Sunday, December 15, 2013

Character Education Across Content Areas

Character Education programs are not new. The discussion regarding developing character as part of a child's education dates back to the Colonial Period in the U.S. At that time reading, writing and mathematics instruction was blended with biblical quotes and prayers that established moral guidelines for students. Character Education programs have evolved and have become a more consistent curricula within many schools.

I have been reflecting on the integration or character education and how it can be formalized within content areas. Specifically, how can we establish the pillars or belief statements of character as a proactive approach to not only avoid negative behaviors but ensure current and future success for our students.

Wikipedia defines character education as "Character education is the teaching of children in a manner that will help them develop variously as moral, civic, good, mannered, behaved, non-bullying, healthy, critical, successful, traditional, compliant or socially acceptable beings" A closer look at character education programs reviews a series of beliefs or pillars and resulting behaviors that correlate.  

I recently read Paul Tough's book, How Children Succeed.  A chapter in this book takes a look at examples of character education programs in U.S. schools. The most notable program is the KIPP Schools of New York City. The KIPP Schools have established 8 character pillars and 24 belief statements that align to these pillars. They have developed a character report card that assess students on these traits. The report card provides students and parents with an overview of strengths and areas for improvement. KIPP provides a series of lessons and tasks for teachers to integrate in each content area to assess these traits.

Critics of the "grading of character model" state that formal assessment of character is not a viable solution. Larry Ferrlazo published an article in the Washington Post that argued against this process.  He pointed our attention to the motivation that Dan Pink stated in his book Drive, " rewards can provide short-term encouragement to continue a behavior, but at the price of reduced intrinsic motivation over the long-term. Frequent reporting of a student's "overall score" in terms of character amounts to a short-term reward (or punishment) and does not tell us much about progress toward self-awareness and personal growth." 

Mr. Ferrlazo discussed methods of having students reflect on the character traits through self reflection that is authentic and connected to their own lives. My own reflection on the integration of character education in my high school follows a similar path. Teachers may consider posting and discussing pillars of characters and associated behaviors. Students may be provided with the opportunity to reflect on these and self-assess their progress towards them. Teachers may work to integrate the beliefs into content areas during discussions, group activities and assignments. For example, language arts teachers may reference the traits when analyzing characters in a novel. Social studies teachers may find opportunities to compare the traits to historical figures.

The pillars and associated behaviors should be part of a class conduct policy and integrated with a discussion regarding class expectations, participation and class assignments. They should also be part of the foundation of collaborative group work.

In order to ensure effectiveness the development and delivery of the character program must be collaborative and consistent across the school. Administrators must provide the resources and recognition necessary building wide in order to ensure its positive impact on students. I believe that only if the message and promotion of these beliefs are consistent across an entire school and are reinforced daily will character education significantly impact student achievement.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Formative Assessment As A Closure Activity

As we develop units of study our focus starts on what we want students to know, how will they demonstrate that knowledge and how will we assess that knowledge. If we integrate the universal design for learning framework we effectively represent content in a variety of ways, provide options and variation for students to apply what they learned and for us to assess, and we have a focus on engaging students in a variety of ways. Regardless of the variations and framework of our lessons the use of effective closure should have a place. How do we provide students with an opportunity to reflect on a lesson and connect their experiences to the lesson objective? Can a closure activity also be a formative assessment?

The use of exit cards is an effective closure activity that provides us with a formative assessment of student learning. This may be a sticky note or index card in which students provide answers to one or more prompts. This may be as simple as:

  • "What are three things you learned today?"

  • "What is something that is confusing you about today's lesson?"

Questions may be more content specific.

  • "What are the three major events that led to the New Deal"? 

The 3-2-1 Exit Card provides a consistent framework:

1. What are three things that you learned in class today?
2. What are two questions that you still have?
3.  What is one aspect of the class that you enjoyed or did not enjoy.

Some teachers have students post their exit cards to a board as they exit the room. This provides a quick visual for teachers to review responses and modify instruction the next day based on the results. Online discussion boards provides a collaborative approach to exit cards. Using this method students may post and respond to each others answers allowing for an extension of the class discussion as well as opportunities for peer to peer instruction.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Moving From Passive Learning to Active Learning With Graphic Organizers

How do we effectively convey information/content to students to ensure that they not only comprehend it, but can then represent this new knowledge in meaningful ways? How can we accommodate students that struggle with curating important information and managing abstract ideas? What strategies can we employ to aid information retention? The use of Graphic Organizers provide students and teachers with a tool to organize important ideas logically and visually. 

