Every teacher is a teacher of reading, and the No Child Left Behind Act has made that more clear than ever! Thats what educator Max Fischer says in this weeks Voice of Experience essay. But what about teachers who havent had a reading course since their undergrad days? Included: More than a dozen strategies for teaching reading in the content areas!
Max W. Fischer
If you're an educator, President Bushs No Child Left Behind Act has your attention. More than likely, it is affecting the way you do business. Although the law has many facets, Im drawn to how its testing mandates are impacting teachers of content area subjects, especially in middle and high schools. By the school year 2005-2006, every student in grades 3-8 will be tested annually in math and reading. Additionally, science will be added to the testing milieu during the 2007-08 school year.
School districts and individual schools must demonstrate in the results of those tests annual yearly progress (AYP)*. The intimidating aspect of AYP is that each of four targeted subgroups of students must meet its goals for a school to reach satisfactory AYP. No matter how well the student population as a whole scores, if its population of economically disadvantaged, racial/ethnic minority, disabled, or English-Second Language students do not meet the stated yearly goal, AYP will not be reached by that school/district -- which, in turn, will be subject to consequences set out in the law.
So why should secondary level content-area teachers be so concerned? Whether one teaches middle school social studies or high school science, those subject areas are dominated by reading. Reading comprehension is being placed at a premium in NCLBs compulsory battery of tests. A school will have to take a collaborative, systemic approach throughout its curriculum to improve reading scores among its at-risk subgroup populations.
Elementary teachers have always used content area work to supplement comprehension skill practice. Unfortunately, at the secondary level, many instructors havent seen a need to integrate comprehension skills into instruction beyond answering section review questions.
It would appear natural for secondary teachers to blend comprehension strategies with enriched content. It would appear even more likely that that will soon become a priority across the country!
How can secondary content area teachers successfully apply vocabulary and comprehension skills to their core material? Strategies go far beyond rudimentary vocabulary definitions and review questions. Various intelligences besides linguistic -- including visual/spatial, interpersonal, intra-personal (affective), even musical and kinesthetic (tactile) aptitude -- can be harnessed in the cause of comprehension. I would like to focus on a range of tactics that content-area teachers might use in three areas -- pre-reading, reading, and post-reading.
Vocabulary introduction, prediction, knowledge inventory, and content prompting are major components of laying a foundation for comprehension. Following are some ideas for building reading comprehension through pre-reading activities:
Organization of content, summarization, rereading, and supporting prior predictions are important for the absorption of content material. Following are some ideas for helping students make sense of their reading:
Skills often used to review reading include validating/refuting predictions, reflecting, comparing/contrasting, inferring, and summarizing. Following are activities to help students reflect on their reading:
Many of the aforementioned strategies are not new. Some are more widely utilized than others. However, in targeting improved reading of at-risk student populations, an increase in the number of tools content-area instructors have in their repertoires increases commensurately the likelihood of success.
A teacher for nearly three decades, Max Fischer currently teaches seventh graders the marvels of ancient history. A National Board certified teacher in the area of early adolescence social studies/history, Max has authored nine resource books for teachers in the fields of social studies, health, and math. You can read a previously published article about Fischer: Simulations Engage Students in Active Learning.