Improving reading comprehension

Discussion in 'General Education' started by sumnerfan, Aug 9, 2012.

  1. sumnerfan

    sumnerfan Comrade

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    There is a huge push this year at my school to improve reading comprehension at the high school level. What is your best tool or strategy for teaching and improving reading comprehension? The district office said they had a little money if we had something they could purchase to help improve reading comprehension. I'm thinking novel sets. What would you suggest?
     
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  3. HistTchr

    HistTchr Habitué

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    I love Jim Burke's materials. I am a social studies teacher, but have used many of his English strategies in my classes. A lot of his resources are available for free on his website, http://www.englishcompanion.com, and on the English Companion Ning.
     
  4. perplexed

    perplexed Comrade

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    I like anything by Stephanie Harvey or Harvey Daniels.
     
  5. tootgravytrain

    tootgravytrain Comrade

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    High school level? This country's literacy (I'm working without the safety net of remembering the exact numbers I seen recently) rate was extremely more HIGH before public schooling and has been on the downgrade ever since. It's all about environment and desire and utility. This society is taking away the "value" of being literate when kids are born into a world where everything and everyone does their thinking for them. No incentive is what I'm saying.

    My daughters are highly literate because they always seen me in school and reading for pleasure. Books are and were always around. I'm thankful to say my year and a half granddaughter would rather flip through a book than play with any toy.

    I don't mean to be scarcastic or dismissive - but high school? Kids learned to read without schools because they HAD to to read newspapers and the King James Bible, and parents and extended families taught them.

    It's not rocket science when the motivation and utility is there - I'm just fearing we (not teachers) as a society dont' provide that incentive and need anymore.

    OK, I found some Gatto research to talk about the demise of our literacy rate circa WW II. The link is also there to dig further. All claims are referenced.

    http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/3b.htm

    At the start of WWII millions of men showed up at registration offices to take low-level academic tests before being inducted.1 The years of maximum mobilization were 1942 to1944; the fighting force had been mostly schooled in the 1930s, both those inducted and those turned away. Of the 18 million men were tested, 17,280,000 of them were judged to have the minimum competence in reading required to be a soldier, a 96 percent literacy rate. Although this was a 2 percent fall-off from the 98 percent rate among voluntary military applicants ten years earlier, the dip was so small it didn’t worry anybody.

    WWII was over in 1945. Six years later another war began in Korea. Several million men were tested for military service but this time 600,000 were rejected. Literacy in the draft pool had dropped to 81 percent, even though all that was needed to classify a soldier as literate was fourth- grade reading proficiency. In the few short years from the beginning of WWII to Korea, a terrifying problem of adult illiteracy had appeared. The Korean War group received most of its schooling in the 1940s, and it had more years in school with more professionally trained personnel and more scientifically selected textbooks than the WWII men, yet it could not read, write, count, speak, or think as well as the earlier, less-schooled contingent.

    A third American war began in the mid-1960s. By its end in 1973 the number of men found noninductible by reason of inability to read safety instructions, interpret road signs, decipher orders, and so on—in other words, the number found illiterate—had reached 27 percent of the total pool. Vietnam-era young men had been schooled in the 1950s and the 1960s—much better schooled than either of the two earlier groups—but the 4 percent illiteracy of 1941 which had transmuted into the 19 percent illiteracy of 1952 had now had grown into the 27 percent illiteracy of 1970. Not only had the fraction of competent readers dropped to 73 percent but a substantial chunk of even those were only barely adequate; they could not keep abreast of developments by reading a newspaper, they could not read for pleasure, they could not sustain a thought or an argument, they could not write well enough to manage their own affairs without assistance.

    Consider how much more compelling this steady progression of intellectual blindness is when we track it through army admissions tests rather than college admissions scores and standardized reading tests, which inflate apparent proficiency by frequently changing the way the tests are scored.