Graphic organizers provide student and teachers with a resource to visually present important information in a logical format that can simplify the transition of applying that knowledge. For example, a History Frame graphic organizer may be useful to aid in comprehension of Social Studies topics. A History Frame will ask students to identify when and were an event took place, the problem, the stakeholders, the key events, what was the result and what was the future impact.

Graphic organizers may also be useful for students to better understand what they already know and still need to investigate.  A KWL chart is a great resource for students to identify what they know about a topic, what they would like to learn more about and then what they have learned. This type of graphic organizer can be used for a Do Now at the beginning of the lesson and then again during the closure as they identify what they learned and would like to explore further.

There are many types of graphic organizers that can serve a variety of purposes. These valuable instructional tools are widely available on the web for free downloads. Completion of graphic organizers by students may serve as a formative assessment for teachers as they uncover the thought process of students as well as their level of understanding. English language learners will benefit from being able to visually organize small chunks of text in a logical order to complete a task or demonstrate understanding.

Here are some resouces for graphic organizer:

Write Design Graphic Organizers

Thinking Tools

UDL Graphic Organizers

Monday, October 14, 2013

Formative Assessment Strategies Low & High Tech

The use of formative assessment in the classroom provides insight into what students "get" and what they need for instruction/practice with. As opposed to a summative assessment which assess students ability to demonstrate content knowledge or a skill, a formative assessment assesses students progress towards content knowledge or a skill. Think of the summative as an autopsy and the formative as your checkup to see how you are doing. 

Too often the effective use of formative assessment strategies is overlooked in the classroom. A typical lesson plan template as a section for assessment. What is typically written there is the same statements that have been copied and pasted from previous lessons. "Teacher observation, questioning of students..etc.." What is usually lacking is a more specific assessment strategy that will be used to adjust instruction.

Technology has provided a tool to assess entire groups of students in order to quickly and efficiently receive group and individual feedback. The use of student response systems such as Smart Response allows teachers to poll a class and immediately view a consensus or access a site to view individual responses. Free web-based services like Poll Everywhere or various Iphone/Ipad apps provide the same experience using your phones.

Exit cards are another great way to check for understanding. How about having students write on sticky notes a question they have about the lesson, a summary of what they learned or a sample math problem from the homework. Maybe have them keep their responses to under 140 characters and post them on your Twitter board as they leave class. This may be an actual Tweet or a sticky note posted on a small paper board hung on your wall.

Google Forms can be used to create a quick quiz or assessment. The results are tallied in a spreadsheet and can be sorted or represented in graphic form with the click of a button.

There are hundreds of great ways to use formative assessment strategies in your classrooms. I encourage teachers to explore the use of active, formative assessment to check for student understanding. Transitioning from "who does not understand?" or "Who needs help?" to a more individualized and personalized method of checking for understanding will have a significant impact on student learning in your classes.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Don't forget the lesson objective

In the lesson planning process teachers develop learning objectives. These objectives may be established as part of the curriculum, curriculum map, or unit plan. A lesson objective is not what the instructor or students will be doing. It is the skills, knowledge, or attitudes that the students will achieve.  An objective is a clear statement that describes what the students will be able to do or know at the end of a specific lesson.  The components of an effective objective are:

1. What do you expect the students to perform.

2. Under what conditions will they achieve this knowledge or skill.

3. What criteria will be used to evaluate achievement.

While the development of objectives are a vital component of a written unit or lesson plan they are equally as important to be communicated at the start of  a lesson. When you begin each lesson by stating the learning objective you provide students with a framework for the period. When students are aware of the knowledge and skills that they are expected to achieve at the end of a lesson they can self-assess their progress towards the objective. Students may also activate prior knowledge or previous connections that will help them successfully achieve the goal.

Writing the objective on the board or smartboard is a great start, but a short conversation about the learning goal will help ensure student awareness regarding the goal.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Free Mind Mapping Site that Saves to Google Drive

MindMup -, is a web-based and free mind mapping software. MindMup links to your Google Apps account allowing users to save mind maps in your Google Drive account. Once saved in Google drive users can share their Mindmaps.  

Mind Maps have a number of uses such as planning or organizing your thoughts prior to writing or making connections between topics or events. An extensive list of graphic organizers that serve a similar purpose can be found here.  Having the ability to share your maps within Google Drive allows students or teachers to collaborate on the development of ideas.

