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Building Bridges

Building Bridges of Understanding – Comprehension Strategies

Building Bridges of Understanding 

Section 1

Think Aloud

Comprehension strategies are conscious plans — sets of steps that good readers use to make sense of text. Comprehension strategy instruction helps students become purposeful, active readers who are in control of their own reading comprehension. These strategies are:

  • Prediction
  • Visualisation
  • Making Connections
  • Questioning
  • Monitoring Comprehension
  • Determining Importance
  • Inferring
  • Synthesis

LEARNING OBJECTIVES FOR SECTION
At the end of this section you will be enabled to:

  • Understand the explicit nature of comprehension strategy instruction
  • Use think alouds to clearly and explicitly model the thinking process involved in prediction, visualisation and making connections
  • Create an anchor chart to focus understanding of each strategy
  • Model Comprehension Processing Motions (CPMs) to indicate strategy use
  • Identify high quality picture books appropriate for introducing and supporting each strategy
  • Understand the scaffolded nature of comprehension strategy instruction

THINK ALOUD
As teachers we regularly act as models of good readers for our pupils. We make predictions, generate questions and identify words which may cause us difficulty. However, when we spoke to a group of second class pupils about ‘what a good reader is’ they did not identify any of the strategies addressed in the Introduction. Instead they valued :

  • Knowing all the words and reading them properly
  • Taking your time and “don’t race”
  • Stopping at the full stops
  • Using expression
  • Listening to the teacher!

It is not surprising that pupils selected these qualities when you consider what they see when the teacher is reading. The characteristics they identified are the ones that they witness every time a teacher or a good reader reads. They don’t see the thinking process the reader is engaged in as comprehension strategies are invisible to the naked eye.

Think Aloud is a technique which allows the teacher to make the implicit thinking process explicit for her pupils, allowing them to improve their comprehension by understanding how and why a reader uses strategies. Using Think Aloud the teacher reads a passage, stopping periodically to “unlock her brain” for her pupils by verbalising exactly what is going through her head as she applies a strategy.

It is important that the teacher use clear, concise and explicit language when making the pupils conscious of the thought process. In each of the videos accompanying this book, you will see teachers using think alouds with pupils of all class levels.

Think Aloud is most effective when used as part of a Read Aloud session. By selecting high quality literature you will guarantee not only that your pupils are interested and engaged in the lesson but that they witness authentic strategy use and will see a purpose for applying the strategy. A read aloud session also provides opportunities for the teacher to guide and support the pupils as they begin to apply strategies. Picture Books are ideal tools to model and scaffold strategy use as not only do they generate more interest but they tend to be of a shorter length. Once children are comfortable using a strategy they will independently apply it to all reading materials such as novels. The value of picture books has long been recognised in the junior classes but few of us may have been aware of the high quality picture books that are available for older readers. A list of picture books for junior and senior classes will accompany each strategy, highlighting texts that are appropriate for introducing strategies.

STEPS FOR USING THINK ALOUD

  1. Select an appropriate text for the strategy
  2. Review the reading and decide where you will stop to explicitly explain your thinking process.
  3. Before reading identify the strategy you will use to the class. Clearly explain what the strategy is and why it is useful. This will allow the pupils more easily identify the strategy when you use it.
  4. Read the passage and model the identified strategy using Think Aloud. It’s important to have considered the language you will use before you start reading. This will ensure that the language is as clear and concise as possible. You may choose to mark where you used a strategy.
  5. Identify the strategy and discuss how it was used after the Read Aloud session. Conduct a debriefing session with the pupils, allowing them to review where you used the strategy and how it was useful there.

TIMING
Questions are often asked as to how long and how regular Read Aloud sessions should be. There is no definitive answer to this. As the teacher you are the best judge of what suits the needs of your class. There is no need to finish the text in one sitting, particularly with older classes. Indeed as your children become more experienced strategy users you will find an indepth discussion of the text will reduce the amount of material read in one session. To maximise the effectiveness of the instruction, initial teacher modelling and scaffolding of children’s strategy use should occur within close proximity of each other.

RESPONDING TO OTHERS
Strategy lessons are very collaborative in nature, with pupils contributing their thoughts and opinions. To deepen the discussion and understanding of all involved, pupils can be shown how to respond to each other in a positive and constructive manner. They learn to consider the thoughts of others, often revising their original opinions or adapting them to incorporate an alternative viewpoint. The importance of this instruction can easily be overlooked, believing that if children spend all day communicating with each other they will instinctively respond to predictions and other strategies. However, when children begin this process they automatically look at the teacher, despite the fact that they are addressing the remarks to a fellow classmate. The first step is always to remind the children to turn and make eye contact with the person they are talking to. A high quality story will lend itself to many different interpretations and it is important that children realise that though they may disagree with another’s point, they are not necessarily wrong. A bank of vocabulary needs to be developed to express differing opinions in a constructive, respectful manner. Together the teacher and pupils agree to use terms such as:

  • I found your prediction interesting but I wondered if….
  • I liked your prediction but did you consider …..
  • Your prediction made me think more deeply and I felt that….