    Looking back, abundant data exist from states like Connecticut and Massachusetts to show that by 1840 the incidence of complex literacy in the United States was between 93 and 100 percent wherever such a thing mattered. According to the Connecticut census of 1840, only one citizen out of every 579 was illiterate and you probably don’t want to know, not really, what people in those days considered literate; it’s too embarrassing. Popular novels of the period give a clue: Last of the Mohicans, published in 1826, sold so well that a contemporary equivalent would have to move 10 million copies to match it. If you pick up an uncut version you find yourself in a dense thicket of philosophy, history, culture, manners, politics, geography, analysis of human motives and actions, all conveyed in data-rich periodic sentences so formidable only a determined and well-educated reader can handle it nowadays. Yet in 1818 we were a small-farm nation without colleges or universities to speak of. Could those simple folk have had more complex minds than our own?

    By 1940, the literacy figure for all states stood at 96 percent for whites, 80 percent for blacks. Notice that for all the disadvantages blacks labored under, four of five were nevertheless literate. Six decades later, at the end of the twentieth century, the National Adult Literacy Survey and the National Assessment of Educational Progress say 40 percent of blacks and 17 percent of whites can’t read at all. Put another way, black illiteracy doubled, white illiteracy quadrupled. Before you think of anything else in regard to these numbers, think of this: we spend three to four times as much real money on schooling as we did sixty years ago, but sixty years ago virtually everyone, black or white, could read.

    In their famous bestseller, The Bell Curve, prominent social analysts Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein say that what we’re seeing are the results of selective breeding in society. Smart people naturally get together with smart people, dumb people with dumb people. As they have children generation after generation, the differences between the groups gets larger and larger. That sounds plausible and the authors produce impressive mathematics to prove their case, but their documentation shows they are entirely ignorant of the military data available to challenge their contention. The terrifying drop in literacy between World War II and Korea happened in a decade, and even the brashest survival-of-the-fittest theorist wouldn’t argue evolution unfolds that way. The Bell Curve writers say black illiteracy (and violence) is genetically programmed, but like many academics they ignore contradictory evidence.

    For example, on the matter of violence inscribed in black genes, the inconvenient parallel is to South Africa where 31 million blacks live, the same count living in the United States. Compare numbers of blacks who died by violence in South Africa in civil war conditions during 1989, 1990, and 1991 with our own peacetime mortality statistics and you find that far from exceeding the violent death toll in the United States or even matching it, South Africa had proportionately less than one-quarter the violent death rate of American blacks. If more contemporary comparisons are sought, we need only compare the current black literacy rate in the United States (56 percent) with the rate in Jamaica (98.5 percent)—a figure considerably higher than the American white literacy rate (83 percent).

    If not heredity, what then? Well, one change is indisputable, well-documented and easy to track. During WWII, American public schools massively converted to non-phonetic ways of teaching reading. On the matter of violence alone this would seem to have impact: according to the Justice Department, 80 percent of the incarcerated violent criminal population is illiterate or nearly so (and 67 percent of all criminals locked up). There seems to be a direct connection between the humiliation poor readers experience and the life of angry criminals.2

    As reading ability plummeted in America after WWII, crime soared, so did out-of-wedlock births, which doubled in the 1950s and doubled again in the ’60s, when bizarre violence for the first time became commonplace in daily life.

    When literacy was first abandoned as a primary goal by schools, white people were in a better position than black people because they inherited a three-hundred-year-old American tradition of learning to read at home by matching spoken sound with letters, thus home assistance was able to correct the deficiencies of dumbed-down schools for whites. But black people had been forbidden to learn to read under slavery, and as late as 1930 only averaged three to four years of schooling, so they were helpless when teachers suddenly stopped teaching children to read, since they had no fall-back position. Not helpless because of genetic inferiority but because they had to trust school authorities to a much greater extent than white people.

    Back in 1952 the Army quietly began hiring hundreds of psychologists to find out how 600,000 high school graduates had successfully faked illiteracy. Regna Wood sums up the episode this way:

    After the psychologists told the officers that the graduates weren’t faking, Defense Department administrators knew that something terrible had happened in grade school reading instruction. And they knew it had started in the thirties. Why they remained silent, no one knows. The switch back to reading instruction that worked for everyone should have been made then. But it wasn’t.

