Monday, March 3, 2008

Skills and Strategies

The purpose of this blog is to share interesting ideas I have found in recent publications dealing with the teaching of English at all levels, elementary, secondary and college.

Skills vs. Strategies

One of the words most frequently used in the professional jargon of English educators is the word “scaffolding.” I think it means something in the neighborhood of “preparation for learning” or support for students’ learning. Has anyone ever defined “scaffolding”?

A close second to “scaffolding” in professional English education journals is the term “strategies.” The authors of this article admit that no one has clearly defined the differences between “skills” and “strategies,” that many writers interchange the two and that the time is right to try to establish distinctions in the meaning of each term. They help a little, but not all that much. Skills, they say, are automatic. Strategies are conscious and deliberate attempts to solve problems in reading. Following is a direct quote from the article:

Reading strategies are deliberate, goal-directed attempts to control and modify the reader’s efforts to decode text, understand words and construct meanings of text. Reading skills are automatic actions that result in decoding and comprehension with speed, efficiency and fluency and usually occur without awareness of the components or control involved. P Afflerbach, PD Pearson and SG Paris. "Clarifying Differences Between Reading Skills and Reading Strategies.” The Reading Teacher. (Feb. 08), 364-378.

I guess skills are like phonics, sounding out words that become automatic when taught. Strategies are used to solve problems, like how to succeed in reading a difficult article, chapter or book. What do my readers think of this distinction between “skills” and “strategies”? RayS.

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