Monthly Archives: January 2023

There’s More to Teaching Comprehension Than Building Background Knowledge- Excerpt from my Upcoming LitCon Presentation by Dr. Sam Bommarito

There’s More to Teaching Comprehension Than Building Background Knowledge- Excerpt from my Upcoming LitCon Presentation by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Next weekend I’ll be at LitCon talking about various literacy issues. One of them will be about TEACHING comprehension strategies (as opposed to naming them or describing them). Here’s a little of what I’ll be saying. For starters, I will be pushing back on those who champion the notion that providing background knowledge is more important than providing instruction in reading strategies.

In the presentation, I point out that Shanahan found Willingham’s claims that strategy instruction should be of “extremely limited duration” and that “students learn everything they need after two weeks of strategy instruction” to be on “extremely thin ice.” Link to Shanahan’s blog LINK, Link to my blog talking about Shanahan’s blog LINK.

I then talk about Duke’s idea that reading is much more than decoding words LINK. I also talk about her idea that it is clear that “if we explicitly teach and then give students lots of opportunity to practice specific comprehension strategies, their reading comprehension will improve….” This even includes students in the very early years of schooling LINK.  I also talk about what Duke had to say at the What Research says about Reading Instruction session at the 2019 ILA convention.  She said “It’s as though because we think content knowledge building is so important, we’re just going to ignore three decades of research on comprehensive strategy instruction,” said Duke. “This isn’t a zero-sum game saying, ‘if you can’t attend to content, then you can’t teach comprehension strategies’ or ‘if you teach comprehension strategies, you must not be paying enough attention to vocabulary or morphology.’”  LINK

I also talk about the importance of the Science of Reading Model that Duke helped to create LINK.

I then discuss a few highlights about what P.D. Pearson has to say about the Science of Reading comprehension. When talking to SOR advocates on Twitter, I found many of them liked the Layered Model of Effective Comprehension Instruction that Pearson includes in his YouTube presentation LINK. Perhaps that chart could become an area of common ground.

Pearson also points to studies that demonstrate that reading comprehension is not automatic, even when fluency is strong. I want to point out that Koon, Foorman & Galloway’s 2020 study found that about 1/3 of the students who did not pass the third-grade test were fluent. This indicates that factors other than fluency play a role in students’ comprehension difficulties and that it takes more than just decoding instruction in order to help those students in reading. LINK

Here is a slide about my advice for teaching comprehension strategies.

The bottom line is that just teaching students to name or describe reading strategies is not enough. It is critical that they also learn to internalize and apply comprehension strategies.  Effective comprehension strategy instruction must include the use of a gradual release model. That model must be carried out in a way that results in students internalizing and using the strategies. It is important to check that studies that claim to measure the effect of the teaching of comprehension strategies are transparent about whether the strategies were taught using gradual release. It is also important that the student use of the strategy is authentic. Once they know how to use it, it is far more effective to let them decide when to use it, and to reinforce its use by having students discuss how and when they used the strategy. As critics have pointed out, asking students to use strategies at times when they really don’t need them is a waste of instructional time.

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR DR. SAM

I will have a busy time in the next month or so. I’ll be interviewing Dr. David Andrews from the School of Education, Durham University and Eric Litwin, well-known children’s author and co-author of the book The Power of Joyful Reading LINK. I also have next week’s presentation at LitCon LINK. In addition, I also have upcoming presentations at  Write to Learn LINK, Missouri Early Childhood Conference LINK, and I’ll be doing a webinar for Pioneer Books LINK. Busy times!

Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the centrist who uses ideas from all sides to inform his teaching

Copyright 2022 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the author’s view and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following it to ensure you won’t miss future posts. Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.

