Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Connecting reading and writing with Post-reading strategies

            A wealth of research indicates that students who take part in a curriculum involving post-reading strategy application have a more successful and meaningful reading experience (Smith, 2003). Applying post reading strategies involves students in what they are reading; enhancing not only their comprehension, but also their appreciation for reading and the knowledge they gain. Post-reading activities in particular help students to analyze, synthesize and consolidate what they have read (Smith, 2003).
            Many students do not develop effective reading strategies on their own; instead they must receive explicit instruction to learn and use these strategies. Students need guided practice and feedback from a teacher to acquire and integrate these very important skills into their reading habits. Research shows that students learn these skills best not in a reading class, but rather when they are incorporated into regular content area classes (Roe et al., 1990).
            Instructional activities that teach reading comprehension should focus on constructing meaning. Authentic reading materials should be employed and read for authentic purposes (Roe et al., 1990). By becoming more active in the reading process, students can learn with the text, and not only from the text.
            However, in order to effectively understand a text, a student must also understand the ways that authors organize and structure text, as well as the literary devices used by authors and their impact on the reader. Writing in response to reading contributes to comprehension because it enables students to understand the ways that authors express ideas using written language (Roe et al., 1990).
            Cooperative learning activities are especially beneficial in teaching reading strategies. According to Forget (2004), when students work together to construct meaning from a text, they learn more deeply in addition to helping one another learn how to learn. Students at different levels can gain understanding from each other’s insights, perceptions, and even mistakes (Forget, 2004).
            Cooperative learning involves small groups of students learning subject matter by working together to solve a problem. In a classroom where literacy is emphasized, the problem to be solved is usually an interpretation of text. The teacher’s role in the process should be that of a facilitator, not a dispenser of knowledge (Forget, 2004).
            Others agree that cooperative learning is especially important for English language learners when learning content in English. Talking and interacting with peers is very engaging for students and increases the opportunities they have to think about, discuss, and write about what they have learned (Robertson, 2008).
 Forget (2004) asserts that in order to motivate students to think about, learn, and discuss what they have read, we must use an instructional framework which gives students the opportunity to become active in their own learning and reading (Forget, 2004).
According to Forget, this framework should involve assisting students in setting a purpose prior to reading and connecting to their own prior knowledge about the topic. During the reading, the teacher should assist students in following their purposes for reading and monitoring their own comprehension. After reading, teachers should assist students in critical thinking by creating opportunities for students to analyze and synthesize the text, as well as extend their thinking beyond the text (Forget, 2004).
Teachers also need to take time to model the strategies they expect students to use. As teachers and accomplished readers, we can often forget how overwhelming a text can be for a struggling reader (Robertson, 2008). We must remember that these readers struggle because they don’t have those skills, so we must adjust our teaching and explicitly teach and model the skills and strategies we want our students to use.
            Especially important for success in content area reading is the understanding of content specific vocabulary. This is even more important for English language learners, who need much more direct and explicit instruction in vocabulary. It is important however, not to overwhelm the learner with new vocabulary. Instead, pick only what is most essential for each new chapter or unit. Content area terms should be chosen for their use in helping children apply the concepts they are learning (Silverman, 2009).
            It is important to be sure students can understand what they are expected to read. According to Krashen (2003), students acquire language by understanding input containing words and structures they are familiar with, as well as a few new words and structures. Pictures and body movements are especially important for beginners, but are helpful for all English language learners in setting context. Krashen asserts that if we provide students with enough interesting, engaging comprehensible input, language acquisition will occur (Krashen, 2003).
            Krashen (2003) also asserts that it is important to teach students selective reading: that is, reading to solve a problem. Krashen (2003) says, “It may be the case that reading is useful to us only when it is relevant to a problem that we are working on…” (Krashen, 2003, p.73). When students are given a problem to solve, they will retain the information they read if the information is related to the problem (Krashen, 2003).

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