Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices


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Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices

  1. 1. IES PRACTICE GUIDE WHAT WORKS CLEARINGHOUSEImproving Adolescent Literacy:Effective Classroom andIntervention PracticesNCEE 2008-4027U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
  2. 2. The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) publishes practice guides in educationto bring the best available evidence and expertise to bear on the types of systemicchallenges that cannot currently be addressed by single interventions or programs.Authors of practice guides seldom conduct the types of systematic literature searchesthat are the backbone of a meta-analysis, although they take advantage of such workwhen it is already published. Instead, authors use their expertise to identify themost important research with respect to their recommendations, augmented by asearch of recent publications to ensure that research citations are up-to-date.Unique to IES-sponsored practice guides is that they are subjected to rigorous exter-nal peer review through the same office that is responsible for independent reviewof other IES publications. A critical task for peer reviewers of a practice guide is todetermine whether the evidence cited in support of particular recommendations isup-to-date and that studies of similar or better quality that point in a different di-rection have not been ignored. Because practice guides depend on the expertise oftheir authors and their group decisionmaking, the content of a practice guide is notand should not be viewed as a set of recommendations that in every case dependson and flows inevitably from scientific research.The goal of this practice guide is to formulate specific and coherent evidence-basedrecommendations that educators can use to improve literacy levels among adoles-cents in upper elementary, middle, and high schools. The target audience is teach-ers and other school personnel with direct contact with students, such as coaches,counselors, and principals. The guide includes specific recommendations for edu-cators and the quality of evidence that supports these recommendations.
  3. 3. IES PRACTICE GUIDE Improving Adolescent Literacy: E ective Classroom and Intervention Practices August 2008 Panel Michael L. Kamil (Chair) STANFORD UNIVERSITY Geo rey D. Borman UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN—MADISON Janice Dole UNIVERSITY OF UTAH Cathleen C. Kral BOSTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS Terry Salinger AMERICAN INSTITUTES FOR RESEARCH Joseph Torgesen FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY Sta Xinsheng “Cindy” Cai Fiona Helsel Yael Kidron Elizabeth Spier AMERICAN INSTITUTES FOR RESEARCHNCEE 2008-4027U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
  4. 4. This report was prepared for the National Center for Education Evaluation and Re-gional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences under Contract ED-02-CO-0022.DisclaimerThe opinions and positions expressed in this practice guide are the authors’ and donot necessarily represent the opinions and positions of the Institute of Education Sci-ences or the U.S. Department of Education. This practice guide should be reviewedand applied according to the specific needs of the educators and education agencyusing it, and with full realization that it represents the judgments of the reviewpanel regarding what constitutes sensible practice, based on the research that wasavailable at the time of publication. This practice guide should be used as a toolto assist in decisionmaking rather than as a “cookbook.” Any references within thedocument to specific education products are illustrative and do not imply endorse-ment of these products to the exclusion of other products that are not referenced.U.S. Department of EducationMargaret SpellingsSecretaryInstitute of Education SciencesGrover J. WhitehurstDirectorNational Center for Education Evaluation and Regional AssistancePhoebe CottinghamCommissionerAugust 2008This report is in the public domain. While permission to reprint this publication isnot necessary, the citation should be:Kamil, M. L., Borman, G. D., Dole, J., Kral, C. C., Salinger, T., and Torgesen, J. (2008).Improving adolescent literacy: Effective classroom and intervention practices: A Prac-tice Guide (NCEE #2008-4027). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evalu-ation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department ofEducation. Retrieved from report is available on the IES Web site at FormatsOn request, this publication can be made available in alternative formats, such asBraille, large print, audiotape, or computer diskette. For more information, call theAlternative Format Center at (202) 205–8113.
  5. 5. Improving Adolescent Literacy:Effective Classroom and Intervention PracticesContentsIntroduction 1 The What Works Clearinghouse standards and their relevance to this guide 3Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices 4 Overview 4Scope of the practice guide 8Checklist for carrying out the recommendations 9Recommendation 1. Provide explicit vocabulary instruction 11Recommendation 2. Provide direct and explicit comprehensionstrategy instruction 16Recommendation 3. Provide opportunities for extended discussion of textmeaning and interpretation 21Recommendation 4. Increase student motivation and engagement inliteracy learning 26Recommendation 5. Make available intensive and individualized interventionsfor struggling readers that can be provided by trained specialists 31Conclusion 37Appendix A. Postscript from the Institute of Education Sciences 38Appendix B. About the Authors 41Appendix C. Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest 42Appendix D. Technical information on the studies 43References 52 ( iii )
  6. 6. IMPROvIng ADOLESCEnT LITERACy: EffECTIvE CLASSROOM AnD InTERvEnTIOn PRACTICESList of tables1. Institute of Education Sciences levels of evidence for practice guides 22. Recommendations and corresponding levels of evidence to support each 7 ( iv )
  7. 7. Introduction reading instruction, we use this informa- tion to make broader points about im-The goal of this practice guide is to present proving practice. In this guide we havespecific and coherent evidence-based rec- tried to take findings from research orommendations that educators can use to practices recommended by experts andimprove literacy levels among adolescents describe how recommendations might ac-in upper elementary, middle, and high tually unfold in school settings. In otherschools. The panel purposefully included words, we aim to provide sufficient detailstudents in 4th and 5th grades within the so that educators will have a clear senserealm of adolescents because their in- of the steps necessary to make use of thestructional needs related to literacy have recommendations.more in common with those of studentsin middle and high school than they do A unique feature of practice guides is thewith students in early elementary grades. explicit and clear delineation of the qual-Many students in grades 4 and up experi- ity—as well as quantity— of evidence thatence difficulty acquiring the advanced lit- supports each claim. To do this, we usederacy skills needed to read in the content a semi-structured hierarchy suggested byareas.1 The target audience for the practice IES. This classification system uses bothguide is teachers and other school person- the quality and the quantity of availablenel who have direct contact with students, evidence to help determine the strength ofsuch as coaches, counselors, and princi- the evidence base grounding each recom-pals. The practice guide includes specific mended practice (table 1).recommendations for educators along witha discussion of the quality of evidence that Strong refers to consistent and generaliz-supports these recommendations. able evidence that a practice causes bet- ter outcomes for students in measures ofWe, the authors, are a small group with reading proficiency.2expertise on this topic. The range of evi-dence we considered in developing this Moderate refers either to evidence fromguide is vast, ranging from experimental studies that allow strong causal conclu-studies in which reading was the depen- sions but cannot be generalized with as-dent variable, to trends in the National As- surance to the population on which a rec-sessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) ommendation is focused (perhaps becausedata, to correlational and longitudinal the findings have not been widely repli-studies, again with reading as the major cated) or to evidence from studies thatvariable of interest. For questions about are generalizable but have more causalwhat works best, high-quality experimen- ambiguity than offered by experimentaltal and quasi-experimental studies—such designs (statistical models of correlationalas those meeting the criteria of the What data or group comparison designs forWorks Clearinghouse (http://www.ies. which equivalence of the groups at—have a privileged is uncertain).position. In all cases we pay particularattention to findings that are replicated Low refers to expert opinion based on rea-across studies. sonable extrapolations from research and theory on other topics and evidence fromAlthough we draw on evidence aboutthe effectiveness of specific practices in 2. Following What Works Clearinghouse guide- lines, we consider a positive, statistically signifi-1. Biancarosa and Snow (2004); Heller and Green- cant effect or large effect size (greater than 0.25)leaf (2007). as an indicator of positive effects. (1)
