Teaching #101: Teaching Reading Strategies in the Content Areas

Despite what many content area teachers believe, it is really important to teach reading strategies in their content area. Sixty percent of US high school students are performing “basic” or “below basic” on standardized state tests. This is unacceptable, but it is nothing new. US students have been scoring this low in reading for years.

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Currently, the Science of Reading has made a splash with the push to teach phonics and phonological/phonemic awareness to our country’s children. This is an great step in the right direction that should have happened after the National Reading Panel established that this was best practices. But many teachers are questioning what they can do to help students who struggle with comprehension and it is more complex than understanding letter/sound connection.

There is research in reading that shows considerable evidence for the following four strategies:

Predicting– students create what they think is going to happen based on evidence

Questioning-students create questions and possible answers for the text

Summarizing– student can identify the main idea and include only supporting details in chronological order

Visualizing– students can either discuss or draw an image based on the evidence given by the text

Each of these strategies can be implemented before, during, or after reading, and one lesson can contain all four. They can be utilized with text from science, social studies, and English, and each one requires students to interact with the text in a way that furthers their overall understanding of the text.

Teachers should also adopt an “I do”, “We do”, “You do” format to teach the strategy first. A student doing these activities incorrectly does more harm then good and can negatively impact a child’s ability to reflect accurately on their own comprehension.

This takes time, and many content area teachers worry about their inability to cover large portions of content, but those teachers need to ask themselves if it is more important for a student to be exposed to content as opposed to being given the opportunity to practice a strategy that will allow them to access content on their own. If the teacher’s answer is “Yes” being exposed to large blocks of content is more important, I would question “Why?”. The vast majority of students has constant access to content everyday in the form of a small device they carry in their pocket. What they need is an educated and skilled adult to teach them how to access it on their own, examine the texts validity, and synthesize the content to help them understand the world around them.

Unfortunately, many teachers find it more enjoyable to teach their stories and discuss their favorite themes and characters or scientific principal than teaching students important skills.

Love and Light, All!

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