 

Section 2

Prediction

What is Prediction

Prediction is thinking about what might happen in the story, using the information you have amassed so far to make a sensible guess as to what might happen next. It can occur before, during or even after reading. The clues for predictions can come from a variety of sources such as the title, illustrations, prior knowledge and experiences and key events in the story. By making predictions the reader becomes more engaged with the text and has a purpose for their reading. It is important that pupils are aware that their predictions will not always be right. As we read we constantly revise and adapt our predictions to suit the context of the story.

Knowledge of text genre will influence the types of predictions we make. If I know that I am reading a fairytale then I might predict that there will be a handsome prince, a magical event and a happy ending. When reading a biography I will expect to learn about the person’s early life and key events that shaped them. Similarly, my knowledge of expository text will shape the predictions that I will make. I may have questions that I will expect answered. For example I may predict that I will learn about how hot the sun is and its distance from the earth. Exposing children to a wide variety of genres and raising their awareness of significant features will allow children to make more accurate predictions.

LEARNING OUTCOMES OF PREDICTION INSTRUCTION
At the end of this unit the child will be enabled to:

  • Understand what making a prediction is
  • Understand why good readers make predictions
  • Use illustrations, the title, key words and their own background knowledge to make predictions
  • Justify predictions using evidence from the story or background knowledge
  • Revise predictions as the story develops
  • Respond to other people’s predictions

TREORACHA AS GAEILGE
Seo roinnt do na focail agus an foclóir ar leith atá ag teastáil chun ceacht leis na straitéisí a dhéanamh as Gaeilge.

  • Tomhas Prediction
  • Ag déanamh tomhais Making a prediction
  • Ba mhaith liom tomhas a dhéanamh I want to make a prediction
  • Freagair Respond
  • Ag tabhairt freagra Responding

PROMPTS & CUES TO USE IN A THINK ALOUD
The following are suggestions of how prediction can be explicitly and clearly explained to your pupils:

  • When I pick up this book my brain starts to work straight away. It looks at the title and says “I wonder what is going to happen in this story?” I read the title and think about what it means. It gives me ideas about what could happen. (Verbalise some of these ideas). Then I look at the illustration and search for clues about what might happen in this story. I am making predictions.
  • Discuss your predictions with the child emphasising what triggered it – was it the text, the illustration or something from your prior knowledge or experience.
  • Now that I’ve made my predictions I’m going to read on. I want to see if they will happen in this story.
  • (As story develops)…. That’s exactly like my prediction!
  • (OR) …. Hmm…. That’s not what I thought was going to happen. It’s different to my prediction but that’s okay. A prediction is a good guess using all the evidence I have at the time. I don’t always have to be right.
  • (AND)….I want to change my prediction slightly. At first I thought that…….. would happen, but after reading (refer to evidence that triggered revised prediction) I now feel that ……. As I read I can change my predictions because I now have more information.
  • (DEBRIEFING) When I look back I notice where I made predictions – at the beginning before I read and at special points during the story. What did I use to help me make predictions? I notice that the more I read the more predictions I was able to make. I notice that my predictions became more detailed as I gathered information. I also notice that my predictions changed and evolved as I read on. Because I made predictions I found the story to be more enjoyable and I felt like I was more involved in it too.

VIDEO
The accompanying video shows key moments of modelling of prediction by teachers in four classes. The strategy is introduced using Think Aloud at junior, middle and senior levels, chomh maith le rang i nGaelscoil. While the lessons are not shown in their entirety, the highlighted sections capture the essential elements of the lesson.

ANCHOR CHART
An anchor chart is a clear detailed account of the strategy and its use. It is written in child-friendly language. It provides an account of what the strategy is, how we use it and why we use it. It may be co-created with the children at the conclusion of teacher modelling, as a means of focusing the children’s awareness of what they have experienced. It fosters a common language surrounding the strategy. Because it is a written record the anchor chart serves as a guide to help the children remember the process of the strategy. The anchor chart hangs visibly in the classroom during the year, reminding the children of the strategy they have learnt and allowing them to refer to it as needed. A sample anchor chart for each strategy will be supplied, which may be adapted to suit your children’s needs.

COMPREHENSION PROCESSING MOTION (CPM)
A comprehension processing motion is when pupils use hand signals to indicate that they are using a strategy. The children are taught a specific hand signal to accompany each strategy. As children develop confidence and competence in strategy use they will be eager to share during read aloud sessions. CPMs alert the teacher that the child is engaged in using a strategy and the teacher may then ask the child to share with the class. It also enables the teacher to use her knowledge of the class and their strategy expertise to prioritise contributions. For example a prediction from a child contributing for the first time may be heard before that of a child who has made numerous contributions. Similarly if the teacher is supporting a strategy such as making connections, she may attend more to those CPMs while still acknowledging the role played by prediction etc.
CPMs also ensure that all children are actively involved in the lesson and are constantly aware of their own and other children’s strategic thinking. A photograph may be taken of your class making the CPM and this can form part of the anchor chart on display in your classroom. A copy of a CPM for each strategy will be provided as part of this programme.

