Academic journal article Reading Horizons (Online)

Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary Content Area Classrooms: Teacher Use of and Attitudes towards Reading Comprehension Instruction

Academic journal article Reading Horizons (Online)

Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary Content Area Classrooms: Teacher Use of and Attitudes towards Reading Comprehension Instruction

Article excerpt

In today's middle and high schools, a significant number of students struggle with the complex academic and literacy tasks they encounter in their content area classes. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, approximately 8 million students in grades 4-12 read well below grade level (Heller & Greenleaf, 2007). Of those struggling secondary readers, nearly 70% struggle with reading comprehension (Biancarosa & Snow, 2006). For the purpose of this study, reading comprehension will be defined as, "the process of simultaneously extracting and constructing meaning through interaction and involvement with written language" (Snow, 2002, p. 11). The academic importance of reading comprehension cannot be understated, leading researchers to claim that, "the most important thing about reading is comprehension" (Gambrell, Block, & Pressley, 2002, p. 3).

There is clear evidence that reading comprehension instruction is highly beneficial for students of all levels. When teachers explain and model a single comprehension strategy or multiple strategies, as well as provide guided and independent practice with feedback until students begin to use the strategy independently, the reading levels of middle and high school students improve (e.g. Biancarosa & Snow, 2006; Collins, 199l; Deshler, Ellis, & Lenz, 1996; National Reading Panel, 2000; Rosenshine & Meister, 1996; Schorzman & Cheek, 2004; Stevens, 2003; Wood, Winne, & Carney, 1995). As a result of such convincing evidence, perhaps the most widely cited recommendation for improving reading comprehension is increasing explicit instruction in comprehension strategies (National Reading Panel, 2000). In its report, the National Reading Panel (NRP) (2000) highlights the importance of comprehension strategy instruction, explaining, "The idea behind explicit instruc- tion of text comprehension is that comprehension can be improved by teaching students to use specific cognitive strategies or to reason strategically when they encounter barriers to comprehension when reading" (p. 4-39). Highlighting the importance of comprehension instruction, the NRP (2000) found research evidence for the following eight reading comprehension strategies.

1. Comprehension monitoring in which the reader learns how to be aware or conscious of his or her understanding during reading and learns procedures to deal with problems in understanding as they arise.

2. Cooperative learning in which readers work together to learn strategies in the context of reading.

3. Graphic and semantic organizers, which allow the reader to represent graphically (write or draw) the meanings and relationships of the ideas that underlie the words in the text.

4. Story structure from which the reader learns to ask and answer who, what, where, when, and why questions about the plot and, in some cases, maps out the time line, characters, and events in stories.

5. Question answering in which the reader answers questions posed by the teacher and is given feedback on the correctness.

6. Question generation in which the reader asks himself or herself why, when, where, why, what will happen, how, and who questions.

7. Summarization in which the reader attempts to identify and write the main or most important ideas that integrate or unite the other ideas or meanings of the text into a coherent whole.

8. Multiple strategy instruction in which the reader uses several of the procedures in interaction with the teacher over the text. Multiple-strategy teaching is effective when the procedures are used flexibly and appropriately by the reader or the teacher in naturalistic contexts. (p. 4-6)

Furthermore, evidence shows that reading instruction in specific domains, such as science (Barton, Heidema, & Jordan, 2002; Greenleaf, Brown, & Litman, 2004; Norris & Phillips, 1994) and social studies (Mosborg, 2002; Perfetti, Britt, & Georgi, 1995) can improve student understanding and learning. …

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