  8. 8. InTRODuCTIOnTable 1. Institute of Education Sciences levels of evidence for practice guides In general, characterization of the evidence for a recommendation as strong requires both studies with high internal validity (i.e., studies whose designs can support causal conclusions) and studies with high external validity (i.e., studies that in total include enough of the range of participants and settings on which the recommendation is focused to support the conclusion that the results can be generalized to those participants and settings). Strong evidence for this practice guide is operationalized as: • A systematic review of research that generally meets the standards of the What Works Clearing- house (WWC) (see and supports the effectiveness of a program, prac- tice, or approach with no contradictory evidence of similar quality; OR Strong • Several well-designed, randomized controlled trials or well designed quasi-experiments that gen- erally meet the WWC standards and support the effectiveness of a program, practice, or approach, with no contradictory evidence of similar quality; OR • One large, well-designed, randomized controlled, multisite trial that meets the WWC standards and supports the effectiveness of a program, practice, or approach, with no contradictory evi- dence of similar quality; OR • For assessments, evidence of reliability and validity that meets the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing.a In general, characterization of the evidence for a recommendation as moderate requires studies with high internal validity but moderate external validity, or studies with high external validity but mod- erate internal validity. In other words, moderate evidence is derived from studies that support strong causal conclusions but where generalization is uncertain, or studies that support the generality of a relationship but where the causality is uncertain. Moderate evidence for this practice guide is opera- tionalized as: • Experiments or quasi-experiments generally meeting the WWC standards and supporting the ef- fectiveness of a program, practice, or approach with small sample sizes and/or other conditions of implementation or analysis that limit generalizability and no contrary evidence; OR • Comparison group studies that do not demonstrate equivalence of groups at pretest and there- Moderate fore do not meet the WWC standards but that (a) consistently show enhanced outcomes for par- ticipants experiencing a particular program, practice, or approach and (b) have no major flaws related to internal validity other than lack of demonstrated equivalence at pretest (e.g., only one teacher or one class per condition, unequal amounts of instructional time, highly biased outcome measures); OR • Correlational research with strong statistical controls for selection bias and for discerning influ- ence of endogenous factors and no contrary evidence; OR • For assessments, evidence of reliability that meets the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testingb but with evidence of validity from samples not adequately representative of the popula- tion on which the recommendation is focused. In general, characterization of the evidence for a recommendation as low means that the recommenda- tion is based on expert opinion derived from strong findings or theories in related areas and/or expert Low opinion buttressed by direct evidence that does not rise to the moderate or strong levels. Low evidence is operationalized as evidence not meeting the standards for the moderate or high levels.a. American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, and National Council on Measure- ment in Education (1999).b. Ibid. (2)
  9. 9. InTRODuCTIOnstudies that do not meet the standards for studies with no design flaws and ran-moderate or strong evidence. domized controlled trials that have problems with randomization, attri-The What Works Clearinghouse tion, or disruption.standards and their relevance tothis guide • Does Not Meet Evidence Screens for studies that do not provide strong evi-In terms of the levels of evidence indicated dence of causal table 1, we rely on What Works Clearing-house (WWC) evidence standards to assess Appendix D provides more technical in-the quality of evidence supporting educa- formation about the studies and our de-tional programs and practices. The WWC cisions regarding the level of evidenceaddresses evidence for the causal validity for each recommendation. To illustrateof instructional programs and practices the types of studies reviewed, we de-according to WWC standards. Informa- scribe one study for each recommenda-tion about these standards is available at tion. Our goal in doing this is to provide The technical interested readers with more detail aboutquality of each study is rated and placed the research designs, the interventioninto one of three categories: components, and the way impact was measured.• Meets Evidence Standards for random- ized controlled trials and regression Dr. Michael Kamil discontinuity studies that provide the Dr. Geoffrey D. Borman strongest evidence of causal validity. Dr. Janice Dole Cathleen C. Kral• Meets Evidence Standards with Res- Dr. Terry Salinger ervations for all quasi-experimental Dr. Joseph Torgesen (3)
  10. 10. Improving Adolescent attention to the challenges of improvingLiteracy: Effective reading instruction in upper elementary, middle, and high school. Yet reading in-Classroom and struction as a formal part of the curricu-Intervention Practices lum typically decreases as students move beyond upper elementary grades.Overview To acquire the skills they need, students must work hard to refine and build uponData from the 2007 National Assessment their initial reading skills, and teachersof Educational Progress (NAEP) in read- in upper elementary grades and in mid-ing report that 69 percent of 8th grade dle and high school classes should helpstudents fall below the proficient level in students acquire more advanced skillstheir ability to comprehend the meaning once they understand the demands thatof text at their grade level.1 Equally alarm- content area tasks actually present, es-ing, 26 percent of students read below the pecially to students who struggle withbasic level, which means that they do not reading.7 However, many teachers re-have sufficient reading ability to under- port feeling unprepared to help their stu-stand and learn from text at their grade dents or do not think that teaching read-level. When these data are coupled with ing skills in content-area classes is theirreports showing that even high school responsibility.8students with average reading ability arecurrently unprepared for the literacy de- For more than 50 years9 the realities of stu-mands of many workplace and postsec- dent reading difficulties and teacher lackondary educational settings, the need for of preparation to address them have beenimproved literacy instruction of adoles- met by calls for more instruction in higher-cents is apparent.2 level reading skills for adolescents and for professional development in content-Reading ability is a key predictor of achieve- area reading instruction for middle andment in mathematics and science,3 and the high school teachers. Although the debateglobal information economy requires to- about the role of content-area teachers inday’s American youth to have far more ad- reading instruction continues,10 the timevanced literacy skills than those required has come to consider seriously the supportof any previous generation.4 However, as that needs to be given to struggling read-long-term NAEP data5 and other studies ers and the role that every teacher needsshow,6 improvements in the literacy skills to play in working toward higher levels ofof older students have not kept pace with literacy among all adolescents, regardlessthe increasing demands for literacy in the of their reading abilities.workplace. These studies, and those men-tioned earlier, suggest the need for serious A significant difficulty in working toward higher levels of literacy involves struc- tural barriers at the middle and high1. Lee, Griggs, and Donahue (2007). school levels that need to be overcome.2. Pennsylvania Department of Education (2004);Williamson (2004). 7. Heller and Greenleaf (2007).3. ACT (2006). 8. Heller and Greenleaf (2007).4. Snow, Burns, and Griffin (1998). 9. Artley (1944); Moore, Readence, and Rickman5. Perie and Moran (2005). (1983).6. ACT (2006). 10. Heller and Greenleaf (2007). (4)