CHOOSING A PICTURE BOOK FOR PREDICTING
The choice of picture book for strategy instruction is very important. The following are the characteristics required of a book to teach prediction:

  • The pupils must be unfamiliar with the text
  • The text should have good contextual clues to prompt predictions
  • The text should allow pupils opportunities to revise and adapt their predictions
  • For younger children, visual clues are very important
  • A text that has an unresolved ending can be useful to illustrate that not all texts have a predictable outcome

A list of picture books suitable for introducing and supporting prediction is provided. It details picture books which have been used effectively in Irish classrooms at junior and senior class levels.

SCAFFOLDED RELEASE OF RESPONSIBILITY TO PUPILS
The initial instruction involves teacher modelling of the strategy using Think Aloud. As the children become more familiar with the strategy, the teacher encourages their involvement, supporting them, affirming them and clarifying gaps in understanding where necessary. As instruction progresses, the teacher scaffolds the strategy development, allowing the pupils independent practice. The pupils take charge of applying their learning while the teacher validates, coaches and confirms. Finally, as the teacher continues to release responsibility, the children will be able to initiate, self monitor and self-evaluate their strategy use.

 

LOG

Section 3

Visualisation

What is Visualisation

As we read our mind creates images in response to details in the text. These images can be sensory in nature, including not only sight but also taste, smell, sounds and touch. Our ability to visualise is linked to our prior knowledge and experiences. To visualise Antarctica I can draw on photographs, documentaries and also my personal experience of what snow and ice feel like. It is important to note that no two readers will create the same images despite reading the same text. As we read, we generate images for the unwritten details such as colours and shapes. It is for this reason we are often surprised or even disappointed when we see a film adaptation of a book previously read. The on-screen image rarely matches the visualisation process we engaged in.

As we read we gather more information which may add richer detail to the image or may indeed change it dramatically. Good readers are always revising and refining their visualisations based on what they read.

Children can be encouraged to consider their visualisations to be like a cinema. When you close your eyes you can see the black movie screen. The text is like the script and you are the director. While you must be loyal and true to the script you can add other details and actions that you consider appropriate.

WHY DO GOOD READERS VISUALISE?
Creating images can amplify the meaning of a text, allowing the reader to become more engaged and personally involved in the text. The process of creating images encourages the reader to consider the meaning of the text and form their own interpretation of it.

LEARNING OUTCOME FOR VISUALISATION UNIT
At the end of this unit the children will be enabled to:

  • Draw images in response to a text
  • Create mental images in response to a text
  • Discuss in detail the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch of their images
  • Compare own image to others
  • Understand the importance of visualisation

TREORACHA AS GAEILGE
Seo roinnt do na focail agus an foclóir ar leith atá ag teastáil chun ceacht leis na straitéisí a dhéanamh as Gaeilge.

  • I mo phictiúrlann, tá… – In my cinema, there is…
  • Tá pictiúr i m’intinn / Tá pictiúr i mo cheannsa. ‘Sé sin… – There’s a picture in my mind. That is…
  • Is féidir liom ceol a chloisteáil chun dul leis an bpíosa seo. – I can hear music to go with this piece.
  • Cloisim fuaim ar leith sa phíosa seo. ‘sé sin… – I hear a particular sound in this piece. That is…
  • Cloisim fuaimeanna áirithe sa phíosa seo. ‘Siad sin… – I hear certain sounds in this piece. They are…
  • Táim ag machnaimh in áit an gcaractair. Seo cad atá i mo cheannsa. Tá…
    – I’m thinking as the character. This is what’s in my mind
  • Éist leis an bpíosa seo – Listen to this piece.
  • Féach ar an bpictiúr / na pictiúir seo. – Look at this / these picture(s).
  • Íomhanna na gCeadfaí – Sensory Imagery.
  • Le mothú – to feel (emotionally)
  • Le bhlaiseadh – to taste
  • Le feiceáil – to see
  • Le cloisteáil – to hear
  • Le tadhall – to touch
  • Boladh le fáil – to smell
  • Boladh, Blas, Radharc, Fuaim, Tadhall, Mothúcháin – Smell, Taste, Sight, Sound, Touch, Feeling

COMHRÁ NA nDALTAÍ (RANG 2)
Leabhar: An Scáth Báistí le Mary Arrigan

Páiste 1– Is féidir liom an raidió a chloisteáil ar maidin agus Maimeó ag glanadh suas.

Páiste 2– Is féidir liom Maimeó a fheiscint i mo phictiúrlann agus tá sí an-ghnóthach mar tá sí ag glanadh suas tar éis na bricfeasta.

Páiste3 – Tá soiléiriú uaim. Ní thuigim conas nach bhfuil a fhios ag Daideo faoin raic atá á chruthú aige.

Páiste 4– Tá fuaim agam. Cloisim an ceol chlaiseacach cosúil leis an gceol ó ‘Chork Pops’. Tá ‘walkie – talkies’ ina chluasa aige agus tá sé ag éisteacht leis an gceol agus tá sé ag canadh dó féin. Sin an fáth nach bhfuil sé in ann aon rud a choisteáil.

