Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Disciplinary Literacy

Reading: Big Ideas

Strategies of Proficient Readers

Extensive research has been conducted to investigate the reading strategies that proficient readers use to comprehend and interpret text. An initial summary of the research findings (Pearson, Roehler, Dole, & Duffy, 1992) identified seven essential strategies for meaningful comprehension of text:

  • Determining importance in reading (key concepts, text structure, author’s purpose)
  • Making connections while reading (to prior knowledge and texts)
  • Asking questions (to set purposes and clarify understanding)
  • Making inferences
  • Visualizing
  • Synthesizing important ideas
  • Monitoring understanding and using “fix-up” strategies

These general strategies are common to all effective reading and, often, explicit instruction in using each one begins in the elementary grades. It is important to note that even from the earliest years, strategy instruction should occur in isolation but should be contextualized within a real reading experience. Specific strategies should be taught as needed to support proficient reading. As students read more complex texts in middle and high school, they need to combine these strategies with other literacy practices specific to individual disciplines to read and think about information presented. For example, in social studies, readers consider the source(s) of a text (e.g., the author and any possible biases the author might have) and the context in which it was written (e.g., time and place when text or visuals were created) to determine, interpret, and connect key ideas or events. In science, readers may emphasize text features <p><strong>text features</strong><br /> Texts, especially expository texts often used in the disciplines, may contain specific cues that highlight or clarify ideas presented in the body of the text. The purpose of specific text features is to support readers in reading and understanding the text. They may emphasize important words through the use of different font types and sizes, bolded words, or italics. They may illustrate key ideas with visuals such as diagrams, charts, maps, or photographs. Or they may provide support in locating text information, including table of contents, index, or glossary. Recognizing and using text features before, during, and after reading will enhance comprehension of text ideas.</p> (such as charts or diagrams) and structure to support their understanding of important information. In math, they might focus on the precise mathematical definition of important words, generate specific questions that will aid in problem solving, and create a visual diagram that outlines a process for solving problems. Monitoring understanding is central to using all of the other strategies so that students can regulate their learning and repair any misunderstandings.

Reflect: What strategies do you teach and promote to support students in reading texts within your discipline? How do you contextualize this teaching and learning? Which strategies are most effective in helping students to identify, analyze, and draw conclusions about important ideas? Why?