  11. 11. OvERvIEWResearchers11 have found that some teach- English.15 The search for sources focuseders circumvent the need for students to only on studies of reading programs con-read texts by adjusting their assignments ducted within a school or clinical settingor methods of presenting content, rather and excluded those offered in organizedthan helping students learn the discipline- after school programs. These decisionsspecific strategies needed for content-area narrowed the number of empirical stud-work. Another researcher12 found that ies from which recommendations couldcontent-area teachers expressed resis- be drawn.tance to the work of the high school read-ing specialists, whose job is to provide Finally, the research that met the crite-students with additional help outside their ria for inclusion in this guide includedregular class structure. And still others13 few studies involving the use of com-have suggested that teachers who strive puter technology. Despite great inter-primarily to cover the content of their est in and increasing use of software fordisciplines are unaware that by increas- reading instruction in middle and highing students’ ability to read their assign- schools, there is little experimental orments they could actually increase the quasi-experimental research demonstrat-depth and breadth of content that could ing the effectiveness of that work. Mostbe covered efficiently. A final barrier14 recently, the National Evaluation of Edu-is that when schools actually institute cational Technology16 assessed the ef-programs to help struggling adolescent fectiveness of four software packages forreaders, they are housed within special literacy instruction at the 4th grade level,education programs and thus serve only using an experimental design with a na-a small proportion of the students whom tional sample of 45 schools, comprisingthey could benefit. 118 teachers and 2,265 students. Although the individual products were not identi-In determining what to include in the ado- fied by specific results, none of the testedlescent literacy practice guide, the panel software products produced statisticallyrecognized that recommendations for in- significant improvements in student read-structional strategies must be evidence- ing achievement at the end of the first ofbased. That is, rigorous studies have two years of the study. At the same time,shown the practices to be associated with the National Reading Panel suggested thatimprovements in students’ reading pro- there is some promise in using computersficiency. While fully understanding that to supplement classroom instruction; how-all aspects of literacy are important for ever, these conclusions do not rise to thesuccess in middle and high school, panel level of a supported endorsement.members decided to focus specifically onstudies about reading, that is, studies in A major source for identifying strategieswhich reading was a dependent variable. that can have an immediate impact onAlthough aware of the challenges faced by student reading achievement was the Re-English language learners, we also focused port of the National Reading Panel,17 es-on students whose first language was pecially its sections on comprehension 15. The Institute of Education Sciences has pub-11. Schoenbach et al. (1999). lished a practice guide on effective literacy in-12. Darwin (2003). struction for English language learners, which can be accessed at Kingery (2000); O’Brien, Moje, and Stewart(2001). 16. Dynarski et al. (2007).14. Barry (1997). 17. National Reading Panel (2000a). (5)
  12. 12. OvERvIEWand vocabulary. What makes the National marginal at best, and also those who strug-Reading Panel evidence so important is gle with reading. The first two recommen-that the eligible research for vocabulary dations focus on strategies for vocabularyconsisted mostly of studies of students in and comprehension instruction: Providegrades 3 and above, while the research on explicit vocabulary instruction (Level ofcomprehension involved mostly students evidence: Strong) and provide direct andin grades 4 and above. The analysis of explicit comprehension strategy instruc-adolescent literacy practices presented in tion (Level of evidence: Strong) (table 2).summary form in Reading Next: A Visionfor Action and Research in Middle and High Although its research base is not as strongSchool Literacy18 has also been influential as that for vocabulary and comprehension,in shaping discussions on adolescent lit- the third recommendation concerns dis-eracy and has provided a starting point cussion of and about texts. Most, if not all,for developing this guide. the studies that examined instruction in comprehension strategies indicated the im-Adolescent literacy is a complex concept portance of practicing those strategies inbecause it entails more than the scores the context of discussions about the mean-that students achieve on standardized ing of texts. Further, there is evidence thatreading tests. It also entails reading to encouraging high-quality discussion aboutlearn in subjects that present their ideas texts, even in the absence of explicit in-and content in different ways. Students struction in reading comprehension strate-need to be able to build knowledge by gies, can have a positive impact on readingcomprehending different kinds of texts, comprehension skills. Small- and large-mastering new vocabulary, and sharing group discussions also provide teachersideas with others. Although causal links with an important window into students’have not been empirically established thinking that can inform future instruc-between improvements in reading and tion. Therefore, the third recommendationincreases in course grades and scores on focuses on the use of discussion in improv-subject-based tests, students’ reading dif- ing the reading outcomes of students: Pro-ficulties will obviously impede their ability vide opportunities for extended discussionto master content-area coursework fully. of text meaning and interpretation (LevelTest score data and research continually of evidence: Moderate).confirm that many adolescents first needto improve their reading comprehension The fourth recommendation concerns stu-skills before they can take full advantage dent motivation and engagement. Theseof content-area instruction. two factors are widely recognized as im- portant moderators for learning, but thereIn determining what to include in this is limited scientific evidence that linkspractice guide, panel members also recog- these factors directly to student achieve-nized that recommendations must be prac- ment in reading. Nonetheless, all teacherstical. Teachers must perceive the value of can recognize the importance of bolster-each recommendation so that they envi- ing students’ motivation and finding wayssion themselves integrating the recom- to increase students’ engagement withmendations into their instruction to make the material they are asked to read. Thecontent-area reading assignments acces- recommendation provided in this prac-sible to all students—those who are learn- tice guide ties motivation and engage-ing to make sense of new and unfamiliar ment specifically to literacy outcomes:academic areas, those whose skills are Increase student motivation and engage- ment in literacy learning (Level of evi-18. Biancarosa and Snow (2004). dence: Moderate). (6)
  13. 13. OvERvIEWTable 2. Recommendations and corresponding levels of evidence tosupport each Recommendation Level of evidence 1. Provide explicit vocabulary instruction. Strong 2. Provide direct and explicit comprehension strategy instruction. Strong 3. Provide opportunities for extended discussion of text meaning and Moderate interpretation. 4. Increase student motivation and engagement in literacy learning. Moderate 5. Make available intensive and individualized interventions for strug- Strong gling readers that can be provided by trained specialists.Panel members also recognized that some strong and focused instruction, they willstudents need more intense help to im- continue to struggle to make sense of theprove literacy skills than classroom teach- materials assigned to them in their course-ers can provide. Because of this, our fifth work, and they are at serious risk of beingrecommendation concerns struggling read- unable to use literacy skills successfully iners, those students who probably score well their postsecondary lives. However, if theybelow their peers on state reading tests and are identified from among their peers aswhose reading deficits hinder successful being struggling readers and if their weak-performance in their coursework. Under nesses in reading are carefully assessed bynormal classroom instructional conditions, trained specialists using measures that de-these students are unable to make needed tect strengths and weaknesses, and this as-improvements in their reading skills, so sessment is followed by intensive interven-they typically cannot meet grade-level tions that are focused on their particularstandards in literacy throughout middle needs, they will have more opportunities toand high schools. They need additional improve their literacy skills that the classroom teacher cannot This improvement should then translatebe expected to provide. Unless their read- into gains in content-area achievementing growth is dramatically accelerated by (Level of evidence: Strong). (7)
