Saturday, June 21, 2014

Teach the Seven Strategies of Highly Effective Readers By: Elaine K. McEwan

Elysian Park War Memorial
Hoboken, NJ 
If the struggling readers in your content classroom routinely miss the point when "reading" content text, consider teaching them one or more of the seven cognitive strategies of highly effective readers. Cognitive strategies are the mental processes used by skilled readers to extract and construct meaning from text and to create knowledge structures in long-term memory. When these strategies are directly taught to and modeled for struggling readers, their comprehension and retention improve.

Struggling students often mistakenly believe they are reading when they are actually engaged in what researchers call mindless reading (Schooler, Reichle, & Halpern, 2004), zoning out while staring at the printed page. The opposite of mindless reading is the processing of text by highly effective readers using cognitive strategies. These strategies are described in a fascinating qualitative study that asked expert readers to think aloud regarding what was happening in their minds while they were reading. The lengthy scripts recording these spoken thoughts (i.e., think-alouds) are called verbal protocols (Pressley & Afflerbach, 1995). These protocols were categorized and analyzed by researchers to answer specific questions, such as, What is the influence of prior knowledge on expert readers' strategies as they determine the main idea of a text? (Afflerbach, 1990b).

The protocols provide accurate "snapshots" and even "videos" of the ever-changing mental landscape that expert readers construct during reading. Researchers have concluded that reading is "constructively responsive-that is, good readers are always changing their processing in response to the text they are reading" (Pressley & Afflerbach, 1995, p. 2). Instructional Aid 1.1 defines the seven cognitive strategies of highly effective readers, and Instructional Aid 1.2 provides a lesson plan template for teaching a cognitive strategy.

Instructional aids

Instructional Aid 1.1: Seven Strategies of Highly Effective Readers

Activating"Priming the cognitive pump" in order to recall relevent prior knowledge and experiences from long-term memory in order to extract and construct meaning from text
InferringBringing together what is spoken (written) in the text, what is unspoken (unwritten) in the text, and what is already known by the reader in order to extract and construct meaning from the text
Monitoring-ClarifyingThinking about how and what one is reading, both during and after the act of reading, for purposes of determining if one is comprehending the text combined with the ability to clarify and fix up any mix-ups
QuestioningEngaging in learning dialogues with text (authors), peers, and teachers through self-questioning, question generation, and question answering
Searching-SelectingSearching a variety of sources in order to select appropriate information to answer questions, define words and terms, clarify misunderstandings, solve problems, or gather information
SummarizingRestating the meaning of text in one's own words — different words from those used in the original text
Visualizing-OrganizingConstructing a mental image or graphic organizer for the purpose of extracting and constructing meaning from the text