Insights into the comprehension process: A reply from my former professor

GUTHRE

I got a rather extensive reply to my last post from a colleague for whom I have the utmost respect. Dr. Rocchio was one of my instructors when I was doing my graduate work at UMSL (University of Missouri-St Louis) in the 1970’s. I took the Content Area Reading Course from him. Later, that was a course that became mine for almost a decade as I taught as an adjunct at UMSL. His teachings in that first course greatly influenced how I handled the teaching of that course and my whole view about literacy instruction in general and literacy instruction for the older reader in particular.

 Please consider carefully what he has to say, it brings some new and interesting insights. It also brings series of 4 questions that I want to address collectively next week.  I want to thank Dan (we’ve been on a first name basis for quite some time) for following the blog and for providing the insightful commentary that follows.

 Dr. Sam (aka, Sam a former student of Dr. Rocchio)

Sam

I really appreciate the thought-provoking article on reading comprehension.  I am glad you included the work of Shanahan, the recent IES summary of research,  https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/PracticeGuide/14 and the work by Miller and Moss (2013).    I would agree with your proposition “that learning to have authentic conversations around various kinds of text is one road that can lead to improving reading comprehension.” In addition, I would agree “that teachers must provide direct instruction, and they must also scaffold students in to learning how to handle various level texts and text structures.”

 

The real difference between the two comprehension models you described seems to lie in the basic framework of literacy instruction.  Shanahan suggests in his blog that most of the literacy instruction should be teacher directed and that literacy instruction should include the direct teaching of the following components for about 120 minutes/daily in grades 1-3:

 

  1. phonics or word analysis strategies (at the early grade levels)
  2. fluency
  3. general reading comprehension strategies focused mostly on the disciplinary structures of text and much of this with grade level text and above grade level text
  4. vocabulary or word knowledge with a focus on key conceptual knowledge
  5. writing instruction

 

I do agree with Shanahan https://shanahanonliteracy.com/blog/the-whys-and-hows-of-research-and-the-teaching-of-reading that we must include the teaching of complex texts that challenge our readers beyond what has been traditionally labeled a reader’s instructional level.

My most recent experience in third grade classrooms supported the close reading of complex text..  I worked with three third-grade teachers and the reading coach in the Lindbergh school district to develop a six-week economics unit that included 110 minutes/day of reading and writing workshop, and twenty-five minutes/day of social studies instruction.  We included the following components:

 

  1. whole group close reading of above grade level texts related to running a business and making a sellable product or service
  2. close reading of complex texts in guided reading groups
  3. teacher modeling of how to gather key ideas from text related to a student’s business plan
  4. followed by student independent searching for appropriate texts
  5. students reading of fiction and non-fiction texts at a variety of reading levels
  6. students writing about their reading ( e.g., developed a business plan)
  7. key vocabulary words were taught directly as they came up during the unit.

All students were highly motivated to develop their business plan and their sellable good or service.  What we learned is that texts used beyond the instructional level of students were made accessible by a combination of teacher read-alouds, shared reading, partner reading along with teacher scaffolding.  Results indicated that students of all reading levels were able to successfully read and write about texts above their reading level.

Some of the perplexing questions that arose from the Lindbergh district action research and the model of reading instruction suggested by Shanahan are these (Sam’s note I will address these questions collectively in my next blog entry):

 

  1. under what conditions is it appropriate to use grade level and above grade level texts in the literacy day for primary, and intermediate level readers?
  2. under what conditions is it appropriate to use instructional level texts with primary and intermediate level readers?
  3. how does this instruction differ for average, above average and struggling readers?
  4. how do teachers scaffold the teaching of disciplinary reading and writing strategies with texts beyond a student’s traditional instructional level?

Pearson’s work ( Research Foundations of the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts( 2013) provides some guidance when he points out that “.integrated approaches have generally outperformed ‘encapsulated’ approaches on a variety of measures.” Pearson’s work on Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading (see this link http://www.scienceandliteracy.org/) suggests the value of applying key comprehension strategies within an integrated literacy/science framework.

Guthrie’s CORI model (see this link:  www.corilearing.com) provides some further guidance about how we might answer the questions above.  In fact, several of the recommendations from the 2010 IES practice guide are drawn from Guthrie’s work.  CORI’s literacy framework includes the following:

  1. an integrated content area/ literacy unit plan
  2. authentic texts at various reading levels
  3. the direct teaching of appropriate comprehension strategies
  4. fluency instruction
  5. writing instruction about the reading of authentic texts
  6. guided reading with various levels of students
  7. flexible supplementary instruction for struggling readers
  8. motivational supports such as student choice and hands-on activities

Allington’s 2015 (Reading Teacher article on Text complexity) notes the following: “…increasing the complexity of the texts used in elementary schools as the best strategy for enhancing reading achievement, as the CCSS authors recommend, lacks a base in the research evidence available.”  In addition, “we need better evidence of instructional scaffolding that might be best used to facilitate just how more complex texts can be used to enhance reading development.

I am an advocate of reading comprehension research that utilizes a comprehensive literacy framework like those developed by Pearson and Guthrie.  This type of research can help teachers understand how to best integrate all key literacy outcomes and content outcomes within a school day.  But the most useful research is that research performed in classrooms where the primary goal is to improve our students’ desire, self-efficacy, and ability to read to solve real world problems related to work, school, and the improvement of one’s community.

I would love to see additional research that follows the models suggested above. So, I hope others will share such work.

 

Thanks for listening.

Dan Rocchio, Ed. D.

Professor Emeritus

Maryville University

Response entry copyright 2019 by Dr. Dan Rocchio

Blog entry Copyright 2019 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

 

2 thoughts on “Insights into the comprehension process: A reply from my former professor

  1. Eric Litwin

    Dr. Sam and Dr. Rocchio. Would you say the core of the differences of the two comprehensive models is how to integrate direct instruction with real texts? And how much emphasis to place on the integration of direct instruction with real texts? Eric Litwin

    Reply
    1. doctorsam7 Post author

      Thanks for the great question Eric! It’s much more than can be handled in the question section. Accordingly I’ll be getting in touch with Dan and the two of us will get you an answer as a full blog post in the not two distant future. Happy Reading and Writing- Dr. Sam

      Reply

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