  14. 14. Scope of the because the formal evidence base for thesepractice guide methods is not yet sufficiently developed. The fifth recommendation refers to read- ing interventions that in many cases mustThis practice guide provides five recom- be provided by reading specialists or spe-mendations for increasing the reading cially trained teachers.ability of adolescents. The first three rec-ommendations are strategies that class- In offering these recommendations, we re-room teachers can incorporate into their mind the reader that adolescent literacy isinstruction to help students gain more complex. There are many reasons why ad-from their reading tasks in content-area olescents have difficulty making sense ofclasses. The fourth recommendation offers texts, and there are many manifestationsteachers strategies for improving students’ of these difficulties. Addressing students’motivation for and engagement with learn- needs often requires coordinated effortsing. Together, the recommendations offer from teachers and specialists.a coherent statement: specific strategiesare available for classroom teachers and Readers should also note that appropri-specialists to address the literacy needs of ate professional development in read-all adolescent learners. The fifth recom- ing has been shown to produce highermendation refers specifically to adolescent achievement in students.19 Providing pro-struggling readers, those students whose fessional development to content-areapoor literacy skills weaken their ability to teachers focused on instructional tech-make sense of written material. niques they can use to meet the literacy needs of all their students, including thoseAlthough not an exhaustive list, the rec- who struggle, is highly recommended inommendations are representative of panel this practice guide. Professional develop-members’ thinking about methods that ment also needs to address the specifichave the strongest research support and literacy demands of different disciplines.those that are appropriate for use with One attempt at specifying these demandsadolescents. The first four recommenda- describes specific skills in mathematics,tions can be implemented easily by class- science, social studies, and English.20 Fo-room teachers within their regular in- cusing on these skills would be an idealstruction, regardless of the content areas starting point for professional develop-they teach. Recommendations for teaching ment for content-area teachers who wantstudents about the discourse patterns of to incorporate elements of literacy instruc-specific subjects that adolescents study tion in their content area instruction.(for example, different ways of present-ing information, creating arguments, or 19. National Reading Panel (2000a).evaluating evidence in science comparedwith history) are not included in this guide 20. International Reading Association (2006). (8)
  15. 15. Checklist for carrying out the Recommendation 3.recommendations Provide opportunities for extended discussion of text meaning andRecommendation 1. interpretationProvide explicit vocabulary instruction Carefully prepare for the discussion by Dedicate a portion of regular classroom selecting engaging materials and developinglessons to explicit vocabulary instruction. stimulating questions. Provide repeated exposure to new words Ask follow-up questions that help pro-in multiple contexts, and allow sufficient vide continuity and extend the discussion.practice sessions in vocabulary instruction. Provide a task or discussion format that give sufficient opportunities to use new students can follow when they discuss textvocabulary in a variety of contexts through in small groups.activities such as discussion, writing, andextended reading. Develop and practice the use of a spe- cific “discussion protocol.” Provide students with strategies to makethem independent vocabulary learners. Recommendation 4. Increase student motivation andRecommendation 2. engagement in literacy learningProvide direct and explicitcomprehension strategy instruction Establish meaningful and engaging content learning goals around the essential Select carefully the text to use when ideas of a discipline as well as around thebeginning to teach a given strategy. specific learning processes used to access those ideas. Show students how to apply the strate-gies they are learning to different texts. Provide a positive learning environ- ment that promotes student autonomy in Make sure that the text is appropriate learning.for the reading level of students. Make literacy experiences more relevant use a direct and explicit instruction les- to student interests, everyday life, or impor-son plan for teaching students how to use tant current events.comprehension strategies. Build classroom conditions to promote Provide the appropriate amount of higher reading engagement and conceptualguided practice depending on the difficulty learning through such strategies as goal set-level of the strategies that students are ting, self-directed learning, and collaborativelearning. learning. Talk about comprehension strategieswhile teaching them. (9)
  16. 16. ChECkLIST fOR CARRyIng OuT ThE RECOMMEnDATIOnSRecommendation 5. Make availableintensive individualized interventions Select an intervention that provides anfor struggling readers that can be explicit instructional focus to meet each stu-provided by qualified specialists dent’s identified learning needs. use reliable screening assessments to Provide interventions where intensive-identify students with reading difficulties ness matches student needs: the greaterand follow up with formal and informal as- the instructional need, the more intensivesessments to pinpoint each student’s instruc- the intervention. Assuming a high level oftional needs. instructional quality, the intensity of inter- ventions is related most directly to the size of instructional groups and amount of in- structional time. ( 10 )
  17. 17. Recommendation 1. One caveat is critical to interpreting theProvide explicit research on vocabulary instruction. While all of these studies show effects on vo-vocabulary instruction cabulary learning, only some show that explicit vocabulary instruction has effects on standardized measures of reading com-Teachers should provide students prehension. Although reading comprehen-with explicit vocabulary instruction sion is clearly the ultimate goal of readingboth as part of reading and language instruction, it is important to note that thearts classes and as part of content- construct of comprehension includes, butarea classes such as science and social is not limited to, vocabulary. While it isstudies. By giving students explicit likely that the cumulative effects of learn-instruction in vocabulary, teachers help ing vocabulary would eventually showthem learn the meaning of new words effects on reading comprehension, we be-and strengthen their independent skills lieve additional research is necessary toof constructing the meaning of text. demonstrate this relationship.Level of evidence: Strong Brief summary of evidence to support the recommendationThe panel considers the level of evidencesupporting this recommendation to be In the early stages of reading most of thestrong, based on six randomized con- words in grade-level texts are familiar totrolled experimental studies and three students as part of their oral vocabulary.well designed quasi-experiments that dem- However, as students progress throughonstrated group equivalence at pretest.1 the grades, print vocabulary increasinglyAn additional six studies with weaker de- contains words that are rarely part of oralsigns provided direct evidence to support vocabulary. This is particularly the casethis recommendation.2 A single subject de- for content-area material. In many content-sign study also provided evidence about area texts it is the vocabulary that carries athe effect of vocabulary instruction on stu- large share of the meaning through special-dents’ outcomes.3 The research supporting ized vocabulary, jargon, and discipline-re-explicit vocabulary instruction includes lated concepts. Learning these specializedstudents in upper elementary, middle, vocabularies contributes to the success ofand high schools from diverse geographic reading among adolescent students. Re-regions and socioeconomic backgrounds search has shown that integrating explicitand addresses a wide variety of strategies vocabulary instruction into the existingof vocabulary instruction. curriculum of subject areas such as science or social studies enhances students’ ability1. Barron and Melnik (1973); Baumann et al. (2002); to acquire textbook vocabulary.4Baumann et al. (2003); Bos and Anders (1990);Brett, Rothlein, and Hurley (1996); Lieberman Children often learn new words inciden-(1967); Margosein, Pascarella, and Pflaum (1982); tally from context. However, accordingNelson and Stage (2007); Xin and Reith (2001). to a meta-analysis of the literature, the2. Beck, Perfetti, and McKeown (1982); Jenkins, probability that they will learn new wordsMatlock, and Slocum (1989); Koury (1996); Rud- while reading is relatively low—about 15dell and Shearer (2002); Stump et al. (1992); Ter- percent.5 Therefore, although incidentalrill, Scruggs, and Mastropieri (2004).3. Malone and McLaughlin (1997). The standards 4. Baumann et al. (2003); Bos and Anders (1990).for judging the quality of a single subject designstudy are currently being developed. 5. Swanborn and de Glopper (1999). ( 11 )
