Allowing students to show understanding in multiple forms plays off of one of three universal design for learning principles — incorporating multiple means of expression. For a variety of reasons, expressing understanding is hard for many struggling learners. Sometimes, a learner has trouble putting thoughts to words and is unclear of what he or she wants to say. Other times, the learner knows what he or she wants to say but has trouble expressing it clearly and succinctly. And in other cases, a learner is taking time to process input and just needs time to express understanding. Regardless, we serve all our learners well when we provide students with multiple ways to demonstrate understanding.
"Researchers have calculated that teachers engage in literally thousands of oral interactions with children every day. What we say and the way we say it shapes children's understanding more than any other pedagogical tool we use."
—Ellin Keene in To Understand: New Horizons in Reading Comprehension (2008)
Kids’ thinking matters. When students begin to understand that their thinking matters, reading changes. Throughout the school day, kids are actively questioning, discussing, arguing, debating, responding, and generating new knowledge. We can’t read kids’ minds, but one way to open a window into their understanding is to help them bring their thinking to the surface by talking and writing about it.
The Primary and Intermediate Comprehension Toolkits emphasize responsive teaching with lessons that explicitly teach the language of thinking. With this metacognitive scaffolding, teachers are able to gradually release to kids the responsibility for comprehending the wide variety of nonfiction texts they encounter. Toolkit lessons strengthen the specific kinds of thinking proficient readers use: six comprehension strategies that research has shown are part of an effective reader’s mental toolkit. The Comprehension Toolkit guides you through the explicit instruction of these six comprehension strategies:
Let's face it, the idea of jumping into student-directed inquiry can be overwhelming. Fears over releasing control to students—and visions of students losing control—can seem like too much to handle to even consider dipping one’s toe into the waters of inquiry. But the truth is, successful student-directed inquiry is a highly structured, adaptable framework that honors kids questions about the world and fits any curriculum. There is no need for it to be scary.
In the following video, author Harvey “Smokey” Daniels talks about how doing inquiry correctly can turn that trepidation into fulfillment and fun for both teachers and students alike.
Adapted from "What Are The Rest of my Kids Doing?" Fostering Independence in the K–2 Reading Workshop, by Lindsey Moses and Meridith Ogden
Partner reading is important for many reasons. Literacy is a socially constructed activity involving reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, and visually representing. Reading together and talking about books can provide partners with enriching experiences, thinking, and conversation that would not take place while reading independently. In addition to the motivation, engagement, and social aspects, Rogoff (1990) documented interactions between partners that led to each child achieving a higher level of understanding than working by themselves. This could be due to the type of talk surrounding partner reading. Brown (2006) found five major themes of talk occurred during partner reading time in second grade: organizational, disputational, word strategy, meaning making, and personal talk. All of these, except personal talk, supported partner reading.
The Following is adapted from The Stories of Science: Integrating Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening into Science Instruction, 6-12
In The Stories of Science, authors Janet MacNeil, Mark Goldberg, and Melissa London describe how many of the elements of good science stories are meant to grab and hold the attention of the audience. (After all, what value is a story with no audience?) As they put it "In the movie The Never Ending Story, a boy reads a magical book and finds himself falling into the fantasy world described by the author. This is exactly what we want the audience to do when they read, hear, or see science stories."
In the book, the authors point to several strategies are used to lure readers into a story (and keep them there). Here are the four essential elements of engaging science stories: