Teaching Reading:

From Chapter 8 of Burke's The English Teacher's Companion

Reading: Past, Present, Future

A Brief History of Reading:

  • First, there was the Talking Era, which consisted of the spoken word.
  • Next, there was the Manuscript Era, which paved the way to writing. This era consisted of marking on walls, caves, tablets, and animal skins.
  • Then, there was the Print Era, which began in the 1400s with the printing press. During the beginning of this era, reading was a skill that was only available to the rich and powerful such as political leaders, clergy, and scholars.
  • The Audio-Visual Era begin in the early-mid 1900s with the first radio and television broadcast. This era battled the Print Era for people's attention and form of entertainment.
  • Finally, the today's era, the Internet Era, began in 1990. This era focuses on different media and mediums of entertainment and information.

Reading in Today's Schools:

  • Readicide is "the systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools" (Gallagher, 2011 as quoted by Burke on page 140). This idea stems from the United State's intense desire to improve reading scores on various tests, which in turn makes students hate reading.
  • Most students are told when to read and what to read. Denying students the choice about what to read, when to read, and how to read takes away the pleasure of reading.
  • To help students become better readers, English teachers need to act as "reading mentors, book whisperers, role models, and text masters" to our students (141).

The Future of Reading:

  • Burke predicts that reading may return to its earliest days "when words were spoken or written, though not on the clay tablets of the past but those made of light, able to bring those letters off the page not just in spirit but truth as we project them (as holographs) into space as our ancestors once thought we did by speaking them" (142).
  • Because of this future, we teachers will need to help students be able to read different texts in different ways. We will have to help them gain "textual intelligence" (142).

What We Read: The Common Core State Standards and Beyond

Common Core State Standards:

  • In order to prepare our students for college and careers, we have to have a balance between literary and informational texts.
  • The "International Reading Associate describes 'excellent reading teachers include a variety of fiction and nonfiction genres' such as novels, biographies, magazines, and poetry" (143).
  • Students need to experience a variety of texts with varying levels of difficulties. Difficulties can be measured by themes, language, styles, and genres of texts. Including difficult texts is an important part of the Common Core State Standards because these standards call for "complex texts [that show] exceptional craft and thought [and] steadily [increase in] sophistication" (CCSS).
  • Teachers must remember that complexity and difficulty is not simply determined by length of words, sentences, and chapters; instead, complexity should involve concepts like syntax, narrativity, word abstraction, and cohesion.
  • CCSS lists three different types of difficulty: qualitative dimensions (levels of language, clarity, purpose, and meaning), quantitative dimensions (word length/frequency and sentence length), and reader and task considerations (motivations, knowledge, understandings, experiences, complexity of tasks and questions).

Assigning Reading:

  • When assigning what to read, teachers need to be aware of multiple literacies: "academic literacy (skills and strategies), cultural literacy (awareness of historical and cultural influences that shape one's identity), emotional literacy (ability to manage emotions and beliefs), and social literacy (ability to work with and speak to a range of people in different contexts)" (146).
  • Teachers should seek to assign reading that "pleases and profits, delights and instructs" (Dehaene, 2009, as quoted by Burke on 146). We want our students to have a transformative literacy experience.
  • Burke says that he sees "the curriculum as a 'conversation' that enables students to participate in and maintain the 'living traditions of knowing and doing' English. Thus I choose the various texts based on the conversations they invite us to have about craft and conscience, language and law, or other important concepts that integrate the teaching of skills and knowledge that form the core of the humanities" (151).

How We Read: Teaching Reading as a Process

  • In order to teach reading, we must teach reading as a process. Teacher need to model that experienced readers "do not just belly flop into a text and start thrashing around." (152).
  • As teachers, we need to teach students what to do before reading, during reading, and after reading.