  18. 18. 1. PROvIDE ExPLICIT vOCABuLARy InSTRuCTIOnlearning helps students develop their vo- prose, expository texts, and specializedcabulary, additional explicit instructional word lists.9support needs to be provided as part ofthe curriculum to ensure that all students Explicit vocabulary instruction is a nameacquire the necessary print vocabulary for for a family of strategies that can be di-academic success. In many academic texts, vided into two major approaches: direct in-students may use context clues within the struction in word meaning and instructiontext, combined with their existing seman- in strategies to promote independent vo-tic and syntactic knowledge to infer the cabulary acquisition skills. Direct instruc-meaning of unfamiliar words.6 Explicit tion in word meaning includes helping stu-vocabulary instruction may be essential dents look up definitions in dictionariesto this development of these types of in- and glossaries, read the words and theirference skills. definitions, match words and their defini- tions, participate in oral recitation, memo-Words are best learned through repeated rize definitions, and use graphic displaysexposure in multiple contexts and do- of the relationships among words and con-mains. Many content-area texts, such as cepts such as semantic maps. Strategies tothose in biology and physics, however, promote independent vocabulary acqui-include specialized vocabulary, jargon, sition skills include analyzing semantic,and discipline-related concepts that stu- syntactic, or context clues to derive thedents may not encounter outside their meaning of words by using prior knowl-textbooks. This aspect of presenting edge and the context in which the word iscontent-area material limits the amount presented. Research shows that both ap-of exposure students will have with these proaches can effectively promote students’unfamiliar terms. If students encounter vocabulary.10 The first approach can addunknown words in almost every sen- to students’ ability to learn a given set oftence in a textbook, learning the content words, whereas the second approach hasbecomes daunting and discouraging. Ex- the added value of helping students gen-plicit instruction in specialized vocabu- eralize their skills to a variety of new textslaries is an important way to contribute in multiple contexts. In that respect, theto successful reading among adolescent two approaches are complementary ratherstudents.7 than conflicting.Research has shown that integrating ex- Some students acquire words best fromplicit vocabulary instruction into the ex- reading and writing activities, whereasisting content-area curriculum in content other students benefit more from visualareas such as science or social studies and physical experiences.11 For exam-enhances students’ ability to acquire text- ple, short documentary videos may helpbook vocabulary.8 Additional studies that students learn new concepts and termsexamined students’ scores on the vocab- because they provide a vivid picture ofulary subtests of standardized reading how the object looks in the context of itstests demonstrated that explicit vocabu-lary instruction had a substantial effecton students’ vocabulary acquisition in the 9. Barron and Melnik (1973); Baumann et al. (2002); Beck et al. (1982); Brett et al. (1996); Nel-context of a variety of texts, including son and Stage (2007) 10. Baumann et al. (2003); Bos and Anders (1990);6. Swanborn and de Glopper (1999). Jenkins et al. (1989)7. Beck et al. (1982). 11. Barron and Melnik (1973); Xin and Reith8. Baumann et al. (2003); Bos and Anders (1990) (2001). ( 12 )
  19. 19. 1. PROvIDE ExPLICIT vOCABuLARy InSTRuCTIOnenvironment or specialized use.12 Using respect to the effects of such instructioncomputer software to teach vocabulary is on general measures of effective way to leverage instructional Only a small number of the studies ontime and provide a variety of practice explicit vocabulary instruction includedmodes—oral, print, and even multimedia comprehension outcome measures andelaborations of words and concepts. Pro- found meaningful increases in students’grams that allow students to engage in reading comprehension. It may be thatindependent practice can free teachers to whereas limited vocabulary interfereswork with other students in other instruc- with comprehension, additional literacytional modes. skills are needed for successful reading comprehension.Other studies have shown that studentsalso learn vocabulary through rich discus- How to carry out thesions of texts (see recommendation 3). For recommendationinstance, one study showed that discus-sion improved knowledge of word mean- 1. Dedicate a portion of the regular class-ings and relationships for students reading room lesson to explicit vocabulary instruc-biology texts.13 Discussion was also used tion. The amount of time will be dictated byin another study as part of the interven- the vocabulary load of the text to be readtion.14 Discussion seems to have its effects and the students’ prior knowledge of theby allowing students to participate as both vocabulary. Making certain that studentsspeakers and listeners. While this is not are familiar with the vocabulary they willexplicit instruction, it does have some encounter in reading selections can helpadditional benefits. For example, discus- make the reading task easier. Computer in-sion might force students to organize vo- struction can be an effective way to providecabulary as they participate, even testing practice on vocabulary and leverage class-whether or not the vocabulary is used ap- room time.propriately. It also presents opportunitiesfor repeated exposure to words, shown to 2. use repeated exposure to new words inbe a necessary condition for vocabulary multiple oral and written contexts and allowlearning. Vocabulary learning in these sufficient practice sessions.15 Words are usu-cases did not result from explicit instruc- ally learned only after they appear severaltion, but teachers who recognize potential times. In fact, researchers16 estimate that itof this kind of learning can supplement could take as many as 17 exposures for athese interactions with new vocabulary student to learn a new word. Repeated ex-with brief, focused explicit instruction posure could be in the same lesson or pas-to ensure that students share a common sage, but the exposures will be most effec-understanding of unfamiliar words and tive if they appear over an extended periodterms and have an opportunity to practice of time.17 Words that appear only once ornew vocabulary. twice in a text are typically not words that should be targeted for explicit instructionAlthough the research noted so far dem- because there may never be enough prac-onstrates the positive effects of explicit tice to learn the word completely. Studentsvocabulary instruction on vocabulary should be provided with the definitions ofacquisition, there are mixed results with these infrequent words.12. Xin and Reith (2001). 15. Jenkins et al. (1989).13. Barron and Melnik (1973). 16. Ausubel and Youssef (1965).14. Xin and Reith (2001). 17. Ausubel and Youssef (1965). ( 13 )
  20. 20. 1. PROvIDE ExPLICIT vOCABuLARy InSTRuCTIOn3. give sufficient opportunities to use new Content-area textbooks are loaded with toovocabulary in a variety of contexts through much specialized vocabulary and jargon.activities such as discussion, writing, and Teachers need to select carefully the mostextended reading. This will ensure that stu- important words to teach explicitly eachdents begin to acquire a range of productive day. Several popular methods of selectingmeanings for the words they are learning words for vocabulary instruction are avail-and the correct way to use those words in able. Two methods seem important for ado-addition to simply being able to recognize lescent readers:them in print. • One method uses as a criterion the4. Provide students with strategies to make frequency of the words in instruc-them independent vocabulary learners. One tional materials.20 This, again, is moreway is to give them strategies to use com- important for elementary materialsponents (prefixes, roots, suffixes) of words where the vocabulary is selected fromto derive the meaning of unfamiliar words; a relatively constrained set of instruc-another is to make use of reference ma- tional materials. For most adolescents,terial such as glossaries included in their this constraint on vocabulary in in-textbooks.18 structional materials diminishes over time, making the frequency method ofPotential roadblocks and solutions selecting words less useful for teach- ing adolescent students reading con-1. Students may vary in their response to tent. However, for adolescent studentsdifferent vocabulary instruction strategies. who have limited vocabularies, select-for example, some students respond better ing high-frequency, unknown wordsto sensory information than to verbal infor- remains an important instructionalmation about word meaning. Teachers need combine multiple approaches in provid-ing explicit vocabulary instruction.19 for in- • Another method uses three categoriesstance, as described above, it is helpful to of words: Tier I, Tier II, and Tier III.expose students to vocabulary numerous This concept has been applied mosttimes either in one lesson or over a series of effectively for literary texts with stu-lessons. It is also helpful to combine this re- dents at elementary levels. Tier I wordspeated exposure with a number of different are those typically in readers’ vocab-explicit instruction strategies, such as using ularies and should not be the focusdirect instruction techniques (getting stu- of instruction. These high-frequencydents to look up definitions in dictionaries), words are usually acquired very early.helping promote students to independently Tier III words are rare words that areacquire vocabulary skills (using context clues recommended for instruction onlyto derive meaning), offering students the when they are encountered in a text.opportunity to work on the computer using That leaves Tier II words as the focusvarious software, and allowing students to of explicit vocabulary instruction priordiscuss what they have read. to reading a text. The criteria for what constitutes membership in each tier2. Teachers may not know how to select are not sharply defined, but are looselywords to teach, especially in content areas. based on frequency and the utility for future reading.2118. Baumann et al. (2002); Baumann et al.(2003). 20. Biemiller (2005); Hiebert (2005).19. Lieberman (1967). 21. Beck et al. (1982). ( 14 )
