We pick up a book to satisfy curiosities, submerge ourselves into another world, feel better, or just experience reading. While many hours of research have been conducted, multiple instructional models developed, and countless theories constructed regarding best practices in reading instruction, many children are still falling short of state and national expectations. We know that assessments, in general, have a long way to go in order to be just and inclusive of all children. But, this just means that we have to work even harder to ensure that ALL children have access to teaching and learning that affords them opportunities to fall in love with literacy and language.
Explicit instruction and opportunities to explore the cognitive and metacognitive processes and social practices should be at the core of instruction. If so, it is likely that reading skills, word strategies, and vocabulary development will naturally occur during literacy and language experiences. Utilizing an authentic approach may mean that teaching in isolation will become a thing of the past. Surface-level experiences with recall comprehension questions do not build proficient, analytical readers, ones who can utilize a critical eye to read the world around them and understand the way texts position them as citizens in the world.
Therefore, we must go deeper to get children to a point of independence in critical thinking, meaning making, and communicating. This will ensure that they have the tools to independently complete the tasks we place in front of them and to engage in the thinking process and social behaviors the world beyond the classroom demands.
In schools, expect students to analyze characters, synthesize information to build summaries, and draw conclusions from complex texts. Therefore, we must provide them with the appropriate tools and experiences to successfully engage in these processes.
Educators know that meaning is not constructed or negotiated by merely reading the words on the page, and because there are many facets to reading, we struggle in determining where to put our energy. But, we have an ethical responsibility to put our energy into our children, placing them before state assessments, district demands, and textbook initiatives.
For decades, research has continued highlighting the connection between explicit comprehension instruction and proficient readers (Baker & Brown, 1984; Dorn & Scoffos, 2005; Duke & Pearson, 2002; Keene & Zimmerman, 2007).
To assist with explicit meaning-making instruction, I utilize the acronym WRPACIS.
For those who have NOT spent a significant amount of time in my classroom, this acronym may seem like some tedious strategy to get children to write down their thinking as they read, or it may seem like another bookmark that kills the joy in reading. But, this is actually the opposite of that. This acronym was created to provide a strategy that privileges more than the psychological facets of meaning making, recognizing that meaning making is social, cultural, and psychological. The bookmark is a tool that gives all children access to the language that engages them in the processes of proficient readers. WRAPCIS is a toolbox with a repertoire of tools for children to utilize as they make meaning. With explicit instruction, modeling, and relevant literacy and language experiences, these processes become fluent, natural processes that occur when a child reads, ones that children don’t have to write down or share orally.
Written annotations can, however, give us insight into the thinking that is taking place in children's minds. If we are going to ask children to annotate, we must use their annotations to guide our instruction. To assist with monitoring children's progress in utilizing a range of comprehension processes with diverse and increasingly complex texts, I have created a rubric to formatively assess comprehension. I hope this can be a useful tool for you, too.
This blog series takes you through these processes. The hope is that teachers reading this can think about how they can make these processes explicit for the children they serve through modeling and coaching. As we model these processes with diverse texts and across a range of contexts, it affords children opportunities to observe and mirror the kinds of thinking needed to comprehend more complex texts and read them with a critical eye.
Baker, L., & Brown, A. L. (1984). Metacognitive skills and reading. In P.D. Pearson, R., Barr, M.L. Kamil &P.B. Mosenthal (Eds.). Handbook of reading research (Vol. 1, pp. 353-394). New York: Longman.
Dorn, L. J. & Soffos, C. (2005). Teaching for deep comprehension: A reading workshop approach. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Duke, N.K. & Pearson, D. (2002). “Effective Practices for Developing Reading Comprehension.” In A.E. Farstrup & S.J. Samuels (Eds.). What Research Has To Say About Reading Instruction (3rd ed., pp. 205–242). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Keene, E. O., & Zimmermann, S. (2007). Mosaic of thought: Teaching comprehension in a reader’s workshop. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.