Páiste 5 – I mo phictiúrlann, feicim Daideo agus tá sé ag scipeáil agus ag damhsa don cheol. Tá sé ar an sráid agus tá daoine ag féachaint air. Tá daoine ag smaoineamh cén fáth go bhfuil sé ag déanamh é sin mar fheiceann sé an-ait.

PROPMTS & CUES FOR CONDUCTING A THINK ALOUD ON VISUALISATION
The following are suggestions of how visualisation can be explicitly and clearly verbalised to your pupils.

  • Straight away when I read the title, a picture forms in my mind. I am thinking back to twilight skies I have seen in the past. In my head I can picture all the colours in those skies – the reds, oranges and yellows. I can see the way the mix together just like paint. I can feel the heat of the day begin to fade away and on my arms I feel a gentle breeze. I also feel really calm and relaxed looking at that sky. I have just created a visual image of twilight. I call that a cinema. I think this will really help me when I am reading the story because I will be able to clearly imagine the thoughts that were in the author’s head.
  • When I read that (refer to text) I added ……to my cinema.
  • Oh.. that’s interesting. That’s different to my cinema. I’ve changed it to include the…..
  • That image is so clear in my mind. I can smell/ touch/ taste/ feel/ hear/ see the….
  • I think I might like to sketch the image that is in my head so that I can share it with you. I’m only going to do a quick sketch because I want to focus on the details of my story not how good I am at art. The first thing I saw was…….
  • (With younger readers it can be important to distinguish between predictions and visualisation)I think ____ will happen next but I’m not going to include that in my sketch because that is a prediction. If it happens then I will add it to my cinema.

Debriefing

  • Let’s look back and see where I used my cinema/ made visualisations.
  • Did you notice what inspired my cinemas? – title, text, illustrations, own experience etc.
  • What senses did I include in my cinema?
  • Sometimes I had to revise my cinema – can we remember where that happened?
  • I think I enjoyed that story more because I created a cinema for it. It felt like it was my own personal story. I was definitely more interested in it and I think picturing it in my head helped me to better understand what was happening.

VIDEO
The accompanying video shows key moments of modelling of visualisation by teachers in two classes. The strategy is introduced using Think Aloud in a junior and senior class. While the lessons are not shown in their entirety the highlighted sections capture the essential elements of the lesson.

ANCHOR CHART & CPM
As in the prediction unit, an anchor chart is generated to record the class understanding of visualisation. It explicitly states what visualisation is, how it operates and how it benefits the reader. The language used is that chosen by the children. The Comprehension Processing Motion (CPM) indicates to the teacher that the child has initiated a visualisation. Both the anchor chart and the photograph of the CPM are displayed in the classroom to remind the children and to allow them to refer back to it. A sample copy of an anchor chart is attached here.

CHOOSING A PICTURE BOOK FOR VISUALISING
The choice of picture book for strategy instruction is very important. The following are the characteristics required of a book to teach visualisation:

  • The book should be descriptive and detail a topic which the children can use their prior knowledge and experiences to create images.
  • The book should allow opportunities to use many or all of the senses.
  • Books with a nature theme are especially suitable for introducing the strategy as they are by their nature descriptive.

A list of picture books suitable for introducing and supporting visualisation is provided. It details picture books which have been used effectively in Irish classrooms at junior and senior class levels.

LOG

 

 

Section 4

Making Connections

Making Connections

When good readers think about a text they consider how it relates to their own life experiences and knowledge. In doing so they make connections with the text, deepening their own understanding. Struggling readers often move directly through a text without stopping to consider whether the text makes sense based on their own background knowledge, or whether their prior knowledge can be used to help them understand confusing or challenging materials. There are three types of connections that can be made:

  1. Text to Self Connections – where a link is established between the text and the reader’s own life. This is a highly personal connection.
  2. Text to Text Connections – where a link is identified between two sections of the same book or another piece of literature.
  3. Text to Wider World – a link between the text and knowledge derived from another source such as films, environment or newspapers.

There are many reasons why connecting to text helps readers:

  1. It helps understand how characters feel and the motivation behind their actions.
  2. It helps readers have a clearer picture in their head as they read thus making them more engaged.
  3. It sets a purpose for reading and keeps the reader focused.
  4. It forces readers to become actively involved.
  5. It helps readers remember what they have read and ask questions about the text.

Prior knowledge and experiences play a major role in making connections. All readers bring a unique bank of knowledge and experiences to a text. This knowledge bank is termed schema. Gaps in a reader’s knowledge bank may lead to confusion or lack of understanding in a text. In historical novels our schema is very important. Sometimes we are aware of upcoming historical events that the character cannot foresee and this impacts the depth of our involvement in the story.

 

LEARNING OUTCOMES FOR UNIT ON MAKING CONNECTIONS
At the end of this unit the child will be enabled to:

  • Draw on personal experiences, other texts and background knowledge to deepen their understanding of the topic being read and the characters encountered
  • Identify the three types of connections
  • Understand that his/her own personal experiences and knowledge impact on their understanding of the text
  • Use their connections for other strategies such as predictions and inferring
  • Identify areas where they lack the prior knowledge necessary to fully understand the text and identify the means of rectifying that situation

TREORACHA AS GAEILGE
Seo roinnt do na focail agus an foclóir ar leith atá ag teastáil chun ceacht leis na straitéisí a dhéanamh as Gaeilge.