  21. 21. 1. PROvIDE ExPLICIT vOCABuLARy InSTRuCTIOn• For adolescent readers of content mate- 3. Teachers may perceive that they do not rials, vocabulary should be selected on have time to teach vocabulary. Teachers are the basis of how important the words often focused on the factual aspect of stu- are for learning in the particular disci- dents’ content-area learning and find little pline, rather than the tier in which the time to focus on other issues in reading. word is located. For example, in a 9th- Whenever reading is part of a lesson, a few grade biology text, the word “cytoskel- minutes spent on explicit vocabulary in- eton” might be a target for prereading struction will pay substantial dividends for instruction in a chapter on cell biology, student learning. Some effort in teaching even though it would generally be con- students to become independent vocabu- sidered a Tier III word because it al- lary learners will lessen the amount of time most never appears in general reading required by teachers as part of the lesson.22 or conversation. Most of the words for Making students even slightly more inde- adolescent readers should be selected pendent vocabulary learners will eventually on the basis of how important they are increase the amount of content-area instruc- to understanding the content that stu- tional time. dents are expected to read. For much content material, the words that carry Using computers can give teachers the op- the burden of the meaning of the text portunity to provide independent practice are rare words, except in texts and ma- on learning vocabulary. Teachers will be terials related to a specific discipline. able to leverage instructional time by hav- Despite the rarity of the words, they are ing students work independently, either often critical to learning the discipline before or after reading texts. content and thus should be the subject of explicit instruction, which is almost 22. Baumann et al. (2002); Baumann et al. the only way they can be learned. (2003). ( 15 )
  22. 22. Recommendation 2. Level of evidence: StrongProvide direct and The panel considers the level of evidenceexplicit comprehension supporting this recommendation to bestrategy instruction strong, on the basis of five randomized experimental studies25 and additional evi- dence from a single subject design study26Teachers should provide adolescents that examined the effects of teaching mainwith direct and explicit instruction in idea summarization on adolescents’ com-comprehension strategies to improve prehension of narrative and informationalstudents’ reading comprehension. texts. In addition, this body of researchComprehension strategies are is supported by numerous other studiesroutines and procedures that readers that vary in research design and qualityuse to help them make sense of and by additional substantive reviews oftexts. These strategies include, but the research.27are not limited to, summarizing,asking and answering questions, Brief summary of evidence toparaphrasing, and finding the main support the recommendationidea. Comprehension strategyinstruction can also include specific Approaches for teaching reading com-teacher activities that have been prehension to adolescents are a commondemonstrated to improve students’ concern among middle and high schoolcomprehension of texts. Asking teachers because many adolescent stu-students questions and using graphic dents have a hard time comprehendingorganizers are examples of such their content-area textbooks.28 Therefore,strategies. Direct and explicit teaching helping students comprehend these textsinvolves a teacher modeling and should be a high priority for upper elemen-providing explanations of the specific tary, middle, and high school teachers.strategies students are learning, giving Using comprehension strategies may beguided practice and feedback on the a new idea for many teachers. However,use of the strategies, and promoting comprehension strategy instruction hasindependent practice to apply the been around for some time and is the topicstrategies.23 An important part of of a number of resource books availablecomprehension strategy instructionis the active participation of students 25. Hansen and Pearson (1983); Katims and Har-in the comprehension process. In ris (1997); Margosein et al. (1982); Peverly andaddition, explicit instruction involves Wood (2001); Raphael and McKinney (1983).providing a sufficient amount of 26. Jitendra et al. (1998). The standards for judg-support, or scaffolding, to students ing the quality of a single subject design studyas they learn the strategies to ensure are currently being developed.success.24 27. Dole et al. (1991); Gersten et al. (2001); Na- tional Reading Panel (2000b); Paris, Lipson, and Wixson (1983); Paris, Wasik, and Turner (1991); Pearson and Fielding (1991); Pressley, Johnson23. Brown, Campione, and Day (1981); Dole et al. (1989); Pressley, Symons et al. (1989); Rosen-et al. (1991); Kame’enui et al. (1997); Pearson shine and Meister (1994); Rosenshine, Meis-and Dole (1987); Pressley, Snyder, and Cariglia- ter, and Chapman (1996); Weinstein and MayerBull (1987). (1986).24. Brown et al. (1981); Palincsar and Brown 28. Biancarosa and Snow (2006); Chall and Con-(1984); Pearson and Gallagher (1983). rad (1991); Kamil (2003); Moore et al. (1999). ( 16 )
  23. 23. 2. PROvIDE DIRECT AnD ExPLICIT COMPREhEnSIOn STRATEgy InSTRuCTIOnto help teachers teach strategies to their the page because they are not activelystudents.29 Four ideas about teaching com- processing the meaning of what they areprehension strategies that are important reading. Instruction in the application offor teachers to understand can be gleaned comprehension strategies may help thesefrom the research: students become active readers.The effectiveness of a number of different Most of the research studies comparedstrategies has been demonstrated in the the use of one or more strategies againstsmall set of experimental studies meet- a control condition that typically includeding the WWC standards. These strategies traditional, or “business as usual” instruc-included having students summarize main tion. So, it is really not possible to compareideas both within paragraphs and across one or more strategies against another.texts, asking themselves questions about We cannot say that paraphrasing is morewhat they have read, paraphrasing what powerful than main-idea summarizing,they have read, drawing inferences that or that drawing inferences on the basis ofare based on text information and prior text information and prior knowledge isknowledge, answering questions at dif- better than answering questions at differ-ferent points in the text, using graphic or- ent points in the text. Very little researchganizers, and thinking about the types of tells us that. We can say that it appearsquestions they are being asked to answer. that asking and answering questions, sum-It appears that teaching these specific marizing, and using graphic organizersstrategies is particularly powerful. How- are particularly powerful strategies. Butever, other strategies have been evaluated even with these strategies we cannot sayin the literature and demonstrated to be which ones are the best or better thanuseful as well.30 The point here is that it others for which students and for whichmay not be the particular strategies that classrooms.make the difference in terms of studentcomprehension. Many researchers think It appears that multiple-strategy trainingthat it is not the specific strategy taught, results in better comprehension than sin-but rather the active participation of stu- gle-strategy training. All the strong stud-dents in the comprehension process that ies that support this recommendation in-makes the most difference on students’ clude teaching more than one strategy tocomprehension.31 The strategies listed the same group of students. For example,above might be particularly useful for one study used finding the main ideas andmiddle and high school teachers students summarizing to help students compre-who are passive readers. These students’ hend texts better.32 Another study taughteyes sometimes glaze over the words on students to make connections between new text information and prior knowledge,29. Blanchowicz and Ogle (2001); Harvey and make predictions about the content of theGoudvis (2000); Keene (2006); Keene and Zim- text, and draw inferences.33 This findingmerman (1997); McLaughlin and Allen (2001); is consistent with those from the NationalOczkus (2004); Outsen and Yulga (2002); Stebick Reading Panel, which also found benefitsand Dain (2007); Tovani (2004); Wilhelm (2001); from teaching students to use more thanZwiers (2004). one strategy to improve their reading com-30. Brown et al. (1996); Cross and Paris (1988); prehension skills.34Dewitz, Carr, and Patberg (1987); Idol (1987);Klingner, Vaughn, and Schumm (1998); Paris, 32. Katims and Harris (1997).Cross, and Lipson (1984); Pressley (1976); Re-utzel (1985). 33. Hansen and Pearson (1983).31. Gersten et al. (2001); Pressley et al. (1987). 34. National Reading Panel (2000a). ( 17 )
