Strategy instruction helps students engage and make sense of what they are learning through an active process of learning. At the heart of strategy instruction is getting students to talk and write about what they are learning and thinking. Strategies span all areas of literacy development but we frequently use them during comprehension, vocabulary, and writing instruction with adolescent learners. When should you use a particular strategy? A frequently used approach is to consider if a strategy is best used before, during, or after students read and write.
“Before” strategies activate students’ prior knowledge and set a purpose for reading and writing. “During” strategies help students make connections, monitor their understanding, generate questions, and stay focused. “After” strategies provide students an opportunity to summarize, question, reflect, discuss, and respond to text. There are also several strategies that really find their strength being utilized multiple times during the reading and writing process (e.g. before and after reading, etc.). Keep in mind that explicit teaching of reading comprehension strategies has value but not at the expense of content. Choosing fewer strategies to implement and giving students multiple opportunities to use them, perhaps even across disciplines, avoids less class time devoted to learning strategies and more time to learning content.
Tips for Success
- Remember, you want to intentionally plan how you will use these strategies to get students thinking and talking, and not just filling out the graphic organizer!
- Students need to understand why a strategy is useful, how to use it, and when to use it.
- MODEL, MODEL, and MODEL some more! Teacher demonstration and modeling are critical factors for success. Thinking aloud as you apply a strategy, explaining how and why you are using it, provides students with a model for success.
- Choose your strategies wisely! There are many to choose from, but strategically using ones that colleagues in other disciplines or content areas use as well provides more opportunities for your students to master how, when, and why to use a strategy. A little collaboration with colleagues can have a huge impact on students’ growing thinking skills.
- The power of graphic organizers is not in filling them out but in using them as a springboard for discussions. Graphic organizers can help students organize their ideas, anchor students thinking, and spark discussions.