Teachers may collaborate with students on Mind Maps or review student progress. Maps created by students may be shared with their teachers via Google Drive. Teachers may then publish those maps on a class Smartboard for class discussion.

Providing students with graphic organizers or mind mapping resources to organize their thoughts is a classroom intervention with numerous benefits. Having the ability to access and share these maps over the web adds a new layer of interactivity and accessibility that makes MindMup worth exploring.

Directions and Documentation for Mindmup can be found here:

Read the Mindmup Blog Here:


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Flipped Classroom Model Is Not All That New

"Flipping the classroom" is a very hot topic in education these days.  The topic appears in journals, websites, blogs and just about all education based literature. The basic model requires students to review content/materials for homework and then apply what they learned during class. Most references to the flipped learning model discuss students watching video taped lectures or lessons for homework. The idea is that the process of transferring information to students is automated. During class time the students are provided opportunities to apply what they learned, receive individualized or collaborative assistance and to move forward at a more individualized pace.

The "flipped model" really isn't new. It has existed in english and social studies classrooms for quite some time. Students have been assigned readings for homework. The expectation during class time would be either a discussion regarding the readings,  or a written assignment or project that requires the requisite knowledge obtained from the readings. This model allows for more higher order learning experiences. It also provides an opportunity for teachers to assess student understanding immediately and provide targeted remediation.

Traditionally mathematics and science courses have not embraced this model of delivery. The flipped model provides an opportunity for teachers of these subject areas to differentiate the delivery of their content by individualizing the experience. Whole group, class lectures may be replaced with short video tutorials that are followed up in class with activities that apply what was learned and provide formative assessments for teachers. The advantages of the flipped model have been cited in numerous publications so I won't include them all here.

I do believe that when implementing a flipped model the following should be considered:

1. Collaboration:  Is it possible to have a group of teachers creating, sharing, revising and reviewing videos and assignments. No reason to duplicate efforts

2. Reflection and Active Learning: Consider creating reflection questions or guided questions for students to consider when reviewing recorded content.

3. Formative Assessment: Consider starting classes with a short assessment, possibly using student response systems (other options include cell phones or Moodle quizes), to receive immediate feedback regarding the students comprehension of material or if they did actually review the videos.

4. Structure:  Many teachers who start a flipped classroom model spend a majority of their time planning and implementing the development of video tutorials and not on designing the experience in the classroom.  How will your classroom look? What design aspects will you consider?  How will you facilitate and evaluate the student experience?

5. Informing Parents and Students: This shift in instructional delivery requires thorough communication to parents and students. Identify the benefits of this method and how you will provide each student what they need to be successful.

6. There is a time and a place for face to face direct, explicit instruction:  Not all lessons should be flipped. Not all students benefit from this method of delivery. Know your students and your content and decide where flipped learning fits best.


Monday, July 29, 2013

The Importance of Asking Great Questions

Dan Pink recently published a short video that speaks of the importance of asking good questions. When preparing lesson plans a focus on essential questions and enduring understandings can transition a lesson from teacher disseminating information to active learning through conversation, cooperative learning and the development of new questions and learning.


Additional Information on Effective Questioning:

A Questioning Toolkit


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Student Reflection on a Lesson with Blogs

As part of our teacher training programs and evaluation protocols we have a focus on lesson reflection. We encourage and sometimes mandate that teachers reflect on a lesson after its completion. What worked? What didn't work? Did you have a clearly aligned objective and did you meet that objective? Did the students understand? How do you know ? What would you do differently next time? etc....

What we typically do not formalize is the collection of feedback from students regarding a lesson. We do evaluate and assess understanding through formative and summative assessment, but do we know how they truly felt about the delivery of a lesson? Do our students have insights that could improve the instructional delivery, method of assessment or expected outcomes? I am sure they do!

Blogging in the classroom and the development of student blogs provides students with a voice. It is an opportunity to publish their thoughts and ideas for an audience. We encourage students to take part in online discussions or possibly comment on a publication. How about asking student to provide feedback regarding a lesson? While they may require a framework regarding effective feedback, I would believe that what they provide a teacher may be as valuable as the results of the formative/summative assessment used to measure a lessons effectiveness.

Blogger, Kidblog, Edublogs or Moodle are all great classroom blogging options.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Improve Student Writing Through Electronic Conferencing

A new app available within Google Drive allows for the insertion of Voice Comments into Google Docs. The app is free and easy to use.  The tutorial below will demonstrate how to install it and begin using it.

