Literacy Skills of Successful Adolescent Readers

July 18, 2014, The IRIS Center

Don Deshler, Professor of Special Education and Director of the Center for Research on Learning at the University of Kansas, talks about some of the literacy skills that adolescents need if they are to achieve academic success (time: 5:41).

Questions asked of Dr. Deshler in this audio:

  1. What kinds of literacy skills do adolescents require to be successful in school?
  2. Can you talk a little more about goal-setting and why it is important?

Don Deshler, PhD
Don Deshler, PhD
Professor, Special Education
Director, Center for Research on Learning
The University of Kansas

Transcript: Don Deshler, PhD

Narrator: This interview is brought to you by the IRIS Center, a national center funded by the Office of Special Education Programs.

Don Deshler, Professor of Special Education and Director of the Center for Research on Learning at the University of Kansas, talks about some of the literacy skills that adolescents need if they are to achieve academic success (time: 5:41)

Narrator: Dr. Deshler, what kinds of literacy skills do adolescents require to be successful in school?

Don Deshler: Students need to acquire a broad array of strategies to equip them to deal with the broad array of reading demands they encounter. Among the comprehension strategies that the literature has told us can indeed be high- leverage strategies for students are such things as paraphrasing and summarizing, the ability to ask good questions of the material and of yourself as you’re reading along, the ability to form images of things that you are reading, the ability to monitor your comprehension as you’re going along—that is, checking to see, “Am I understanding this. How does this compare with what I read before? Do I need to stop and reread?” And, of course, as students are struggling and encountering difficulty when they are reading, they need some fix-up strategies and things that enable them to fill in gaps in their comprehension. So that’s an array of specific literacy skills. But I would add to that listing some things that we don’t often associate directly with literacy skills, but I think are very important. Among them would be the ability for students to set personal goals as they’re reading or going through academic materials, the notion of motivation to read and how teachers understand that construct of motivation and being able to detect where students are not motivated to read, and therefore our approach to solving that challenge is different than if students aren’t reading because they’re lacking some of the basic comprehension strategies.

It’s also important that, associated with goals, is to be able to understand the role that expectations play for me as an individual as well as for teachers as they are working with students and around reading. The power of setting high expectations and reachable expectations for students comes into play. And the final thing that I would say that does influence student performance is the models that they see teachers evidencing for them. That is, do they see their teachers reading? Do they hear their teachers talking about how the quality of their life and their understanding of the world is enhanced because of things they read?

Narrator: Can you talk a little more about goal-setting and why it is important?

Don Deshler: As we have worked with adolescents over the years, we have tried to understand what factors contribute to them being as successful as possible. Our initial work was all focused on what specific reading skills and reading strategies can we teach to students to better equip them to respond to the demands of the curriculum? And we found after we had done that work that there was still something missing. As we talked to students—those who were successful and those who weren’t quite successful—something emerged through those conversations. We found that students who were successful frequently set for themselves goals as they got into their reading assignments or class assignments. Sometimes these weren’t real specifically articulated, but they were there. And it was something that got them engaged, kept them engaged, and brought them to closure on an assignment or reading a book or a passage or whatever. So we extended that finding to do some actual work in teaching students how to set goals around reading achievement, and how to determine what constitutes a realistic goal, and the fact the goals can be set for small periods of time and not just long periods of time. By doing so, those goals in combination with some high leverage strategies can really make a difference in a student achievement and student success in school.

Narrator: Thank you for listening to this IRIS Center interview. For more information about the IRIS Center and its resources, visit us at www.iriscenter.com [https://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/].

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