    In 1882, fifth graders read these authors in their Appleton School Reader: William Shakespeare, Henry Thoreau, George Washington, Sir Walter Scott, Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Bunyan, Daniel Webster, Samuel Johnson, Lewis Carroll, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and others like them. In 1995, a student teacher of fifth graders in Minneapolis wrote to the local newspaper, "I was told children are not to be expected to spell the following words correctly: back, big, call, came, can, day, did, dog, down, get, good, have, he, home, if, in, is, it, like, little, man, morning, mother, my, night, off, out, over, people, play, ran, said, saw, she, some, soon, their, them, there, time, two, too, up, us, very, water, we, went, where, when, will, would, etc. Is this nuts?"
     
  6. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Aug 10, 2012

    Ok, now that the history lessons over...:yawn:

    Stephanie Harvey's work is great as mentioned by perplexed....think about really teaching the comprehension strategies in depth. For many students those strategies are innate, but if your students are having difficulty, is time to really focus on the kinds of thinking that good readers do.
     
  7. tootgravytrain

    tootgravytrain Comrade

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    That's too bad we no longer take the time to learn from our history, another topic for another time. And we wonder why students no longer care.
     
  8. SCTeachInTX

    SCTeachInTX Fanatic

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    I agree! I love Stephanie Harvey. I think the main problem with reading comprehension is not the fluency factor, but the ability for students to read critically. If you want students that comprehend what they are reading, they need to be reading not just for information but looking at the themes in what they read, answering critical questions about what they read, and writing reflections about what they notice as they read. Comparing text and having students provide text evidence to support their answers is KEY to improving reading comprehension. But you don't have to take my word for it, read Shelly.
     
  9. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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  10. SCTeachInTX

    SCTeachInTX Fanatic

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    Tootgravytrain- How do you teach your adult learners to read? What are the differences you see in teaching adults vs. children? If you have an adult that is struggling in the area of reading what interventions do you use? Your theories of what went wrong in public education are interesting. How does that information impact your teaching when you are helping adult readers today?
     
  11. tootgravytrain

    tootgravytrain Comrade

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    How it works in the prison system in Ohio is that those who are hardly literate go to what we call ABE - Adult Basic Education, and we have a particular teacher(s) who work with the guys right inside the housing units. Then, once they pass that, they come to the high school.

    So, if our literacy teacher were here, she'd be better qualified to talk to you about that. I will say she does a hell of a job, however. I always look forward to getting her students instead of guys from the general population because they're typically better behaved (she don't put up with any s**t, and neither do I), and she has them in shape in terms of wanting to continue to learn. A lot of my graduates have come from her.

    There's flaws in that system however because it's all "test score" driven. What I mean by that is when a felon goes to their first reception center, they're given a test, and those scores determine if they go to ABE or right to the high school. Now, think about catching a 15 year prison bit for a second. Would YOUR mind be focused to even care about a test? Most of the guys I get say "I blew that test off" and I can understand why.

    So actually we get some pretty bright guys in ABE who simply didn't care about the test, and by the luck of the draw we get some guys in the high school who SHOULD have been in ABE.

    Surprisingly, it works better than one would think, but that's life on the inside.

    Incidetally, I come from a background in history training, so I see things through a historical funnel. We've been a literate nation longer than one would think. I think I read not long ago that Colonial America had a well over 90% literacy rate, with few schools.
     
  12. tootgravytrain

    tootgravytrain Comrade

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    Oh, I never answered a big part of your question. In a nutshell, they know HOW to read, but they don't read poetry, novels, textbooks, etc, stuff we take for granted as teachers. So what gets them through the test is exposing them to different types of delivery - words and visual information. Building vocabulary is huge also. They are like "I've never read this kind of s**t before!" hahahahahaah Yea! What's an inner city guy from Cleveland going to do, sit down with Walt Whitman? hahahah

    Exposure, exposure, exposure and practice. In a nutshell, that's it.
     
  13. Rabbitt

    Rabbitt Connoisseur

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    Aug 10, 2012

    Stephanie Harvey's Tool Kit!
    We use it K-8.
    I know you could in HS too.
     
  14. SCTeachInTX

    SCTeachInTX Fanatic

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    So, your adult learners can read the material, but how well do they comprehend what they read? Are they able to read critically or compare texts? And, of course, speaking to the population in which you serve... is that your focus?

    I can see that your history background has you thinking about the failure of public education and the impact that has had on literacy. I see that.