  24. 24. 2. PROvIDE DIRECT AnD ExPLICIT COMPREhEnSIOn STRATEgy InSTRuCTIOnDirect and explicit instruction is a power- 1. Select carefully the text to use when firstful delivery system for teaching compre- beginning to teach a given strategy. Althoughhension strategies. This finding comes strategies can be applied to many differentfrom one of the five strong studies and texts, they cannot be applied blindly to allfrom a number of other studies.35 Direct texts. for example, using main-idea summa-and explicit instruction involves a series rizing is difficult to do with narrative textsof steps that include explaining and mod- because narrative texts do not have cleareling the strategy, using the strategy for main ideas. Main-idea summarizing shouldguided practice, and using the strategy be used with informational texts, such as afor independent practice. Explaining and content-area textbook or a nonfiction trademodeling include defining each of the book. Similarly, asking questions about astrategies for students and showing them text is more easily applied to some textshow to use those strategies when reading than to others.a text. Guided practice involves the teacherand students working together to apply the 2. Show students how to apply the strate-strategies to texts they are reading. This gies they are learning to different texts, notmay involve extensive interaction between just to one text. Applying the strategies tothe teacher and students when students different texts encourages students to learnare applying the strategies to see how to use the strategies flexibly.36 It also allowswell they understand the particular text students to learn when and where to applythey are reading. Or, it may involve having the strategies and when and where the strat-students practice applying the strategies egies are inappropriate.37to various texts in small groups. Indepen-dent practice occurs once the teacher is 3. Ensure that the text is appropriate for theconvinced that students can use the strat- reading level of students. A text that is tooegies on their own. At that point, students difficult to read makes using the strategyindependently practice applying the strat- difficult because students are strugglingegies to a new text. with the text itself. Likewise, a text that is too easy eliminates the need for strategiesHow to carry out the in the first place. Begin teaching strategiesrecommendation by using a single text followed by students’ applying them to appropriate texts at theirUpper elementary, middle, and second- reading level.ary school teachers can take several ac-tion steps to implement explicit strategy 4. use direct and explicit instruction forinstruction, which involves helping stu- teaching students how to use comprehen-dents actively engage in the texts they sion strategies. As the lesson begins, it isread. A number of different strategies can important for teachers to tell students spe-be taught directly and explicitly to stu- cifically what strategies they are going todents and applied to content-area texts learn, tell them why it is important for themthey read. Assisting students in learn- to learn the strategies,38 model how to useing how to apply these strategies to their the strategies by thinking aloud with a text,39texts will empower them and give them provide guided practice with feedback somore control over their reading and un- that students have opportunities to practicederstanding. Specifically, to implementexplicit strategy instruction, teachers can 36. Pressley and Afflerbach (1995).do the following: 37. Duffy (2002); Paris et al. (1983). 38. Brown et al. (1981)35. Duffy et al. (1987); Fuchs et al. (1997); Kling-ner et al. (1998); Schumaker and Deshler (1992). 39. Bereiter and Bird (1985) ( 18 )
  25. 25. 2. PROvIDE DIRECT AnD ExPLICIT COMPREhEnSIOn STRATEgy InSTRuCTIOnusing the strategies, provide independent Potential roadblocks and solutionspractice using the strategies, and discusswith students when and where they should 1. Most teachers lack the skills to provide di-apply the strategies when they read and rect and explicit comprehension strategy in-the importance of having the will to use the struction. Most teacher education programsstrategies along with the skill. Even if stu- do not prepare preservice teachers to teachdents know how to use strategies as they strategies. In addition, teachers may find itread, research demonstrates that they have particularly challenging to model their ownto make the effort to actually use them when thinking by providing thinkaloud of howthey read on their own.40 they use strategies as they read. Many teach- ers use various strategies automatically as5. Provide the appropriate amount of guided they read and are not aware of how theypractice depending on the difficulty level of use the strategies they are teaching. Profes-the strategies that the students are learn- sional development in direct and explicit in-ing. for example, the strategy of predict- struction of comprehension strategies willing can be demonstrated briefly and with assist all teachers, including language artsa few examples. however, summarizing a and content-area teachers, in learning howparagraph or a passage may require several to teach strategies. One component of pro-steps within guided practice. first, provide fessional development should be coachingsupport for students in cooperative learning teachers in the classroom as they teach. Ingroups. As students work in these groups, addition, it is often helpful for teachers toassist them directly if necessary by modeling practice thinking aloud on their own. Theyhow to use a given strategy again or by ask- can take a text and practice explaining howing questions to generate ideas about how they would go about summarizing the textthey would use it. If necessary, give students or finding the main idea. Teachers will needdirect answers and have them repeat those to become conscious of many of the readinganswers. Second, as students become better processes that are automatic for using the strategies, gradually reduce thesupport, perhaps by asking them to break 2. Content-area teachers may believe that theythe cooperative learning groups into pairs are not responsible for teaching comprehen-so they have fewer peers to rely on. Third, sion strategies to their students. They mayreduce support further by asking students also believe that they do not have enoughto use the strategies on their own with texts time to teach these strategies because theythey read independently.41 have to cover the content presented in their curriculum guides and textbooks. Because6. When teaching comprehension strategies, teaching comprehension strategies improvesmake sure students understand that the goal students’ ability to comprehend their text-is to understand the content of the text. Too books, it is a valuable classroom activity formuch focus on the process of learning the content-area teachers, not just language artsstrategies can take away from students’ un- teachers. Teaching comprehension strategiesderstanding of the text itself.42 Instead, show should expand students’ long-term learningstudents how using the strategies can help abilities. Although it may take a short timethem understand the text they are reading. to teach several strategies, that time shouldThe goal should always be comprehending pay off in the long term by helping studentstexts—not using strategies. learn more independently from their text- books and other source material they are40. Paris et al. (1991); Pressley et al. (1987) asked to read in their classrooms. After all, the goal of using comprehension strategies41. Brown et al. (1981) is improved comprehension—of all text ma-42. Pearson and Dole (1987) terials that students read. ( 19 )
  26. 26. 2. PROvIDE DIRECT AnD ExPLICIT COMPREhEnSIOn STRATEgy InSTRuCTIOn3. Some teachers and students may “lose the A critically important part of professionalforest for the trees.” Teachers may misunder- development is the focus on the end goalstand or misinterpret the research on teach- of comprehension. As teachers learn howing comprehension strategies, such that they to teach the various strategies, they needthink teaching comprehension is all about to keep this goal in mind. Likewise, teach-teaching a specific sequence of comprehen- ers need to emphasize to students the ideasion strategies, one after the other. Likewise, that the end goal of strategy use is compre-students too may misunderstand and misin- hension, not just the use of many strate-terpret teachers’ emphasis on strategies, such gies. It is important for teachers to ensurethat they inappropriately apply strategies to that students understand that using strat-the texts they are reading. Teachers and stu- egies is a way to accomplish the goal ofdents may miss the larger point of the strate- comprehension.gies, that is, active comprehension. ( 20 )