Key Strategies for Students Before Reading:

  • Gather background knowledge on the topic, text type, and text itself
  • Determine the purpose of reading
  • Create a comfortable environment for reading
  • Generate questions, predictions, and associations related to the text
  • Preview/skim the text

Key Strategies for Teachers Before Reading:

  • Anticipate students' emotional, cognitive, and cultural response to a text before assigning it
  • Create the appropriate environment for reading
  • Decide what strategies and tools students will use
  • Prepare students with necessary skills and knowledge
  • Explain why students are reading a text
  • Determine objectives and course standards
  • Establish how students will be assessed
  • Frontload key vocabulary
  • Model how to read, write about, and discuss the text

Key Strategies for Students During Reading:

  • Connect what students read to their own experiences, other classes/texts, and the world
  • Monitor comprehension
  • Read actively: take notes, annotate, ask questions, make inferences, draw conclusions
  • Use all of their senses
  • Stop when confused and ask for help

Key Strategies for Teachers During Reading:

  • Monitor students' level of engagement, understanding, and effort and make adjustments as needed
  • Evaluate students' use of strategies
  • Determine level of intervention needed for certain students

Key Strategies for Students After Reading:

  • Decide what matters most and how to remember it
  • Retell, relate, and/or respond to the text with their own words
  • Reread as needed
  • Discuss, represent, and/or write about the text and connections to students' lives, other texts/classes, and the world

Key Strategies for Teachers After Reading:

  • Collect evidence that will assess that students read and understood the text
  • Evaluate what, if you anything, you need to reteach
  • Assess students' performance and readiness (for subsequent mastery) through testing, writing, discussions, etc.

From figure 5.6, page 155

Principles and Practices: Effective Reading Instruction

Burke lists ten different examples and practices to employ in secondary classes:

  1. "Teachers provide direct instruction throughout the reading process" (163). This direct instructions includes comprehension strategies, modeling, etc.
  2. "Teachers integrate instruction throughout the content of their course. They teach skills and knowledge in a meaningful context that allows students to make connections with a text" (164).
  3. "Students read interesting or real-world texts for authentic reasons to increase engagement and motivation" (166).
  4. "Students engage in regular, authentic discussions with a variety of texts, using conversations to comprehend and expand their thinking" (166).
  5. "Teachers provide targeted, strategic instruction to the whole class, specific groups of students, and individuals as needed, paying attention not only to English learners, for example, but also to the advanced readers in the class" (167).
  6. "Teachers select texts that grow progressively more complex than the texts that students have previously read" (168).
  7. Teachers have students write regularly about what they read: annotate, write summaries, take notes, keep a Reader's Notebook, etc.
  8. Assess students before, as, and after they read a text using formative and summative assessments
  9. "Teachers provide time in class and outside to support extensive reading with assigned and self-selected texts" (171).
  10. "Teachers use a variety of instructional strategies to support and enhance reading in a classroom that supports and encourages intellectual risk-taking" (171).

Types of Reading Skills for Teachers and Students:

  • Skim the text
  • Determine the author's purpose
  • Identify the main idea and supporting details
  • Understand text structures/patterns
  • Take notes
  • Ask question
  • Evaluate the credibility and quality of a text
  • Troubleshooting the text
  • Write and talk about the text
  • Chunk the text
  • Reflect on Reading
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Struggling Readers: Help Them to Help Themselves

Where and How Readers Struggle:

  • It is important to remember that all of our students should be struggling readers most of the time because school is where go to learn.
  • In order to figure out why our readers are struggling, Burke says to refer to the Four Cs of Academic Success: commitment, content, competencies, capacities.
  • Commitment - students are not engaged, refuse to read, and avoid reading because they believe they will fail.
  • Content - students lack knowledge about the text, topic, genre, conventions, language, or discipline they need in order to complete a text or tasks based on the text.
  • Competencies - "students do not possess or have not yet mastered the skills needed to read the assigned text, use the required tools or strategies, or complete the associated tasks such as writing about or discussing the text in a particular way" (177).
  • Capacities - "students struggle for reasons related to speed, stamina, confidence, or attention" (177).

What We Can Do to Help Struggling Readers:

  • Connect to students' interests
  • Guide students through the process of learning and wading through a difficult text
  • Use a range of interactive exercises like quick-writes, anticipation guides, role-plays, and other drama-based activity.
  • Model for students
  • Incorporate high-level student-led discussions
  • Have students reflect on the process of their own learning (teach metacognitive skills)

Three Validated Strategies to Enhance Reading Skills:

  • "Elaborative Interrogation: students use why questions to process informational texts to activate prior knowledge and experiences, which they weave the facts from the texts into a larger tapestry of understanding" (182).
  • "Text Organization Instruction: Students learn different ways of organizing texts and common features of those types of texts" (182).
  • "Social and Self-Regulatory Process Instruction: Students develop self-regulating behaviors and self-efficacy so that they set goals for their performance in the reading of text and evaluate their efforts and results by reflecting on what worked and what did not work" (182).

