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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

What Parents need to know as “Back to School” draws near

CSMS Magazine Staff writers

As reopening schools is around the corner, parents become more edgy with all the necessary things required to get their children ready for school. This year, though, the back-to-school frenzy has never been so tough to handle. Many low-income parents are out of work, and those who still have a job are going through their worst of time on the labor force. Money is scare, and the budget is tight. While they are making their back-to-school laundry list and checking it twice, they want to make no mistake about why these efforts are priceless. Every parent wants a decent but effective education for their children, and when one is poor, a college degree is their best ticket out of poverty.

Phil Holmes tells us that a rigorous education results form rigorous teaching and rigorous teaching is precise pedagogy designed to produce precise thinkers. Not all pedagogy is precise, and not all precise pedagogy is designed to produce precise thinkers: that is, people who can, among other things, read accurately, identify issues, follow arguments, and detect empty assertions, fallacious inferences, clichés, and false sentiments. Rigor is the essence of an intellectual education. But no rigorous education is effective without good reading comprehension skills. Reading builds vocabulary, enhances fluency and makes learning an enjoyable adventure. Below are some strategies designed to empower students’ reading skills. They are folded under the creed titled: Seven Habits of a Good Reader  

Seven Habits of a Good Reader:  Strategies for What Good Readers Do

Georgia’s Performance Standards include a reading component not only in English Language Arts (ELA) but in all the other content areas through the Reading Across the Curriculum standard.  The Reading Across the Curriculum standard focuses on the academic and personal skills students acquire as they read in all areas of learning.  In order for students to master the reading standard, they need to learn to read for understanding.  Good readers enjoy reading.  They think and ask questions about the text they read in order to comprehend it, and they automatically employ different strategies for different types of texts.  Good readers typically fall back on good habits for reading such as visualizing, making connections with the text, asking questions, making predictions, inferring, determining what parts of the text add to comprehension and synthesizing content. Unfortunately, these do not come naturally to many students, especially to struggling readers.  However, these seven habits of a good reader, as they are often referred to, can be shared with our struggling students to help them to be more successful in the science classroom. 

In order to help students become better at comprehension, teachers should model the seven habits of good readers in the classroom.  Read-Aloud/Think-Aloud or RATA is a popular strategy.  The RATA strategy slows down the reading process and helps students learn to think when they read.  RATA allows the teacher to model the thought processes and strategies involved when reading.  Students are able to hear and see what good readers do and see the application to specific content.  Both the Read-Aloud/Think-Aloud and the seven habits of a good reader are discussed below to help science teachers model these habits in the classroom.

The Seven Habits of a Good Reader

Visualizing

Forming mental images or pictures about what they are reading such as characters, settings, or events in a text help students connect new information to previous experiences.  Visualizing turns words into pictures in the readers’ minds as they encounter text to aid in comprehension.

For example:  The teacher might read a passage similar to the following and pause for think-aloud statements.

Read-Aloud: “Anton Van Leeuwenhoek often described the “tiny animals” he observed as animalcules that stuck out two little horns, which constantly moved, after the fashion of a horse’s ears.” 

Think-aloud: “Can you picture how these little horns must have looked to Van Leewenhoek?” 

Read-Aloud: “Scientists later identified these “horns” as cilia or tiny hairs that extend from cells that function in locomotion or in moving substances across surfaces of cells.”

Think-aloud: “Now when you see the word cilia, what might come to your mind?”   

Using think aloud to help visualize what they read will allow student to make the connection of the structure and function of cilia when they encounter the term again.

Questioning

Formulating questions about the text gives readers a purpose for re-reading, reading further or devising an experiment to test their ideas.  Readers may ask questions about characters, motivation, reactions, settings, events or topics in the text.  Questions that are explicitly found in the text cause students to make inferences, predictions, determine importance and synthesize.   Giving students the opportunity to explore scientific questioning can link read-aloud/think-aloud to one of the essential features of scientific inquiry.   For example, a read-aloud think-aloud on a passage about the effect of solute concentrations on cells could lead to students developing questions that can be further explored in laboratory investigations.

Making Connections 

Making connections helps readers activate prior knowledge to make reading meaningful. There are three types of connections that readers can make to previous experiences as they encounter text.  

Text-to-Text Connections where readers are reminded of something they have seen, read or heard. 

Text-to-Self Connections where readers are reminded of something they have experienced in their own lives. 

Text-to-World Connections where readers are reminded of something they have noticed or experienced in the world such as events or settings.

Predicting

Readers frequently use clues or information in a text and their own experiences to make predictions about upcoming events or the outcome of events.  Predictions create anticipation and give readers a purpose for further reading in order to determine if their predictions are supported in the text or not.  A scientific hypothesis is based on the prediction of an outcome of a controlled experiment and on prior studies. Students must be able to read and/or research information in order to assimilate it to make an appropriate hypothesis for their controlled experiment. 

Inferring

Readers often use clues from the text and their own experiences to make inferences and draw conclusions about the text they are reading.  These inferences may or may not be stated in the text but can be supported with specific evidence from the text.   Inferring helps readers interact with the text, thereby creating meaning from evidence and their own experiences.  Reading passages about the results of scientific research can give students the opportunity to make inferences as they connect previous knowledge from data collected from an experiment.

Determining Importance

Readers must decide which terms, topics, ideas, elements or concepts are the most important to the overall text.  This helps readers understand the content of the text and which parts require the most attention.  Often texts indicate importance by using italics, highlights or bold-facing terms.  During a read-aloud, a teacher can stop and think-aloud about the significance of a bold term; repetition will bring awareness about clues that texts often use to signify importance.

Synthesizing

Synthesizing or assimilating new information is the key to learning the content presented in the text.  When readers successfully make sense of the meaning of the text and can gain new perspectives based on their reading, they are able to communicate their comprehension of the text.  When students bring together parts of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships to address new situations, they show mastery at the synthesis level, the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.    

The goal of any reading strategy is for students to internalize the seven habits of effective readers to ensure comprehension. Traditionally, teachers have given students a list of questions to answer based on text to assess comprehension.  This strategy has shown to be ineffective in developing the skills of students in learning and comprehending course specific content.  Reading across the curriculum and utilizing effective reading strategies will aid our students in their mastery of Georgia’s Performance Standards in all content areas.

Note: These tips were published by the Chicago Public School.

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