  27. 27. Recommendation 3. the quasi-experimental studies45 as wellProvide opportunities as the large correlational study is that the quality of written responses to writingfor extended discussion prompts was the outcome assessment,of text meaning and rather than a more direct standardized test of reading comprehension. Among theinterpretation four quasi-experimental studies, one used rigorous design that demonstrated pretest group equivalence46 and the other threeTeachers should provide opportunities used less rigorous designs with low inter-for students to engage in high- nal validity. 47 The small body of researchquality discussions of the meaning identified to directly support this recom-and interpretation of texts in various mendation is supplemented by a recentlycontent areas as one important way to completed meta-analysis of 43 studiesimprove their reading comprehension. that used slightly more lenient inclusionThese discussions can occur in whole criteria than the literature search for thisclassroom groups or in small student practice guide,48 as well as a large descrip-groups under the general guidance tive study of middle and high schools thatof the teacher. Discussions that are were selected because they were “beatingparticularly effective in promoting the odds” in terms of their student literacystudents’ comprehension of complex text outcomes.49are those that focus on building a deeperunderstanding of the author’s meaning Brief summary of evidence toor critically analyzing and perhaps support the recommendationchallenging the author’s conclusionsthrough reasoning or applying Arguably the most important goal for lit-personal experiences and knowledge. eracy instruction with adolescents is toIn effective discussions students have increase their ability to comprehend com-the opportunity to have sustained plex text. Further, the goal is not simplyexchanges with the teacher or other to enable students to obtain facts or lit-students, present and defend individual eral meaning from text (although that isinterpretations and points of view, use clearly desirable), but also to make deepertext content, background knowledge, interpretations, generalizations, and con-and reasoning to support interpretations clusions. Most state and national literacyand conclusions, and listen to the points standards require middle and high schoolof view and reasoned arguments of students to go considerably beyond literalothers participating in the discussion. comprehension to be considered proficient readers. For example, the revised frame-Level of evidence: Moderate work for the NAEP indicates that 8th grad- ers who read at the proficient level shouldThe panel considers the level of evidence be able to “summarize major ideas, pro-for this recommendation to be moderate, on vide evidence in support of an argument,the basis of four small quasi-experimentalstudies 43 and one large correlational 45. Reznitskaya et al. (2001).study.44 A potential limitation in one of 46. Reznitskaya et al. (2001). 47. Bird (1984); Heinl (1988); Yeazell (1982).43. Bird (1984); Heinl (1988); Reznitskaya et al.(2001); Yeazell (1982). 48. Murphy et al. (2007).44. Applebee et al. (2003). 49. Langer (2001). ( 21 )
  28. 28. 3. PROvIDE OPPORTunITIES fOR ExTEnDED DISCuSSIOn Of TExT MEAnIng AnD InTERPRETATIOnand analyze and interpret implicit causal students’ interactions with one another,relations.”50 They should also be able to and with the teacher as they apply various“analyze character motivation, make in- strategies give students multiple opportu-ferences…, and identify similarities across nities to discover new ways of interpretingtexts.”51 and constructing the meaning of text. One brief study of strategy instruction with aThe theory underpinning discussion- diverse group of 4th graders mentionedbased approaches to improve reading explicitly that the assignment to practicecomprehension rests on the idea that stu- making predictions, clarifying confusions,dents can, and will, internalize thinking and paraphrasing in small groups was aprocesses experienced repeatedly during very useful way to stimulate high-qualitydiscussions. In high-quality discussions discussions of the meaning of texts.52students have the opportunity to expresstheir own interpretations of text and to The most convincing evidence for thehave those positions challenged by others. effectiveness of discussion-oriented ap-They also have the opportunity to defend proaches to improve reading comprehen-their positions and to listen as others de- sion comes from studies that focused onfend different positions. Good discussions developing interpretations of text eventsgive students opportunities to identify or content or on a critical analysis of textspecific text material that supports their content.53 Within these general guidelines,position and to listen as other students do one feature of effective discussions is thatthe same. In the course of an effective dis- they involve sustained interactions thatcussion students are presented with mul- explore a topic or an idea in some depthtiple examples of how meaning can be con- rather than quick question and answerstructed from text. Thus, for teachers one exchanges between the teacher and stu-key to improving comprehension through dents.54 One large study of the extent ofdiscussion is to ensure that students expe- this type of sustained discussion in lan-rience productive ways of thinking about guage arts classes in middle and hightext that can serve as models for them to schools found, on average, only 1.7 min-use during their own reading. utes out of 60 devoted to this type of ex- change, with classrooms varying betweenA challenge to finding empirical research 0 and slightly more than 14 minutes. Class-to demonstrate the unique value of high- rooms that were more discussion-orientedquality discussions in improving compre- produced higher literacy growth duringhension is that in instructional research, the year than those in which sustaineddiscussion is often combined with strategy discussions were less frequent.55instruction. Most successful applicationsof strategy instruction involve extended Another characteristic of high-quality dis-opportunities for discussing texts while cussions is that they are usually based onstudents are learning to independently text that is specifically selected to stimu-apply such strategies as summarizing,making predictions, generating and an-swering questions, and linking text to pre-vious experience and knowledge. In effect, 52. Klingner et al. (1998). 53. Murphy et al. (2007).50. National Assessment Governing Board (2007,p. 46). 54. Applebee et al. (2003); Reznitskaya et al. (2001).51. National Assessment Governing Board (2007,p. 46). 55. Applebee et al. (2003). ( 22 )
  29. 29. 3. PROvIDE OPPORTunITIES fOR ExTEnDED DISCuSSIOn Of TExT MEAnIng AnD InTERPRETATIOnlate an engaging discussion.56 Questions 1. Carefully prepare for the discussion. Inthat lead to good discussions are fre- classes where a choice of reading selectionsquently described as “authentic” in that is possible, look for selections that are en-they ask a real question that may be open gaging for students and describe situationsto multiple points of view, such as “Did or content that can stimulate and have mul-the way John treat Alex in this story seem tiple interpretations. In content-area classesfair to you?” or “What is the author trying that depend on a textbook, teachers canto say here?” or “How does that informa- identify in advance the issues or content thattion connect with what the author wrote might be difficult or misunderstood or sec-before?”57 Very different from questions tions that might be ambiguous or subject toasked primarily to test student knowledge, multiple interpretations. Alternatively, briefthis type of question is designed to pro- selections from the Internet or other sourcesvide an opportunity for exploration and that contain similar content but positionsdiscussion. Although it should be possible that allow for critical analysis or controversyto identify expository texts that could be can also be used as a stimulus for extendedthe basis for productive discussion, most discussions.experimental studies of discussion-basedapproaches thus far have used narrative Another form of preparation involves se-texts, a limitation in the research base at lecting and developing questions that canpresent. stimulate students to think reflectively about the text and make high-level connec-Discussions that have an impact on stu- tions or inferences. These are questionsdent reading comprehension feature ex- that an intelligent reader might actuallychanges between teachers and students wonder about—they are not the kind ofor among students, where students are questions that teachers often ask to de-asked to defend their statements either by termine what students have learned fromreasoning or by referring to information the text. Further, the types of discussionin the text.58 In a large-scale investigation questions appropriate for history textsof classrooms that produced strong liter- would probably be different from thoseacy outcomes, it was noted that teachers for science texts, as would those for socialprovided many opportunities for student studies texts or novels. Because part of theto work together to “sharpen their under- goal of discussion-based approaches isstandings with, against, and from each to model for students the ways that goodother.”59 readers construct meaning from texts, it seems reasonable to suggest that discus-How to carry out the sions of history texts might be framed dif-recommendation ferently from those of science texts.To engage students in high-quality discus- 2. Ask follow-up questions that help pro-sions of text meaning and interpretation, vide continuity and extend the discussion.teachers can: Questions that are used to frame discussions are typically followed by other questions56. Bird (1984); Heinl (1988); Reznitskaya et al. about a different interpretation, an expla-(2001); Yeazell (1982). nation of reasoning, or an identification of the content from the text that supports the57. Applebee et al. (2003); Bird (1984); Heinl student’s position. In a sustained discussion(1988); Reznitskaya et al. (2001); Yeazell (1982). initial questions are likely to be followed58. Bird (1984); Heinl (1988); Reznitskaya et al. by other questions that respond to the stu-(2001); Yeazell (1982). dent’s answer and lead to further thinking59. Langer (2001, p. 872). and elaboration. ( 23 )