Saturday, September 24, 2011

Defensible Strategies

The following seven ‘defensible strategies’ consistently improve student achievement at the high school level. (1) Read-alouds (2) K-W-L charts (3) Graphic organizers (4) Vocabulary instruction (5) Writing to learn (6) Structured note-taking (7) Reciprocal teaching.

Seven strategies good readers use to help them comprehend text:

(1) monitor for meaning 

(2) questioning 

(3) using prior knowledge 

(4) determining importance 

(5) creating mental images 

(6) inferring

(7) synthesizing

Friday, September 16, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dr. Parks' Bookmarks

In 2000, The National Reading Panel (NRP) issued an extensive report of their findings, as directed by Congress in 1997, to assess the status of research-based knowledge about reading, including the effectiveness of various approaches to teaching children to read. The Websites listed below can help to explain the Five Elements of Reading Instruction identified by NRP as effective approaches.

1. Phonemic Awareness

2. Phonics

3. Fluency

4. Vocabulary

5. Comprehension

Additional Resources

Research and Resources

Graphic Organizers


English Language Learners

Response to Intervention

The International Reading Association’s
Commentary on Scientifically Based Reading Instruction:

Friday, September 9, 2011

10 Reading Strategies



Read the first few pages of an informational book aloud to learners To interest learners further in the topic of the book and motivate them to read it on their own

K-W-L Charts

Have learners record what they know about a topic, what they want to know, and what they learned from reading a text To have learners access their knowledge on a topic, think about what they would like to learn about it, and better understand and remember the information that interests them most

Record It

Make an audio recording for learners to listen to as they follow along in the text To make concepts in the text accessible learners who might have difficulty reading the text on their own


Learners from cooperative jigsaw groups and take a topic that emerged from their readings to make display posters To reinforce the concepts that students learned in their reading and to provide the opportunity to apply their knowledge in a practical way

Top Ten

Ask learners, “What are the top 10 things that (the hero does, discovers, etc.)?” Post responses, have learners prioritize items To encourage learners to recall story details and to foster critical thinking

Double-Entry Journal

Learners look for passages in the novel that reveal personal attributes of story characters and record both the attribute and the quote that shows this attribute in a DEJ To focus learners’ attention on characters’ personal attributes by requiring them to identify both the attribute and how it is revealed

Physical Traits and Personal Attributes

Have learners identify the physical traits and personal attributes of story characters by finding examples of these in the text To help learners gain an understanding of the difference between physical traits and personal attributes and to learn how authors develop characters by using both of these attributes

Word Drama

Post any word, say, bittersweet. Give learners 10-15 minutes to write about an experience in their lives they would call bittersweet. Have learners share their stories in small groups. Have groups choose one story to act out and prepare a brief skit. Share skits. To bring to consciousness through writing and discussion, ideas and issues that are relevant to appreciating and understanding the situation and motivations of the characters in a story

Slide Show

Present a slide show depicting the historical period and setting of a text To provide background knowledge with visuals that depict the relationship between the people in a text and their environment

Graffiti Board

Learners write their personal responses to texts on a large sheet of butcher paper To encourage learners to think about and respond to what they read and communicate those responses


Graves, M. & Graves, B. (2003). Scaffolding reading experiences: designs for student success. Christopher-Gordon Publishers: Norwood, Mass.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Evolving Notions of Literacy

Notes on Chapter 4 of
Jim Burke’s
The English Teacher’s Companion


In our increasingly complex world of multiple literacies, urban learners need to develop textual intelligence.  Judith Langer defines literacy as, “the ability to think and reason like a literate person within a particular society.” Though Burke refers to four literacies, he fails to simply define them. I have identified them as: 

  • Communications Literacy – Ability to read, write and comprehend
  • Information Literacy – Ability to access, sort, comprehend, integrate
  • Tool Literacy – Ability to use tools and hardware to facilitate all other literacies
  • Cultural Literacy – Ability to understand the ethical, social, group and personal impact of literacies

Teaching a Range of Texts

Urban learners need to be able to read a range of texts, not just literary texts. There are four categories of text types:

  • Functional/expository – “literature of daily life” such as textbooks, business documents, guidebooks, newspapers, menus.
    (Death of Innocence, Star-Tribune Newspaper, Huffington Post)

  • Narrative – novels and assorted narratives
    (Invisible Man, Jazz, American Born Chinese)
  • Dramatic – plays, musicals, monologues and other scripts
    (The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, A Raisin in the Sun)
  • Poetic – blank verse, sonnets, Haiku and various other formats
    (Lucille Clifton, Langston Hughes, Walter Dean Meyers)

Reading for Appreciation

Urban educators must cultivate in students an appreciation of stories and a love of reading. The more an urban learner reads, the better reader he or she will become. Burke highlights five strategies:

  • create a large, diverse in-class library
  • allow learners choice in reading
  • use literature circles
  • connect text to the real lives of learners
  • translate stories into dramatic or artistic events

Teaching Poetic Texts

“Few other texts offer so much substance, such rich fare as poems” says Burke. “Nor are there many other texts, Shakespeare included, that challenge teachers and, of course, students as much as poetry can.” Urban learners and urban educators are uniquely challenged by poet texts. Burke details the following general instructional approach:

Look for clues in the title. 
Read straight through. 

“Start with what you know.” 

Look for patterns. 

Identify narrator. 

Reflecting in writing.  


“Find the crucial moments.” 

Consider form and function. 

Consider language. 

“Go deeper / call it quits.” 

Return to title. 

Why are students reading this poem? 

Explore activities beyond the page.