Enhancing Comprehension

Action Learning Conference Project

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As part of our implementation of visible learning strategies in our school, we identified the need to provide students with a common language to assist them to understand their levels of achievement.


One of our focus areas was assisting students to develop their comprehension when reading and composing texts. We built teacher understanding of an explicit model of learning that allows for ongoing assessment to monitor and improve student learning outcomes. We used the model to collect visible evidence that clearly shows 'high equity and high quality' in classroom learning. This project targeted Year 3 and Year 5 classes.

Project Goals

  • Develop and provide students with a common language to assist them to understand their levels of achievement.


  • Assist students to develop their comprehension when reading and composing texts.


  • Build teacher understanding of an explicit model of learning that allows for ongoing assessment (monitor and improve student learning outcomes).


  • Collect visible evidence that clearly shows 'high equity and high quality' in classroom learning.


  • Equip students with a variety of comprehension strategies and the ability to deliberately apply specific strategies to aid comprehension, particularly with regard to challenging texts/information.

The Why

We know that one of the best ways to engage students in their learning is to make them 'owners' of their learning. To do this, educators need to provide students with a common language to assist them to understand where their learning is at.


In classroom environments, it is easy to lose sight of the progress that is being made and at what stage of the learning journey, students a currently working within.

The Taxonomy, a Common Language of Learning

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SOLO Taxonomy is predicated on "what the student does." As educators our focus should be similar. We want the best learning outcomes possible for students, however, this isn't possible if our view on achievement is driven by a notion of "What the student is" or "What the Teacher does."


Step Two centres around equipping students with a common language that assists them to reflect on their learning. Once students have chosen a work sample to reflect on, it is important to show them how to answer the 3 SOLO questions.


  1. What am I learning?
  2. How it is going?
  3. What do I do next?


This in turn assists teacher to focus on providing relevant feedback that is individualised rather than standardised that helps the learning move forward in their learning.

Going SOLO for a collaborative approach

SOLO Taxonomy is an explicit model of learning adapted by New Zealand Educational Consultant Pam Hook that allows for ongoing assessment for improving student learning outcomes. It provides teachers with visible evidence that clearly shows 'high equity and high quality' in classroom learning.


When using SOLO Taxonomy, we can empower students to describe:


  1. What they are learning.
  2. How well it is going
  3. What they intend to do next to further their learning outcomes.


As educators it is our responsibility to provide students with a sense of ownership and control of their learning outcomes. With the help of SOLO Taxonomy Students are equipped to be active in the creation of the learning environments rather than passive.

SOLO Taxonomy

Click here to go to Pam Hook's awesome website on her work with SOLO Taxonomy. It's packed full with excellent resources.

8 Stratagems for Comprehension

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Activating Prior Knowledge

This was the first concept we introduced to students because it was easily accessible to all. We talked about “Turning on what we already know.” As part of our common language and explicit teaching, "Activating Prior Knowledge" served as a way of inviting students of all reading levels into conversations about a range of texts.

Making Connections (Worlds of Text)

Our second puzzle piece was exploring the different "worlds of the text" we experience as readers. We talked to students about how we make connections with:


  1. Text to self
  2. Text to text and
  3. Text to world.


We found that using these 3 connections it made connecting with texts a much more simpler process for all of our students.

Predicting

Once we had the first 2 puzzle pieces accessible to students we focussed on working with them to explore different ways of predicting what might happen in the texts they experience. Here we worked with our learners to use information from graphics, texts and their own experiences (make connections) to anticipate what will be read/viewed/heard.


We also used SOLO Taxonomy to provide students with explicit maps that assist them to critically analyse their predictions and answer questions such as


“Was my prediction correct? Why or why not?”

Questioning

Once students had explored the first 3 pieces, we used this to work on their ability to generate questions about the texts they were experiencing. He we explicitly taught learners to pose and answer questions to extend their thinking about a topic.


As a class we would explore how we can improve our questioning to gain more understanding of what we were experiencing in texts and how our questioning might be different to others. We would use a range of questions generated by the learner, pees and teachers.

Inferring

The fifth strategy we worked on with students was their ability to infer meaning in a range of texts. here we found that even our most advanced readers struggled.


We discussed with students that inferring was all about "Identifying what the hidden message in the text meant?" and "What is the author trying to tell us without actually saying it."


Again we used HOT SOLO Maps to assist students with their thinking and thought planning to keep our instruction explicit.

Visualising

One of the most powerful strategies we found useful was explicitly teaching students to visualise what they were experiencing in texts. Here we worked with students to create mental images from a text that they had read/viewed/heard and engage their imagination.


We found that explicitly teaching and guiding students to develop this skill helped them to transfer their ideas to writing e.g. narrative writing.

Summarising

A skill we kept refining was students ability to summarise what they had experienced in a text. A lot of our students could attempt to do this. however, it wasn't a task they could complete with ease.


We worked to assist students to accumulate and identify the most important ideas in a text (using Reading 2 Learn strategies) THEN, restating them in their own ideas through a range of modes. HOT SOLO MAPS also assisted us in this area.

Synthesising

This strategy was the most difficult to explore with students. Synthesising required students to utilise the other 7 puzzle pieces we had been explicitly teaching and pull them together to use information gained whilst experiencing a text to develop new understandings.


We used HOT SOLO MAPS to assist students to place new information from the text with their own prior knowledge to assist them to identify new knowledge and understandings.