What Does Common Core Tell Us About Reading Comprehension?

The old saw is true: We are all reading teachers

“I dunno!”

Students who respond like this aren’t being rude, disruptive or lazy. Their response could be a sign of low reading skills, a problem which can become a hurdle for any teacher who attempts to expose students to more complex text.

The ability to read complex text is considered a college and career readiness skill; thus, it is a central feature of the Common Core State Standards. “The standards not only establish a ‘staircase’ of increasing complexity in what students must be able to read,” they also point to a negative economic impact if we do not ensure that all students are college and career ready in regard to literacy.

According to an article in the Herald-Tribune, New state standards for students begin this year, “more than 20 percent of students who attend two-year colleges in Florida need remedial classes to boost skills in reading, English, or math that they should have mastered in high school. In 2010-11, those classes cost the state $172 million.”

I am not a reading coach; I’m a former science teacher; but it’s clear that the college students needing remedial classes weren’t taught how to read for comprehension, and possibly weren’t exposed to cognitively complex text. It’s becoming very clear that the old adage is true, “we are all READING teachers.” (For a fascinating look at how one low-performing high school turned achievement around in all subjects by focusing on reading comprehension, see this Atlantic article.)

Hence, the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy cross into History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.

DQ 3: How Graphic Organizers Can Help

The solution is to increase your use of effective reading strategies to enhance active processing of information, thus providing the framework for students to tackle complex text. According to Dr. Robert Marzano, in The Art and Science of Teaching, active processing is defined as the beginning of learning. “Explicit teaching of skills is the beginning of a constructivist process for your learners.”

Design Question 3 involves practice and knowledge-deepening activities. One approach to developing reading comprehension in all subjects includes the use of linguistic and nonlinguistic representations such as graphic organizers.  The Art and Science of Teaching emphasizes that graphic organizers are popular ways for students to represent the knowledge presented in critical-input experiences.

In his article, 7 Strategies to Teach Text Comprehension, C.R. Adler discusses why graphic organizers have a firm scientific basis for improving text comprehension: They help students focus on text structure, give students the tools they need to show textual relationships, and help them write well organized summaries.

Below are some common graphic organizers you can use to assist students in reading complex text.  Click on the links to access the pdf. Please don’t limit the use of graphic organizers to ELA/Reading classes. I have effectively “repurposed” ELA graphic organizers in science and math classes. Be creative.

Skills practiced in the organizers include: inference (inferring), theme and plot development, compare/contrast, text structure, characterization, reasoning, delineation, and reading comprehension:

Vocabulary Development :: Chain Graphic Organizers: Sequence, Cycle, Time Line, and Chain of Events :: Compare and Contrast Graphic Organizers :: Character and Story Graphic Organizers :: Cause and Effect Graphic Organizers

Other Resources:

National Reading Panel Publications and Materials :: Put Reading First: Kindergarten Through Grade 3 :: 7 Strategies to Teach Students Text Comprehension :: Anticipation Guides Improve Reading Comprehension :: Key Points In English Language Arts

Please share your expertise! Tell us about your favorite graphic organizer and the reading strategies you used to increase reading comprehension.

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