This tool allows teachers to provide specific feedback to students regarding their writing using verbal expression. It can also be used for students to provide peer review. In the past I have connected my students with other students around the world to conduct peer review of writing using the comments features. This allows the students to gain the benefits of expressive verbal language. It's also really cool!



Monday, May 13, 2013

Reading..Connectivity..Technology and Attention

I have been the owner of an Apple IPad since they were released. I have found it to be my go to technology tool for consuming information such as emails, news, web searches, blogs, and audio and video content. I have utilized services such as Pocket and Delicious to tag and categorize resources that I discover online. Flipboard and Zite curate news and information from my most trusted sources and provide a simple and dynamic reading experience.  Checking emails, sharing content and conducting web searches are efficient and productive when using a tablet like the IPAD.

The long standing argument regarding tablets is that they are devices designed to consume content. While this may be a strength it is by far not the only use of the device. The ability to link text, embed videos and audio, link to discussion and commenting features, annotate text, and share are interactive features that allow for active consumption. An example of this is the app Subtext which allows for the creation of social community within the pages of a text. The app allows the teacher to layer in enrichment materials, quizzes and assignments as well.

The opportunity to take a passive act of reading and integrate interactivity, multiple means of representation of information and social collaboration extends learning, differentiates, and provides peer sharing and learning opportunities. This has be referred to as "social reading"

21st century information texts cross a variety of platforms. Many of which are social. News is no longer confined to newspapers, magazines and your nightly news anchor. Current events are delivered and discussed on social media using Twitter hash tags, blogs,  video sharing, and various social apps.   Information that is shared online is typically written in hyperlinking form, sometimes referred to 3 dimensional writing. The new information literacy skill requires students to validate text, navigate the hyperlinking trail of information that is contained in published content, curate and evaluate relevant information, make connections, draw conclusions and develop further questions.

Social and interactive reading is not just a required skill, but contributes to student engagement. Utilizing web-based literature circles, book clubs, discussion forums or embedded chatting features in documents and apps provide a collaborative learning environment with 24 hour access.

The development and sharing of podcasts or video tutorials provides a differentiated approach to content delivery and assessment. Students create such content to demonstrate understanding while providing an instructional resource for student who require additional modes of representation of course content.

While a tablet provides a number of advantages with regards to teaching and learning it does pose a problem. Students must learn to maintain attention and focus while  viewing active content.  Justin Reich (Contributor for Mindshift)  cited the work of Howard Rheingold ,by discussing the need for students to to remember their core purpose of reading and not get lost in the network of hyperlinked text.  Teachers, students and parents must employ focus and attention strategies and decide when focused reading or connected reading should be the goal.



Monday, April 29, 2013

Strategies for Improving Writing

During my time in education I have worked with a number of school districts. Having been in charge of educational technology during most of my time I have been called upon to provide technological resources that can help these districts improve writing. Teachers and administrators across all grade levels have sought out my knowledge on digital writing resources in order to fill their toolbox, engage students, and increase the quality of writing. While I have successfully curated a number of resources and found success with implementing technology to improve writing, I have concluded that  the best way to improve writing is not high tech at all.

What I believe is that writing can be improved by the following:

Consistency - Writing should be interdisciplinary. The expectations for writing across disciplines should be somewhat uniform. While the expectation of a DBQ writing in social studies may be different from a character analysis in English the fundamental components of a quality written piece should be consistent. Common rubrics, writing mini lessons, graphic organizers  and common vocabulary should be part of inter department collaboration.

Writing Every Day - Students should be provided with an opportunity and expectation to write in every class, every day. Do Now and Closure activities may provide opportunities for reflection or quick writes. Art and Music classes may provide opportunities for reflection and critique. Publishing a class blog or threaded discussion provides a writing opportunity that extends the school day.

Publishing - Here is were technology provides the most value. Students should be given the opportunity to write for an audience. By publishing student work we provide them with an authentic task that is engaging and may be rich with feedback. Google Docs provides opportunities for students to  publish electronically. The documents may be shared for peer review. A class blog or online discussion provides opportunities for students to publish for an audience. Requiring students to publish on online discussion boards, blogs, or just publishing their writing on social sharing sites provides a voice, a global audience and intrinsic or extrinsic motivation to produce quality work.

