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