  • Eolas Iniata – schema
  • Ag úsáid d’eolas iniata – using your schem.
  • Ceangailt – a connection
  • Ag déanamh ceangailte – making a connection
  • Ceangailt pearsanta leis an dtéacs – text to self
  • Ceangailt ó théacs go téacs – text to text
  • Ceangailt leis an dtéacs agus an domhan mór – text to world
  • Ba mhaith liom ceangailt a thaispeáin – I want to show a connection
  • Tá ceangailt ó théacs go téacs agam anseo – I have a text to text connection
  • Tá ceangailt agam féin leis an dtéacs – I have a text to self connection
  • Tá ceangailt pearsanta agam leis an dtéacs – I have a text to self connection
  • Tá ceangailt agam leis an domhan mór – I have a text to world connection
  • Táim ag úsáid m’eolas iniata – I’m using my schema
  • Ba cheart dom m’eolas iniata a úsáid anseo – I should use my schema here
  • Faraor, níl eolas iniata agam ar an ábhar seo – unfortunately, I don’t have schema for this subject matter
  • Tá go leor eolais iniata agam ar an dtopaic seo – I have plenty schema on this topic

PROMPTS & CUES FOR THINK ALOUD – MAKING CONNECTIONS
The following are suggestions of how making connections can be explicitly and clearly verbalised to your pupils:

  • When I read that title it immediately reminds me of a time when…….
  • That’s interesting because the same thing happened to me. I can make a connection with the text. I felt like………I imagine the character feels the same. I can understand how she feels because it happened to me.
  • I remember reading about that in another book. Let me think about what happened. ….. Making a connection to this is helping me because now I know more about the event.
  • I can make a connection with…….I never realised that those two people were so alike. I wonder did the feel the same when…..Making a connection here has made me reconsider these two people.
  • Hmm… this reminds me of an event earlier in the story. I can make a text to text connection here.

Debriefing

  • I am going to look back at the places where I made connections – what types of connections did I make here?
  • Were there any places where I was confused because I didn’t have a schema to understand?
  • What did I do in that case?
  • How did making the connections help me when I was reading the story?

CROSS CURRICULAR POTENTIAL
As the children understand strategies, they begin to use them right across the curriculum. This is true for all strategies, but most especially for making connections. Children become aware of the integrated nature of the topics covered and readily discuss connections between different lessons and subjects. This is strategy use in its most natural and authentic state and shows that the children have internalised a strategic approach not only to reading but also to thinking and learning.

VIDEO
The accompanying video shows key moments of modelling of making connections by teachers. The strategy is introduced using Think Aloud in a junior and senior class level, chomh maith le rang i nGaelscoil. While the lessons are not shown in their entirety the highlighted sections capture the essential elements of the lesson.

ANCHOR CHART & CPM
As in the prediction unit, an anchor chart is generated to record understanding of making connections . It explicitly states what making connections involves, how it operates and how it benefits the reader. The language used is that chosen by the children. The Comprehension Processing Motion (CPM) indicates to the teacher that the child has made a connection. Both the anchor chart and the photograph of the CPM are displayed in the classroom to remind the children and to allow them to refer back to it.

CHOOSING A PICTURE BOOK FOR MAKING CONNECTIONS
The choice of picture book for strategy instruction is very important. The following are the characteristics required of a book to teach making connections:

  • The children should have a knowledge bank/schema for this topic
  • It may link with a subject explored in class
  • It may develop a knowledge bank/schema for a topic
  • The book may be part of a unit studied and provide connections with other texts

A list of picture books suitable for introducing and supporting Making Connections is provided. It details picture books which have been used effectively in Irish classrooms at junior and senior class levels.

 

LOG

Section 5

Questioning

What is Questioning?

The Revised Primary Curriculum emphasises the importance of assisting pupils to develop the ability to question as indicated by the following quote:

‘Strong emphasis is placed on developing the ability to question, to analyse, to investigate, to think critically, to solve problems and to interact effectively with others’ (DES, 1999: 11).

As part of the process of Comprehension Strategy Instruction, questioning is a comprehension strategy that helps pupils in a number of ways to actively comprehend. Questioning involves the reader generating questions before, during and after reading. The first questions a reader may have will be based on the title, the front cover and perhaps the blurb of the story. As the reader progresses through the story more questions will be generated based on the information they read. At the end of a story, the reader may be left with more questions in his/her head.

Some of these questions that the reader generates will be answered as they read the story. More questions that are generated may not be answered, it may be left to the reader to ‘infer’ or read in between the lines. Quite often, the most intriguing questions are not answered explicitly in the text but are left to the reader’s own interpretation. Yet more questions may require the reader to do additional research to answer the question. The reader may have to refer to an encyclopaedia, the Internet or speak to a teacher/adult to answer the particular question they have. It is important that pupils are aware that not all questions are directly answered in the story/text.

