Teaching Reading: 3-5 Workshop
Building Comprehension Extend Your Knowledge | Building Comprehension
Examine the Topic
Vocabulary development is an important factor in reading comprehension. Read the following three statements by Nell Duke, Jennifer Soalt, and Laura Pardo. Consider how these ideas on vocabulary instruction relate to the video classrooms, as well as to your own instructional practices.
Vocabulary and comprehension go hand in hand. Our research shows that a higher vocabulary predicts or suggests that a student will comprehend at a higher level. This connection is not just an accident. Really, it is causal. We know that if you work to improve students’ vocabulary, it actually improves their comprehension.
— Nell Duke
Vocabulary, like background knowledge, affects comprehension. However, research has shown that in order for vocabulary instruction to have an effect on comprehension, students need to explore a new word in a variety of contexts. Discussing the meaning of the same word in this way enables students to formulate a nuanced, recallable understanding of the word’s meaning. Unfortunately, much vocabulary instruction aimed at improving comprehension is ineffective because it examines the word being taught only in the context of a single text. Units of study that contain fictional and informational texts on the same topic help teachers avoid that instructional pitfall by enabling students to explore new vocabulary in multiple contexts: A new word first encountered in an informational text may be encountered again in a related informational or a fictional text on the same topic. Moreover, informational and fictional texts on the same topic often use synonymous or even identical words to convey slightly different shades of meaning, further enhancing the depth of students’ vocabulary by exposing them to the different facets of a particular word or group of words.
Excerpted from Soalt, J. “Bringing Together Fictional and Informational Texts to Improve Comprehension.” The Reading Teacher 58, no. 7 (2005): 680-681.
If there are too many words that a reader does not know, he or she will have to spend too much mental energy figuring out the unknown word(s) and will not be able to understand the passage as a whole. Teachers help students learn important vocabulary words prior to reading difficult or unfamiliar texts. When teaching vocabulary words, teachers make sure that the selected words are necessary for making meaning with the text students will be reading and that they help students connect the new words to something they already know. Simply using the word lists supplied in textbooks does not necessarily accomplish this task. Many teachers consider the backgrounds and knowledge levels of their students and the text the students will be engaging in and then select a small number of words or ideas that are important for understanding the text. Once teachers have decided on the appropriate vocabulary words to use, students must actively engage with the words–use them in written and spoken language–in order for the words to become a part of the students’ reading and writing vocabularies. For example, asking students to create graphic organizers that show relationships among new words and common and known words helps them assimilate new vocabulary. Asking students to look up long lists of unrelated, unknown words is unlikely to help students access the text more appropriately or to increase personal vocabularies.
Excerpted from Pardo, L. S. “What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Comprehension.” The Reading Teacher 58, no. 3 (Nov. 2004): 274.
Now write your answers to the following questions:
- What are the important ideas about vocabulary instruction highlighted in all three statements?
- What are the strategies readers use to determine unfamiliar word meanings?
- What evidence of vocabulary learning did you see in the classroom clips? What strategies were the students using?
- Think about your vocabulary instruction.
- How will you provide multiple exposures to the same word?
- How will you ensure that students are actively involved with the word?
- What are your challenges in teaching vocabulary?
Tips for New Teachers: Comprehension Strategies
Good comprehension strategies are important, but they don’t happen after one lesson or even a few good lessons. If you’re a new teacher, or teaching a new group of students, consider the following tips to get started:
- Use picture books to model using comprehension strategies.
- Initially have students read easy text to practice a new comprehension strategy.
- Create with your students a wall chart defining each strategy as you teach it.
- Remember to tell students what the strategy is, how to use it, and when to use it.
- Teach and apply strategies across the curriculum.
- When conferring with a student during reading, note or ask the student what strategies are being used.
- In planning for teaching a book, decide which comprehension strategies and themes you will develop throughout the book.
- Be sure your plans include activities to develop comprehension before students begin to read. Determine and plan instruction for concepts, background knowledge, and vocabulary critical to understanding the selection.
- Instead of asking students to answer a series of comprehension questions after reading, develop one open-ended question that will promote meaningful oral and/or written response.
3.2 Analyze the Video | Building Comprehension
Watch the video, "Building Comprehension," taking notes as you watch. After you watch, jot down your answers to the questions below. If you prefer to watch the video in segments, pause the video when you see the next chapter heading.
Workshop 1 Creating Contexts for Learning
This session examines how classroom organization, routines, and grouping practices can enhance literacy skills in the middle grades. Literacy expert Jeanne Paratore discusses teaching strategies that foster reading and writing skills. Classroom examples illustrate the research.
Workshop 2 Fluency and Word Study
This session focuses on how students in the middle grades develop vocabulary and reading fluency. Literacy expert Richard Allington discusses specific teaching strategies that help build fluency and vocabulary, illustrated by classroom examples.
Workshop 3 Building Comprehension
Comprehending text is one of the main goals of reading. In this session, literacy expert Nell Duke discusses what good readers do and strategies teachers can use to help students build comprehension skills. Classroom footage provides examples of comprehension strategies.
Workshop 4 Writing
This workshop examines the relationship between reading and writing in the middle grades. Literacy expert Nadeen Ruiz discusses the connections, conventions, and inventions that provide a framework for teaching writing, illustrated by classroom examples.
Workshop 5 New Literacies of the Internet
This workshop focuses on the evolving use of networked technology in education. Literacy expert Donald Leu discusses strategies that help students effectively read, write, and communicate on the Internet. Classroom examples illustrate strategies for using Internet resources in the classroom.
Workshop 6 Teaching English Language Learners
Changing classroom demographics call for a range or teaching strategies. In this session, literacy expert Robert Jim�nez discusses strategies teachers can use to create a successful learning environment for all students, while supporting English language learners. Classroom examples illustrate the research.
Workshop 7 Teaching Diverse Learners
In this session, literacy expert Dorothy Strickland discusses how teachers can meet the diverse needs of readers and writers in their classrooms. Classroom examples and teaching strategies address different aspects of diversity, including culture, language, background, ability, and learning approaches.
Workshop 8 Assessment and Accountability
This session explores assessment, standards, and outcomes. Literacy expert Kathy Au discusses the strategies teachers can use to assess students' understanding in reading and writing. Classroom examples illustrate how students can participate in their own assessment.
Supplementary Workshop 6 - Teaching English Language Learners
Professional Development Workshop Guide