As promised, here is a summary of an excellent break-out session I attended at the UCIRA conference. Debra May of Nebo School District introduced participants to concerns about the progress of advanced readers.
While applauding the focus on supporting struggling and striving readers, May reiterated that the report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) indicates the percentage of 4th and 8th grade students at the advanced reading level has not significantly changed since 1992 (Refer to The Nation's Report Card). She also cites a couple of reasons for this stagnation and suggests the "World Class Reader Model" as a possible answer.
The four components of this model, sponsored by the Federal Javits Grant, are as follows: "Academic Reading components: learning to read and reading to learn; Active Reading components: reading for leisure and reading to serve."
While "learning to read" does not apply to advanced readers beyond 3rd grade, "reading to learn" continues to be a focus as texts become more difficult. May encourages teachers to introduce and reinforce the seven reading comprehension strategies identified by the "proficient-reader research" (Keene & Zimmerman, 2007). They include "monitoring for meaning; using and creating schema; asking questions; determining importance; inferring; using sensory and emotional images; and synthesizing" (p. 14).
While these cognitive strategies are important to basic, proficient and advanced readers, instructional strategies are NOT helpful to advanced readers. Instructional strategies are those tools teachers use to help students understand the content. Examples are the KWL graphic organizer, a text preview or story map.
So, what should a teacher do to help these advanced readers? The answer lies in differentiated instruction. While this suggestion causes some educators to throw their hands in the air as they think of the 38+ students in each of their language arts classes, May encourages the use of "open-ended" instructional strategies. They are easy to organize and implement. Two examples she shared are SWBS and Tea Party. (Sound interesting? Comment upon this posting, and I'll send you both of these lesson plans!)
Additionally, May suggests grouping for instruction in order to address the achievement needs of all students. Academic grouping means students will work in that "zone of proximal development" where Vygotsky tells us optimum learning takes place. This can be a lot of work, but collectively, teachers can brainstorm ways to make it happen. (Comments about this issue are also welcome.)
If I piqued your curiosity, let me know. I will be happy to share the World Class Reader Core Curriculum with all who are interested. I think you will find it fascinating.
In the meantime, have a good week!
Reference: Keen, E.O. & Zimmerman, S. (2007). Mosaic of Thought: The Power of Comprehension Strategy Instruction. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.