When a school, not a teacher commits to a collaborative effort to improve writing that is when we can expect change. Professional development and common planning time should be focused on defining good writing, developing and sharing rubrics, graphic organizers,  mini-lessons, and common vocabulary. When teachers are provided such a tool box with time to review and discuss the results we can have an expectation of growth and improvement.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Student Growth Objectives - SMART Goals Without the Collaboration?

The new teacher evaluation plan in NJ and other states across the country are including a measure of student performance called "Student Growth Objectives"

Below is an excerpt from the NJ Department of Education regarding SGO's.
Student Growth Objectives (SGO's) are academic goals for groups of students that are aligned to state standards and can be tracked using objective measures. As part of the student achievement component of evaluation under AchieveNJ, each teacher sets SGOs with input and approval from his or her principal or supervisor at the start of the year. Specifically, teachers and principals /supervisors are expected to collaborate around the instructional content that will be covered and the skills and knowledge that will be measured. SGOs should be developed using available student data and created to be ambitious but achievable.


The focus of the SGO's are on student achievement, but the primary conversation at various training sessions is on teacher accountability. The literature provided  is focused  on collaboration between individual teacher and administrator to create, implement, and measure the results of an SGO.

Over the past decade we have been introduced to the concept of professional learning communities (PLC's). An effective PLC  is a collaborative effort between a team of educators with a common interest in student learning. The team will first understand their current reality, establish a SMART goal (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely), establish a plan and an assessment to implement, measure, and discuss the results of progress and incorporate instructional strategies to improve student achievement.

The significant difference between an SGO and a Smart Goal, as presented by state organizations, is the use of collaborative teams.  The value of SMART  goals and PLC's  is the discussion, collaboration, and sharing. Collaborative SGO's  would involve a group of teachers working  together to understand their student  strengths and weaknesses, development of  a goal for improvement, establishing  a common assessment to measure their goal and working  together to discuss strategies, interventions, and curriculum design to reach their goal.

PLC's have proven to be an effective tool for increasing student achievement. The power of a collaborative effort will out perform individual effort when implemented correctly. Given the demands of teaching, time constraints, and limited availability of professional development it only makes sense to have teachers working together to increase student achievement.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Student Podcasts - "This I Believe" Essays

Student's is Ms. McCabe's English 9 classes in Chatham High School have published their "This I Believe" essays as podcasts. Ms. McCabe wanted to have an opportunity for her students to publish their writing for a audience outside of the walls of their classroom.  Students refined their writing with the goal of sharing for a global audience.  This authentic practice resulted in increased student engagement and cultivated their 21st Century digital literacy skills. It was also a lot of fun! Students utilized Audacity to record their narration and our  Schoolwires website to publish them.

Below is an excerpt from Ms. McCabe's website describing the project:

From 1951 to 1955, Edward R. Murrow hosted This I Believe, a daily radio program that reached 39 million listeners. On this broadcast, Americans — both well known and unknown — read five-minute essays about their personal philosophy of life. They shared insights about individual values that shaped their daily actions. A first volume of This I Believe essays, published in 1952, sold 300,000 copies — more than any other book sold in the U. S. that year except for the Bible. In fact, these Murrow broadcasts were so popular that a curriculum was developed to encourage American high school students to compose essays about their most significant personal beliefs.

Fifty years later, This I Believe, Inc., is continuing the mission of inviting Americans of all ages and all walks of life to examine their belief systems and then write and share a 500-word personal essay, a “This I Believe” essay.

In introducing the original series, host Edward R. Murrow said, “Never has the need for personal philosophies of this kind been so urgent.” We would argue that the need is as great now as it was 50 years ago.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Flipped Classroom Strategy For Extra Help

How can we provide opportunities for extra help while preserving planning and preparation time for teachers? Utilizing a hybrid instructional model that includes flipped learning resources may help.

Teachers may post copies of class notes, instructional materials used in class and homework online or within a school email system. This provides access  to the information for students who were not present in class that day. The expectation is that students will download and review the materials and attempt the homework. If a student requires extra help, her or she will approach the classroom teacher with specific questions about the notes or homework.

While the above scenario sounds great it is typically not how the events occur. Many times students come for extra help having not reviewed the information posted. They are looking for the teacher to re-teach the entire lesson. Unfortunately this is not always possible given the time constraints and the number of students who may require assistance on various topics or components of content at the same time.