It is equally important for a reader to understand that questions often differ based on the type of text they are reading and also the reader’s purpose. The questions that pupils will generate based on a non-fiction text will be very different to the questions based on a narrative story. When completing a unit of work on the strategy Questioning, it is important to expose pupils to generating questions with both fiction and non-fiction texts.

WHY DO GOOD READERS QUESTION?
Generating questions helps pupils to clarify meaning, to think more deeply about what they read, to organise their thinking, to locate specific information and to move deeply into the text. Ultimately, using questioning as a strategy helps to focus a reader’s attention on a text.

TEACHER GENERATED VERSUS PUPIL GENERATED QUESTIONING
At this stage, it is important to distinguish between teacher generated questioning and pupil generated questioning. Pupil generated questioning is the main focus of this comprehension strategy. As teachers we are constantly asking questions, often lower order questions. Pupils are regularly required to read a passage and then answer questions based on the text. Again, this is teacher led. The questions are being answered ‘after the fact’, after the reading has taken place. In such instances, ‘active’ comprehension is not taking place.

Rather, pupil generated questioning enables pupils to as authentic questions that arise from a true desire to learn more and to probe the text deeper. Such questioning helps pupils to be more active and engaged in their reading.

LEARNING OUTCOMES OF QUESTIONING UNIT
At the end of this unit, pupils will be enabled to:

  • Generate questions before, during and after reading a non-fiction text
  • Generate questions before, during and after reading a fiction/narrative text
  • Understand that there are different types of questions
  • Understand that the answers to the generated questions come from a range of sources. It may not be answered directly in the text itself
  • Understand that some questions may remain un-answered
  • Understand the importance of questioning

TREORACHA AS GAEILGE
Seo roinnt do na focail agus an foclóir ar leith atá ag teastáil chun ceacht leis na straitéisí a dhéanamh as Gaeilge.

  • Ceistiúcháin – questioning
  • Táim ag smaoineamh faoi… – I’m thinking about…
  • Liosta ceisteanna a bheith ag na leanaí: conas, cén fáth, cad, céard, cad chuige, cén t-am, cá bhfuil, cén áit srl.
  • Tá ceist agam faoi sin.

Frásaí chun cabhrú lena leanaí:

  • An bhfuil aon cheist agat tar éis é seo a chloisteáil?
  • An bhfuil aon rud nach bhfuaireamar amach riamh sa scéal?
  • An bhfuil aon rud atá tú fós ag smaoineamh faoi?

PROMPTS & CUES TO USE IN A THINK ALOUD
The following are suggestions of how questioning can be explicitly and clearly verbalised to your pupils:

  • As I look at the title and the front cover of this book, a lot of questions enter my head.
  • When I looked at the title and the front cover, the following question came to my mind…
  • (Discuss your questions at various stages while reading, emphasising what triggered the question) – Was it something a character said? Was it an illustration etc?
  • Now that I have asked/posed this question, I’m going to read on and see if my question is answered in the story.
  • (As the story develops) I’ve found the answer to my question in the story.
  • (OR) The author doesn’t provide the answer to my question in the story. I have to infer the answer. As a reader, I have to read in between the lines.
  • (OR) The author doesn’t provide the appropriate information to answer my question. I’m going to have to do further research to answer my question. I think I will find the answer to this question in the encyclopaedia in our school library.

TYPES OF QUESTIONS
In developing the comprehension strategy Questioning with pupils, it is important for pupils to understand that there are different types of questions. As teachers, we are aware of the different levels of questions, ranging from lower order to higher order questioning.

Traditionally children are shown how to analyse the nature of questions as they appear in textbooks. However, children benefit from opportunities to reflect on the nature of their self-generated questions. Through explicit instruction pupils become familiar with literal, inferential and evaluative questions and can see which questions provide the deepest insight into a text.

VIDEO
The accompanying video is with a Senior Class who are exploring the picture book ‘The Stranger’ by Chris Van Allsberg. This book is extremely suitable for introducing the strategy Questioning to a senior class. The teacher is completing a Think Aloud while reading the book to the pupils. The teacher is using explicit instruction to introduce the strategy of Questioning.

ANCHOR CHART & CPM
Key components of a Questioning anchor chart are:

  • What is questioning?
  • How do we question?
  • Why do we use questioning?

As in the prediction unit, an anchor chart is generated to record the class understanding surrounding questioning. It explicitly states what questioning involves, how it operates and how it benefits the reader. The language used is that used by the children. The Comprehension Processing Motion (CMP) accompanying it indicates to the teacher that the child has made a connection. Both the anchor chart and the photograph of the CMP are displayed in the classroom to remind the children and to allow them to refer back to it.

CHOOSING A PICTURE BOOK SUITABLE FOR QUESTIONING
The choice of picture book for strategy instruction is very important. The following are the characteristics required of a book to teach questioning:

  • The text should be reasonably ‘open’ to allow pupils to ask questions.
  • A text that has a number of unanswered questions at the end can be useful to illustrate that not all questions are answered in the story.