    And of course, arguments could be made that the literature that the general public had been exposed to during the colonial period of time would not compare to the abundance of literature that students have today. Many would also argue that only the elite in society read the great works of William Shakespeare and other great authors of that time. But again, that is just idle debate. Because while we learn from the past, we live in the present and hope to improve our future.

    So, again, I can see that the purpose that you have in mind for your students may differ somewhat from that of a person in a general education setting.

    :hijack:Now, having said all that. We have taken away from the original thread. The original post was asking for resources in teaching comprehension. Please forgive us OP! :(
     
  15. mrsenglish

    mrsenglish Rookie

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    I love Kelly Gallagher's books-- Deeper Reading is great. Last year, literature circles worked really well, and teaching the kids how to read and annotate and think critically about WHAT they were reading helped with their overall comprehension.
     
  16. tootgravytrain

    tootgravytrain Comrade

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    Your patience is appreicated because I simply - as the only prison teacher I see here - don't fit here all that cleanly. I have no idea about any PRAXIS, CBT, CEI, and a lot of the stuff you all talk about. Even in my plus-30 graduate hours, a lot of that has been so specialized that I have not had to worry much about what still goes on in the public schools. I just mop up the mess here, give guys a second chance, and work like hell to get them to take advantage of this second chance because I myself am a product of second chances, and there may NOT be a third chance!
     
  17. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Linguist taught in a detention facility, so youre not alone.:)
    I'm sure you are making a difference in the lives of some of the people with whom you work.:thumb:

    Keep in mind though please, that many here are looking for strategies, resource ideas, a tweak of a current practice. You certainly have a lot of opinions on the Ed system, the history of education in the US...those are certainly fascinating and worthy of discussion...just maybe those conversations could be better positioned by starting a new thread. Plunked down as a 'response' to a question asking for help just seems a bit didactic at times.
     
  18. tootgravytrain

    tootgravytrain Comrade

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    I'm terrible at one-top issues, I admit.
     
  19. HistTchr

    HistTchr Habitué

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    Aug 10, 2012

    I second that. I went to one of his workshops several years ago, and his thinking transformed the way I approached reading strategies in my social studies classes. His book Teaching Adolescent Writers is also great.
     
  20. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    'Mosaic of Thought' is a great read...not nuts and bolts how-to, but sets a foundation for understanding the instruction of comprehension strategies.
    Harvey and Gallagher offer strategies you can put into use right away.
     
  21. Avalon

    Avalon Rookie

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    The strategies and practices presented in "Reciprocal Teaching," by Lori Oczkus have been very successful in my classroom. The strategies focus on predicting, clarifying, questioning, connecting, visualizing, and summarizing.

    These research proven strategies are effective for all proficiency levels. My greatest success last year was a student who entered my 6th grade class with a second grade reading level. Her cum file documented many years of reading deficiencies and unsuccessful interventions.

    Applying the strategies, guiding her toward books she could read (starting with Nate the Great), building her confidence and enthusiasm, and making reading a focus in our class proved a successful formula for her. She was reading on grade level by the end of the year.

    Reciprocal Teaching lays out practical methods for integrating the strategies into whole class, guided reading, and literature circles.
     
  22. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    tootgravytrain - I found your comments very interesting, but I agree - would be helpful to start a new thread. I think it would be a good discussion. In particular, I think a helpful perspective would be what we should focus on as educators now given where we are in education. I'd be interested in if you're suggesting we revert to education structure pre-1930? I'd be interested in your comments about how our society has changed, and the influence of society (including who is tested and how) on educational impact, as opposed to the mere instructional shifts.
     
  23. tootgravytrain

    tootgravytrain Comrade

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    Well, again, go look up John Taylor Gatto and here's a good link to answer your question as it relates to education.

    http://johntaylorgatto.com/

    No, I would not recommend reverting to any era. 'Tis what it 'tis. The state took over what families used to teach kids and younger people growing up. At this point, to be frank, I don't know. But I do know we would be doing a disservice to students at ANY level if we didn't push them in the direction where the jobs are.

    Our Prussian model of education has evolved somewhat but I now think it's outdated - it was established for an industrial society. Not saying some things should not be preserved. Mandatory education is a complete failure.

    These are just tidbits of thoughts as I'd rather let Gatto do the informing (and I certainly don't agree with all of this thoughts but his historical facts are very solid).
     

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