English spelling and its problems: An interview of Masha Bell conducted by Dr. Sam Bommarito

English spelling and its problems: An interview of Masha Bell conducted by Dr. Sam Bommarito

There is a real need for researchers and teachers to talk with one another and learn from each other. The best of all worlds is when the researcher is also a teacher. The result in that case is the creation of valuable information in a form that other teachers can easily use. Masha Bell is one of those teacher/researchers. Her story is compelling. In the first part of the interview, Masha tells us her life story. She was born in  Lithuania. English was not her first language. She learned English after learning other, more phonetically based languages. When she did learn English, she was quite surprised at the inconsistent sound-symbol relations that characterize the English language. She made it her life’s work to study those sound-symbol relations. In the process of doing that, she became a teacher herself and later became a teacher of teachers. She has done serious research into that topic and written many books. She also shares her insights about this topic using her blog. The blog allows her readers to download useful charts and tables. Masha ends the interview with a powerful message for teachers. She pushes back against those who blame teachers for the current problems in teaching reading. She is passionate about arming teachers with the knowledge they need to understand the complexities of the English language. Her books and blog go a long way toward giving teachers the tools to do just that. And with those tools, she is helping to create a generation of teachers who are armed with the information they need to teach our children to read. Let’s look at what Masha had to say during her interview.

Masha has identified these as some of her most useful posts on blogspot.com:

For common words with reading problems

 http://literacyproblems.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/reading-problems.html

All tricky-to-spell words are listed as exceptions from the main spelling patterns for each sound

 http://englishspellingproblems.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/4219-unpredictably-spelt-common-words.html

7,000 words with regular/irregular spellings

https://literacyproblems.blogspot.com/2017/12/regularirregular-spellings-in-7000-words.html

The charts you can download from these blogspot.com posts are quite detailed. Here is one sample so you can see what I mean. This one deals with the inconsistency of many sounds associated with the vowels.

Here are some of the books Masha talked about during the interview. All are available on Amazon.

English Spelling and its Problems (Kindle 2020) LINK

Understanding English Spelling

Rules and Exceptions of English spelling.

Final Thoughts

I first want to thank Masha again for agreeing to the interview and for all she has shared. I am aware that some folks use the fact of the complexity of English spelling as a reason to say we don’t need to teach phonics. I do not subscribe to that idea, and neither does Masha. It is not a question of whether to teach phonics but rather when and how. That is a whole other topic. I do think anyone attempting to teach phonics will find Masha’s books and charts quite informative.

I’m going to have a busy time in the next month or so. I’ll be interviewing Dr. David Andrews from the School of Education, Durham University and Eric Litwin, well-known children’s author and co-author of the book The Power of Joyful Reading LINK. I also have upcoming presentations at LitCon LINK,  Write to Learn LINK, Missouri Early Childhood Conference LINK and I’ll be doing a webinar for Pioneer Books LINK. Busy times!

Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the centrist who uses ideas from all sides to inform his teaching

Copyright 2022 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the author’s view and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following it to ensure you won’t miss future posts. Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.

Willy Wood talks about what’s happening at the upcoming Write to Learn Conference: An interview by Dr. Sam Bommarito.

Willie Wood talks about what’s happening at the upcoming Write to Learn Conference: An interview by Dr. Sam Bommarito.

For those looking for a terrific in-person professional development experience, look no further than the Write to Learn Conference being held in Columbia, Mo, on March 2-3 this year. This in-person conference always has a great lineup of speakers and provides plenty of activities to help you network with friends while learning about some great literacy ideas.

GREAT SPEAKER LINEUP

MORE DETAILS ABOUT THE SPEAKERS
ARE FOUND IN THE INTERVIEW

Once again, Willy Wood has put together a wonderful program and lined up great speakers for the Write to Learn Conference. Here are the highlights of my interview with Willy Wood about what we can expect at Write to Learn 2023

Here is a link to the conference registration. Register soon, space is limited, and it looks like this conference will be sold out soon. LINK

Dr. Sam’s Future Blogs and appearances-

In January, I will be presenting two sessions at LitCon. I’ll also be doing a Webinar for Pioneer Valley Books about the merits of B.L. and the research supporting B.L. (and there is plenty of that despite claims to the contrary). I have an interview with Eric Litwin in February, and I will do a blog entry around that. In addition, I’ll also have a virtual conference in New York for an ILA group there. In March, I have two conferences in Mo, The Early Childhood Conference at Lake of the Ozarks, Mo, and the Write to Learn Conference in Columbia, Mo. That is the conference that is featured in this blog entry.  So, a lot is going on in the New Year.

Happy Reading and Writing.

Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the centrist who, uses ideas from all sides to inform his teaching

Copyright 2022 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the author’s view and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following it to ensure you won’t miss future posts. Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.