What can teachers do to improve students’ comprehension of content-area text?
Page 11: Identify Personal Perspectives
When teachers use an Anticipation-Reaction Guide, their first step is to identify students’ personal perspectives on the concept or theme, something that should occur before students read the text. The purpose is for students to think about some of the text’s important ideas and how their perspectives might differ from the concepts presented in it or from the perspective of a fictional character. Examining and discussing the statements on the guide before reading will activate students’ background knowledge and the prior experiences that have shaped their current understanding about concepts or beliefs about issues and themes.
For this step the students will:
Consider each of the teacher-generated statements and indicate whether they agree or disagree by placing a checkmark in the appropriate column.
Write a justification for their response in the Reader’s Perspective Before Reading column.
Initially, the teacher will need to model how to draw on relevant knowledge and experiences to develop a justification. After sufficient modeling and guided practice in providing appropriate rationales, students can document their current perspective independently. Ms. Forrester’s science class example for tropical rainforests is below and illustrates how a guide might look after a student has completed Step 1.
Reader’s Perspective Before Reading
Textual Evidence and Source/Page #
Reader’s Perspective After Reading
1. It is regrettable that animals lose their homes when we cut down trees to mine natural resources. However, it is more important that we obtain those natural resources to make the things we want and need to live.
There were news reports on the great gray owl being endangered by the fire in the Sierra Nevada forest. If we log the trees, it could become extinct.
2. It is better to eat food that is grown close to your town than to buy bananas grown in South America.
We can only buy locally grown bananas at the farmer’s market, and they are very expensive. My sister does not think they taste as good, so we end up wasting more money when she throws them away after a couple bites.
3. Because renewable resources like food, sunlight, and water will replenish themselves, we can use as much as we want.
There are more and more wind turbines being used for electricity because we cannot use up all the wind like we can oil or coal. If we had a wind turbine in our backyard, my dad said it would not cost us anything to run the electricity in our house.
4. All paper products negatively affect the environment.
To make paper, you have to cut down trees. It creates a problem for endangered animals and it also affects our air because we need the trees to produce oxygen.
Even when students are able to generate their rationales independently, it is important that teachers provide opportunities for them to share and discuss their thinking. A student’s rationale may indicate misconceptions about important concepts. Although the statements do not have one right answer, justifications based on an incomplete or erroneous understanding of a concept may interfere with the student’s ability to comprehend new content. If these issues are identified before reading, the teacher has an opportunity to deliver supplemental instruction to improve students’ learning.
Another benefit of sharing and discussing opinions before reading is to expose students to multiple perspectives. This may help them be better prepared for considering an author or character’s perspective that might be different from their own. It will also model different ways that opinions can be justified. Hearing multiple perspectives and justifications will give them clues for what to look for in the text when the ideas are presented. This will be important for locating textual evidence during reading.
Listen as Deborah Reed discusses the benefits of having students explain their perspectives (time: 2:27).
Deborah K. Reed, PhD College of Education, University of Iowa Director, Iowa Reading Research Center
We like having students explain their perspective on an important issue or key idea that they’re about to encounter in the text prior to reading it so that we know how they’re approaching that text. If the student has a particular bias or maybe even a misconception about a particular concept, if we don’t know that in advance of having students read the text, there isn’t an opportunity to expose that thinking and perhaps provide additional support or other information that will help them with the dissonance they’re going to encounter as they work through the passage and see the way that the author has presented it with a different perspective or with other information that possibly conflicts with what the student thinks in advance. So in exposing that, prior to reading, through the use of the Anticipation-Reaction Guide then the student has an opportunity to really examine the basis of how they think about that theme or key idea or key concept. And then the teacher knows how to help the student work through any conflict or cognitive dissonance that they might have with the way the information is presented in the text. This is probably particularly helpful with primary source documents, because the purpose that historians have in examining primary source documents is to look at it from the perspective of an individual who’s in a historical context, who has one point of view or perspective on the issue, but that may not agree with other participants in this historical event’s perspective or point of view on that historical event that took place. If that’s the goal of reading primary source documents, to examine these historical events from multiple perspectives or multiple sides, then I think it’s imperative that you also consider what the student’s side of this might be going in. So they’re already examining the origins of their perspective and getting ready to contrast that with what’s motivating the author’s perspective in this passage and then potentially other primary source documents that they will read about the same event.
