Strategies for Struggling Readers, Part II

Article excerpt

In Part I of this article (Fall- Winter issue of Social Studies Review (Volume 48, No. 1 ), we described the importance of spending time with pre-activities to help students activate prior knowledge and to set the stage for new learning to occur. The focus in this article is to help students use their knowledge of text structure, organization, and purpose, to describe and connect the essential ideas, arguments, and perspectives of the text. Once we engage students in actual reading, we can help them process information by providing guides, organizers, and strategies to help them make sense of the text. Below are nine strategies to help students organize information for meaning as they read.

Reading the Textbook: Helping Readers Access and Engage in the Text

All readers, and particularly struggling readers, benefit from the use of graphic organizers as visual representations of facts and concepts to help them organize content, recall information, and enhance comprehension. In this section, we will provides examples of graphic organizers that reflect text patterns most commonly found in social studies textbooks:

* Main Idea and Details (Handout #1)

* Compare and Contrast (Handouts #2 and #3)

* Chronological Order of Events (Handout #4)

* Cause and Effect (Handouts #5)

TIP! Just a reminder, you won't want to use ALL of these graphic organizers for each lesson. There just is not enough time. Keep in mind, some text works with compare and contrast while other text fits better with cause and effect. Chronological Order of Events is only useful when there is a series of time-related events. So, match the graphic organizer you use with the text students will read. It is up to you to "pick and choose" which strategies you think work best with each lesson.

1. Main Idea and Details

The main idea is the most important idea of a paragraph or passage. Details provide more information about the main idea. The main idea is often, but not always, the first sentence of a paragraph.

Materials needed: For each student, a copy of Main Idea and Details (Handout #1).

Classroom Organization: Individual students and/or partners

Using Main Idea and Details (Handout #1), state the title of the lesson as a statement. Record it in the Topic section of the handout.

As you read each section of the lesson, record on the handout the main idea (the section heading) and the essential details for each paragraph. Once the main ideas and essential details have been recorded, students write a summary sentence about the information. Compare the original text to the summary to determine whether it accurately captures the main ideas, includes critical details, and conveys the underlying meaning.

TIP: The number of columns and rows listed on the Main Idea and Details handout is an arbitrary number. It does not mean that every lesson will have 3 main ideas each with 4 essential details, or that every part of the handout must be completed. Additional pages may be added if there are more than 3 main ideas, or students may use the back of the handout to record the main ideas of extra paragraphs.

2. Compare and Contrast

Materials needed: For each student, a copy of Compare and Contrast (Handout #2).

Classroom Organization: Individual students and/or partners

The compare and contrast strategy works well when there are conflicting points of view. To compare and contrast is to specify what is unique to each item being compared and what is similar. Using a copy of Compare and Contrast (Handout #2), label the circle on the left with one topic and label the circle on the right with the opposing topic.

Read each section of the text and record information under each topic being compared. Record any similarities in the interconnecting circles.

As an alternative to Handout #2, try Compare and Contrast (Handout #3). In the boxes in the middle of the handout, label each box with a topic being compared. …