*One last point that Burke emphasizes at the end of this sub-section is: Teachers need to empathize with students' struggles as readers and as learners.

"'Reading is the route to intelligence, not the goal of it. It is proper attention to the craft of reading that will make the reader crafty'" (Scholes, 2001 as quoted by Burke on page 243).

Advanced Reading: Turning Them into "Crafty Readers"

Advanced reading is not only about what students read, but also how they read.

Ideas and Assignments to Consider for Advanced Reading:

  • "Have students read one or more nonfiction texts to create a critical or conceptual frame for the subsequent texts, which may include fiction, informational texts, media, or art. Use the nonfiction texts to create a lens through which you examine the primary texts" (185).
  • Provide students with a model or metaphor of some sort that they can apply to the text to help them dig deeper into its structure and meaning. You can do this by giving students a model (like ODONO model that Burke provides on page 186) or some type of journey cycle, then ask them to apply it to a demanding literary text as they read.
  • "Offer students a theme or invite them to come up with their own that they then use to read the assigned texts closely, drawing details and making inferences from it as they read" (186).
  • "Assign students roles that require them to research that person's theories, principles, and ideas; then, apply those to the primary text, reading the book as if they were the assigned role" (187). Example: Have students read Lord of the Flies as if they were Anne Frank or Sigmund Freud.
  • "Provide students with readings, criteria, or other resources related to a philosophical or critical theory, which students then apply to the literary text as they read" (187). To view the different types of literary criticism, view Figure 5.29 on pages 188-189.
  • "Teach students the more advanced elements of argument, rhetoric, or style and ask them to read for those specific elements, examining how the author uses this in [his work]" (187).
  • "Ask students to research a period in history with a rich literary treatment and create a list of proposed readings through which they will explore that era, making inferences about what it was like, why it was that way, and why it is worth studying" (187).
  • Assign students different perspectives from which to read a text. These perspective should be in opposition to another and generate creative tensions within the classroom to elicit great conversation.
  • "Have students use graphs or other such tools to represent the more complex dynamics in the novel or play they are reading" (187).
  • "Read widely about a significant subject of importance to the students and society at large over the course of a semester. This idea of 'learning in depth' over an extended period of time cultivates more advanced reading as students immerse themselves deeper into a topic" (191). An example of this assignment is on page 148.
  • "Identify a subject worthy of sustained, deep inquiry as a class and, after reading the primary text, research what others have said about the subject, gathering notes from your supplemented readings" (191).
  • Consult books like Reading Like A Writer (Prose), How to Read Literature Like a Professor (Foster), The Literature Workshop (Blau), and Protocols of Reading (Scholes). These books explain and show advanced reading, demystifying the act by identifying the questions and habits of such readers.

Using Assessment to Improve Reading--and Teaching

Questions to Ask to Determine What Assessments to Use:

  • What do we want our students to know, do, or remember before, during, or after reading that is so important that we are going to take time to assess it?
  • How can we best assess what students learn, remember and use what they read?
  • Is there a particular assessment that will yield measurable results that show the efficacy of our instruction?
  • How well do our assessments align with relevant standards?
  • How useful are our assessments in conveying students' progress and their performance to meeting the relevant standards?
  • How can we include preparation for assessments into the curriculum and/or content?

According to Burke, the purpose of assessments is "to determine where the students are, what they learned, and how effective one's own teaching was on a given occasion or over the course of a unit" (193).

Types of Reading Assessments:

  • Multiple Choice
  • Short Answer
  • Cloze statements (the reader completes a statement that is designed to show their understanding of the reading.)
  • Constructed Response
  • Teacher Conference
  • Essay (Timed)
  • Discussion (Group or Class)
  • Performance
  • Teacher Observation
  • Essay (Process)
  • Portfolio

To view the advantages and disadvantages of each of these types of assessments, see Figure 5.31 on pages 194-95.