Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Topic: Comprehension

10-second review: Compared three approaches to teaching comprehension to fifth-grade students: content, strategies, and basal reader.

Title: “Rethinking Reading Comprehension Instruction: A comparison of Instruction for Strategies and Content Approaches.” MG McKeown, IL Beck & RGK Blake. Reading Research Quarterly (July/August/September 2009), 218-253. A publication of the International Reading Association (IRA).

Summary: The Content approach consisted of stopping the students’ reading to ask open-ended questions. The strategies approach focused on teaching summarizing, predicting and drawing inferences. The Basal Reader approach used the questions at the end of the story.

Conclusion: The Content approach (interspersed questions) seemed superior to the strategies approach (summarizing, predicting and inferences). The authors of the study suggested that the focus on strategies distracted the reader from the content of the passage.

Comment: The key to the superiority of the Content approach was interspersing questions at crucial times throughout the reading. Nothing wrong with teaching summarizing, predicting and drawing inferences. The problem seemed to be on the degree to which the strategy rather than the content became the focus. The Basal approach as defined by the authors was based on selected questions at the end of the story in the basal. No mention was made of building background information, pre-teaching vocabulary or setting purpose for reading.

From my point of view, I’m interested in interspersing questions at important points while reading. And I still think the basal approach with all the steps is still a significant method for teaching comprehension. I think the authors unfairly decimated the complete basal approach. RayS.

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