly illiterate society are compounding as knowledge compounds at an exponentially rapid rate. Here’s why teaching and learning advanced reading skills are essential.

The ability to read well increases the freedom and self-determination of the individual. Nineteenth Century American slaveholders understood this concept well. By 1850, each of the fifteen slaveholding states had enacted laws that criminalized reading instruction to slaves. Slaveholders found out through experience that the ability to read opened up the world of knowledge, individual choice, and aspiration to a better life—all dangerous challenges to authoritarian control. In the Twentieth Century, the Nazis came to power, burning books and harassing those who thought differently then their party. Once their power solidified, concentrated efforts were made to control and manipulate the reading of school children and the masses. The communists in the Soviet Union altered textbooks to reflect their view of history and sent authors to Siberia for re-education. In the Twenty-First Century, economic problems have provided the pretext for closing public or school libraries, considering limits to the freedom of thought via Internet censorship or taxation, and limiting the capital acquisition of small publishing companies which has forced many into bankruptcy—thus solidifying the conglomerate power of the largest publishing houses, whose agenda consists of money-making and preserving the status quo.

In this information age, the ability to read well is an increasingly essential skill. The negative consequences of limited reading ability are numerous. For example, identifying a phishing email requires higher order critical reading skills to read between the lines and recognize non-sequiturs, unsupported generalizations, and questionable authority errors in reasoning. Reading and applying the Schedule A instructions for allowable deductions on the 1040 form requires content-specific vocabulary. Reading how to program a new flat screen television requires advanced technical reading ability. A limited reader could wind up with a bank account depleted, an audit, or a large paperweight.

Researchers have cited “a serious gap between many high school seniors’ reading ability and the reading requirements they will face after graduation. Furthermore, students in college are expected to read complex texts with substantially greater independence (i.e., much less scaffolding) than are students in typical K–12 programs. College students are held more accountable for what they read on their own than are most students in high school (Erickson & Strommer, 1991; Pritchard, Wilson, & Yamnitz, 2007).

College instructors assign readings, not necessarily explicated in class, for which students might be held accountable through exams, papers, presentations, or class discussions. Students in high school, by contrast, are rarely held accountable for what they are able to read independently (Heller & Greenleaf, 2007). This discrepancy in task demand, coupled with what we see below is a vast gap in text complexity, may help explain why only about half of the students taking the ACT Test in the 2004–2005 academic year could meet the benchmark score in reading (which also was the case in 2008–2009, the most recent year for which data are available) and why so few students in general are prepared for postsecondary reading (ACT, Inc., 2006, 2009).”

The Achievement Gap

Today, we need to see advanced reading instruction as a bulwark against an increasingly illiterate society. What was an adequate reading skill level thirty years ago is inadequate today. More higher level high school and college reading courses are needed to appropriately prepare students for the  information age. Our achievement gap is real, but is better defined as a literacy gap.

FREE DOWNLOAD TO ASSESS THE QUALITY OF PENNINGTON PUBLISHING RESOURCES: The SCRIP (Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict) Comprehension Strategies includes class posters, five lessons to introduce the strategies, and the SCRIP Comprehension Bookmarks.

Get the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies FREE Resource:

Intervention Program Science of Reading

The Science of Reading Intervention Program

Pennington Publishing provides two reading intervention program options for ages eight–adult. The Teaching Reading Strategies (Intervention Program) is a full-year, 55 minutes per day program which includes both word recognition and language comprehension instructional resources (Google slides and print). The word recognition components feature the easy-to-teach, interactive 5 Daily Google Slide Activities: 1. Phonemic Awareness and Morphology 2. Blending, Segmenting, and Spelling 3. Sounds and Spelling Independent Practice 4. Heart Words Independent Practice 5. The Sam and Friends Phonics Books–decodables 1ith comprehension and word fluency practice for older readers. The program also includes sound boxes and personal sound walls for weekly review.  The language comprehension components feature comprehensive vocabulary, reading fluency, reading comprehension, spelling, writing and syntax, syllabication, reading strategies, and game card lessons, worksheets, and activities. Word Recognition × Language Comprehension = Skillful Reading: The Simple View of Reading and the National Reading Panel Big 5.

If you only have time for a half-year (or 30 minutes per day) program, the The Science of Reading Intervention Program features the 5 Daily Google Slide Activities, plus the sound boxes and personal word walls for an effective word recognition program.

PREVIEW TEACHING READING STRATEGIES and THE SCIENCE OF READING INTERVENTION PROGRAM RESOURCES HERE for detailed product description and sample lessons.

Literacy Centers, Reading, Study Skills , , , , ,