The video below depicts a middle school social studies class engaged in this activity. The class is using a slightly different format for the Anticipation-Reaction Guide: The columns are in a different order and there is not a column for recording the reader’s perspective. Reader’s perspective columns have been added to the guide in this module based on feedback from teachers who wanted a way for students to document this information. This additional column provides an opportunity for students to think through their rationale and use writing as well as speaking skills to articulate that rationale. Note how the teacher guides the discussion so as to allow input from students who agree and who disagree with the statement, and allows the students to offer justification for their current opinion (time: 4:34).
Transcript: Anticipation-Reaction Guide Before Reading
Narrator: The Anticipation-Reaction Guide can support students’ comprehension of material before, during, and after reading. In this video, we see how social studies teacher Gerry Ann Garcia and her students use an Anticipation-Reaction Guide before reading to activate prior knowledge and beliefs about the topic they have been studying.
Teacher: Last week, we talked about the Native Americans, and you did various activities with that.
Narrator: The teacher has also prepared students before reading by previewing key vocabulary from the selected text.
Teacher: Yesterday, we used the vocabulary instructional routine so that we knew how the words were pronounced and the definitions of the words, and so if you need to refer to them they will be there.
Narrator: The teacher states the focus of the day’s lesson and begins the activity.
Teacher: Today, we’re going to be looking at using primary source documents to acquire information about Texas. And we’ve been using a lot of primary source documents and talking about the importance of them. We’re going to be using the Anticipation-Reaction Guide that we have used several times before to look at these statements.
Narrator: In preparation for the lesson, the teacher has created four Anticipation-Reaction Guide opinion statements drawing from the major concepts in the selected text. She’s been careful not to use statements that would prompt students to give a true or false response. The goal is to activate students’ prior knowledge about the topic, foster discussion, and help set a purpose for reading the primary source documents.
Teacher: Let’s look at our first statement. “Native people had a lot to fear from European explorers.” I agree with that statement because I know that the Europeans brought diseases with them that the native Americans had no resistance to, and so this killed thousands of native Americans. We talked about that before, right? I am going to put a checkmark under “agree.” So right now I want you all to decide—and you don’t have to have the same opinion I do, because you have your own opinion—so you decide if you agree, and if you agree you put a checkmark under “agree.” If you disagree, you put a checkmark under “disagree.”
Narrator: The teacher gives students time to read the statement and mark their Anticipation-Reaction Guides.
Teacher: Who’d like to share why they either agree or disagree with this statement? Oscar?
Oscar: I disagree because there’s probably more native Americans than there are European? So that’s why I disagree.
Teacher: All right. So there’s only a certain number of Europeans coming over while the Native Americans are already there, and there’s a lot of them. All right. Does anyone else want to share? Chris?
Narrator: The discussion continues. Then the class considers the next statement.
Teacher: All right, so let’s look at the statement “It would be important for explorers to take gifts with them when visiting new lands or attempting to settle in new places.” All right. So you all know how to do this, so I’d like for you to now to decide whether you agree or disagree with this statement.
Narrator: With each statement, the teacher encourages discussion by asking several students to share their thinking.
Teacher: All right, who would like to share? Roberta?
Roberta: I would have to agree because it would be important for them to take the gifts. So it would be, like, respecting them, and if they were not to take the gifts then they would be, like, insulting them, I guess.
Teacher: Does anyone disagree with the statement? Yes, sir?
Student: Because the native Americans were, like, there on their land and then the Europeans came to the land. So the Native Americans saw them coming with armor, weapons, and horses. So they’re afraid that they’ll kill more people, and the Europeans were just saying that why should we give them gifts?