By developing a library of video tutorials and instructional materials for each topic you may provide an opportunity for students to receive direct instruction remotely. Teachers may consider linking to video tutorials in the Khan Academy or possibly creating their own tutorials or recorded lectures. Over time this library will grow. Students may access and review these recorded lesson prior to seeking extra help. They will receive the benefit of direct instruction in a format this is familiar, has the ability to pause, stop and rewind, and is mobile.

While full implementation of the flipped classroom requires a paradigm shift in "what happens in the classroom", a hybird model like has an easier point of entry and can be a valuable intervention resource for all students.



Monday, February 18, 2013

Responding to Student Needs With Instructional Strategies

A number of established and best practices in education emulate the principles of inclusive education.  Educators today are better equipped to facilitate meaningful and inclusive education for students at risk.  However, a holistic and comprehensive school plan is an integral component of a school wide effort to provide all students with the education they are entitled to receive.  We must continue to enhance and expand the continuum of options available to our students.  Principles of this systematic plan include staff that is trained in successful instructional strategies, committed to teaching and progress, reflective on student performance, and responsive to the needs of all students.

In looking at instructional strategies, a comprehensive review of the lesson framework and the selection of strategies and practices contained is the first step. We can best meet the needs of our students by designing a classroom environment that provides opportunity for all. Do we design lessons that provide individuals the opportunity to connect prior learning, assess their understanding of content, collaborate with peers, ask questions and explore new learning?

When designing instruction to meet the varying needs of our students the instructional strategies we select are the first step to level the playing field. My colleague and I have designed an interactive pyramid of intervention to provide a toolbox for teachers. This toolbox aides in lesson design, instructional strategies and targeted interventions.  An exploration of the interactive Lesson Framework provides teachers with a toolbox of instructional strategies for each area of the framework.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Math Interventions with the Khan Academy

I have written numerous posting on the benefits of the Khan Academy as well as the positive attributes of a "flipped classroom" The Khan Academy now has mapped all of the common core math standards. Within each standard are links to instructional videos and practice exercises.

Students may use these videos and exercises to review topics covered in class, or to view lessons ahead of their teacher in order to establish prior knowledge. This may also be a great resource for a student who needs to build foundation skills in a particular area.


(Image Credit:

Friday, January 4, 2013

Active Reading Strategies K-12

I have had the opportunity to work with students and faculty across all grade levels K-12. This experience and exposure has without a doubt made me a better teacher, observer, and most importantly filled my toolbox.

My visits to early elementary classrooms offer insight into differentiation and independent learning at a level of depth that is difficult to duplicate in higher grades. Many of the schools I have worked in implement balanced literacy programs with a focus on Guided Reading, Centers, and Reading / Writing workshop. During these early years of literacy instruction there is an emphasis on the skills of what good readers and writers do. Students are grouped by reading level and afforded the opportunity to work with their peers in small groups to learn and apply these skills.

During this time students learn pre-reading strategies such as activating prior knowledge, defining a purpose for reading and identifying text structures.  They also build skills to be implemented while reading such as questioning, making connections, managing speed, predicting,  how to infer and attack vocabulary. After reading students learn strategies such as "how to review", summarizing, and most importantly clarifying questions to ask.

These strategies, while taught as skills in early elementary, are proven to be vital for reading comprehension and learning. They are skills that should not be limited to a Language Arts classroom. Application of these skills should be integrated into all subject areas. As students move to higher grades the focus shifts from skill based literacy instruction to mastery  of content and analysis of text.

During my time coordinating I&RS teams I have worked with a number of students who struggle with reading comprehension. While the struggles manifest themselves in a variety of ways, the consensus is to develop reading skills to aid in comprehension. For that purpose i have found that the instructional strategies and skills taught in early elementary have a place in grades 6-12. All of our teachers would benefit from receiving direct instruction in "what good readers and writers do" in order to integrate these skills into their courses.

One of my favorite books regarding the teaching of reading comprehension strategies is Mosaic of Thought. While this book is typically found in elementary PD sessions or book clubs, it would be well placed in a high school as well.  US History II teachers would benefit in turn-keying instruction in monitoring meaning, activating prior knowledge, questioning, drawing inferences, imagery, and analyzing text structure.

As schools look towards increased differentiation and the elimination of levels our teachers need to fill their toolbox with strategies to reach all learners.  Recognizing that the teaching of reading strategies transcends grade levels and subjects is a great first step.

I have developed an active reading strategies chart that we share with teachers and students to aid in the development of comprehension. Active Reading Strategies Chart