A list of picture books suitable for introducing and supporting questioning is provided. It details picture books that have been used effectively in Irish classrooms at Junior and Senior class levels.

LOG

 

Section 6

Monitoring Comprehension – Seeking Clarification

What is Clarifying?

During reading, children can struggle to make sense of the text. Proficient readers have a vast array of skills to repair and revise their comprehension once it breaks down. Explicit instruction in the comprehension strategy Monitoring Comprehension – Seeking Clarification involves equipping readers with that vast array of ways to actively repair any comprehension problems they may have. It involves assisting readers to become flexible, adaptive and independent in monitoring their understanding.

When the texts stops making sense it is vital that the reader acknowledges this and stops. The first step is to identify the issue impeding comprehension. Generally they fall into two categories:

  • There is a word/ phrase/ idea that is confusing me – I need it clarified.
  • There is a word I cannot read/decode – I need this declunked.

We will explore declunking in greater detail in the next section. Clarification is where the reader identifies an element in the text which needs further explanation. It may be a concept or a word or phrase.

WHY DO GOOD READERS CLARIFY?
Good readers monitor their comprehension during reading to ensure they are reading for meaning. They know when the text they are reading is making sense, when it is not making sense, what part does not make sense and whether or not the unclear part is critical to the overall understanding of the text.

The following are a number of strategies that a pupil needs to become familiar with to assist them when a text stops making sense:

  • Consider if the unclear portion is critical to my overall understanding of the text.
  • Read ahead to gather more information.
  • Reread a part of the text that is unclear/ambiguous.
  • Think about what you already know about the topic. What is your schema or background knowledge on the topic?
  • Consider the meaning so far.
  • Question if the author wants me to be confused at this point – could this be building up tension?

LEARNING OUTCOMES FOR CLARIFICATION UNIT
At the end of this unit the pupil will be enabled to:

  • Understand what monitoring comprehension and clarifying mean
  • Understand why good readers clarify as they read
  • Identify parts of a text that need clarification and use an appropriate strategy to repair comprehension

TREORACHA AS GAEILGE
Seo roinnt do na focail agus an foclóir ar leith atá ag teastáil chun ceacht leis na straitéisí a dhéanamh as Gaeilge.

  • Ag Clárú Clarifying
  • Ag tabhairt míniúcháin soiléir do phíosa atá deacair le tuiscint Giving a clear explanation to something that is difficult to understand
  • An dtuigeann tú cad is brí le seo? Do you understand what that means?
  • An féidir linn é seo a rá in aon shlí eile? Could we say that in another way?

Frásaí chun cabhrú lena leanaí:

  • An ndéarfaidh tú é seo i slí eile dom? Could you say that in another way?
  • An gcuirfidh tú focail eile ar seo? Will you put another word on that?
  • An bhfuil seo cosúil le haon frása nó seanfhocail? Is that like any other phrase or old saying?
  • An féidir leat an focail seo a chur in abairt? Could you put that word in a sentence?

PROMPTS AND CUES FOR CONDUCTING A THINK ALOUD ON CLARIFICATION
The following are suggestions of how clarifying can be explicitly and clearly verbalised to your pupils:

  • I didn’t understand__________ (explain confusion), so I am going to reread the paragraph again.
  • I don’t understand what the author meant by the phrase, _____________. I’m going to read on and see can I figure it out.
  • This part is extremely difficult but I’m thinking to myself ‘Do I need to fully understand this difficult section to get the overall meaning of the story?

VIDEO
The accompanying video shows key moments of modelling of seeking clarification by teachers. The strategy is introduced using Think Aloud in a junior and senior class level, chomh maith le rang i nGaelscoil. While the lessons are not shown in their entirety the highlighted sections capture the essential elements of the lesson.

ANCHOR CHART & CPM
As in the prediction unit, an anchor chart is generated to record understanding of seeking clarification. It explicitly states what seeking clarification involves, how it operates and how it benefits the reader. The language used is that chosen by the children. The Comprehension Processing Motion (CPM) indicates to the teacher that the child has made a connection. Both the anchor chart and the photograph of the CPM are displayed in the classroom to remind the children and to allow them to refer back to it.

CHOOSING A PICTURE BOOK FOR CLARIFYING The choice of picture book for strategy instruction is very important. The following are the characteristics required for a book to teach clarification:

  • The text should contain ideas which will interest and challenge the pupils to think deeply about the text.
  • If the children already have schema on a topic, the text may present a new angle they had not considered.
  • The text should contain a rich and interesting vocabulary.
  • The text should engage the readers.

Information/non-fiction books are suitable as there are often parts that need clarification. Such books often require a number of monitoring comprehension strategies such as skimming, scanning and rereading.

A list of picture books suitable for introducing and supporting Clarification is provided. It details picture books that have been used effectively in Irish classrooms at Junior and Senior level.

