View the movie below and then proceed to the Initial Thoughts section (time: 3:21).
The teachers at O’Connor Middle School are hard at work evaluating some recently implemented vocabulary and comprehension instructional strategies. Last semester, they taught their students how to use some of these, like the Frayer Model and a question generation strategy, but what effect have their efforts had on student learning? The school principal is eager to find out. She asks her science, social studies, and English/language arts teachers to discuss the next steps in carrying out effective literacy instruction.
When the teachers gather, however, they discover that they have a classroom challenge in common: Though many of their students have shown improvement in content learning, some continue to struggle with very basic reading skills.
“A few students in my class can’t even read the words we put on the Frayer Model,” remarks Ms. Yun, who teaches social studies. “How did they reach middle school without being able to decode?”
“Is it that they can’t read the words,” asks the science teacher, Ms. Forrester, “Or that they’ve given up even trying to read them? I sometimes think my students panic when they encounter the big words in my class, so they simply skip them. I don’t see how they’ll ever meet the more rigorous college and career readiness standards if I have to read the text to them.”
Mr. Chowdhury, the English/language arts instructor, agrees that this is a problem. However, he reminds the group that the anchor standards for literacy target more than just a surface-level understanding of text.
“My students are expected to demonstrate skills like analyzing word choices, citing textual evidence, and considering multiple perspectives. If they’re not even reading the text in the first place, how can we expect them to examine it closely?”
The teachers aren’t sure. They know how important vocabulary and comprehension are to content-area learning, but how to help students who struggle with both basic and advanced reading skills is, for the moment, a mystery.
Here’s your Challenge:
Why do so many adolescents struggle with content-area reading?
What can teachers do to help students develop stronger vocabulary knowledge?
What can teachers do to improve students’ comprehension of content-area text?