LOG

Section 7

Monitoring Comprehension – Declunking/Word Identification

When good readers read a text, they often come across a word that they find difficult to pronounce or decode. This difficult word is referred to as a ‘clunk’. When a reader meets a ‘clunk’, they have to ‘declunk’ it so that it makes sense. This strategy of Monitoring Comprehension involves providing pupils with explicit instruction on what to do when they meet a ‘clunk’.

Research indicates that struggling readers fail to internalize the strategies used by the teacher when assisting them to decode a word. They apply them at that moment but without explicit explanation and modeling of the thought process behind it, the reader will fail to use these strategies with their next ‘clunk’.

Read aloud session provide the ideal opportunity to explicitly explain the strategies used and the process involved. During the reading the teacher can identify a word that needs to be decoded and verbalise why she is choosing a particular strategy and how to implement it. The teacher will also clearly and explicitly indicate what to do if this process fails. Gradually responsibility is released to the pupils so that they have a menu of strategies and are cognitively aware of what to do if they have a clunk.

In the video that accompanies this section you will see children guide the teacher in ‘declunking’ a word. The process scaffolds and supports the strategy for all readers. In the later TSI video (DVD 3) you will see how these children can independently use their knowledge of declunking to determine pronunciation and meaning of words.

Two approaches are used in developing ‘declunking’ as a strategy:

  • Developing decoding skills
  • Extending vocabulary

LEARNING OUTCOMES FOR UNIT ON DECLUNKING/WORD IDENTIFICATION
At the end of this unit the pupils will be enabled to:

 

  • Understand what the terms ‘clunk’ and ‘declunking’ mean
  • Use a range of approaches to effectively ‘declunk’ a word
  • Use prefixes, suffixes and word origins to assist word identification and vocabulary development
  • Understand the importance of ‘declunking’ in developing comprehension

ACTIVITIES DESIGNED TO PROMOTE VOCABULARY DEVELOPMENT
Read alouds enable pupils to encounter new vocabulary in a meaningful context. It is important to note that vocabulary instruction is most effective when learners are provided with both a definition of the word and its use in context. Pupils also need to actively process the new word meanings through a variety of activities. It is vital that pupils experience multiple encounters with the words.

Wow Words Wall: When the teacher is completing a read aloud with a picture book, if pupils encounter a clunkor an interesting word, this can be recorded on a flip chart or whiteboard. The meaning of the word is discussed. At the end of the read aloud, all of the clunks can be added to the ‘WOW Words Wall’. This ensures that these words can be revisited.

When reading independently, pupils can record any clunks they have on a WOW words sheet. These can be discussed and added to the WOW words wall.

Activities designed to explore the structural analysis of root words, prefixes and suffixes also contribute to pupils’ understanding of words. For example, the root word tree below is an effective way to examine the meaning of root words with the senior classes.
TREORACHA AS GAEILGE
Seo roinnt do na focail agus an foclóir ar Leith atá ag teastáil chun ceacht leis na straitéisí a dhéanamh as Gaeilge.

  • Ag oibriú amach focail Working out words
  • Ag díchódáil Decoding/Declunking
  • Léigh an abairt gan an focal seo. Read the sentence without the word.
  • Bris suas na fuaimeanna. Break up the sounds.
  • Cur na fuaimeanna le chéile. Put the sounds together.
  • An bhfuil gá leis an bhfocal díreach anois? Is there a need for the word right now?

Frásaí chun cabhrú lena leanaí:

  • Abair liom na fuaimeanna. Tell me the sounds.
  • Cad a dhéanann ciall ag dul isteach sa bhearna sin? What makes sense to put into the space?
  • Anois cén focal atá cosúil leis sin, ag tosnú le…? What word is like that, starting with….?

PROMPTS & CUES FOR THINK ALOUD
The following are suggestions of how ‘declunking’ can be explicitly and clearly verbalised to your pupils:

  • I’m after meeting a clunk. I’m going to skip the word and read to the end of the sentence to see if it make sense.
  • Can I figure out from the sentence what word would make sense here?
  • I’m going to break it up into syllables pre-cip-i-ta-tion. We learned the other day that all words that end with the letters –tion sound like competition or transportation. That really helps me to figure out this word ‘precipitation’!
  • I can read this word ‘gladiator’ but I don’t really know what it means so it’s a clunk for me. I’m going to use my schema/background knowledge to help me figure out the meaning of this word. I remember watching a film called ‘Gladiator’ a few years ago and in the film the gladiators were all locked up and only allowed to fight in the big arena. So, from my schema, I think another word for ‘gladiator’ is prisoner.

ANCHOR CHART & CPM
As in the prediction unit, an anchor chart is generated to record understanding of declunking. It explicitly states what declunking involves, how it operates and how it benefits the reader. The language used is that chosen by the children. The Comprehension Processing Motion (CPM) indicates to the teacher that the child has made a connection. Both the anchor chart and the photograph of the CPM are displayed in the classroom to remind the children and to allow them to refer back to it.

 

LOG

Section 8

Determining Importance

THE IMPORTANCE OF DETERMINING IMPORTANCE
We live in an information age where internet search engines provide children with thousands of pages on any topic. Children need to be enabled to determine what information they need to know and what information they do not. Like all comprehension skills, it is cross curricular and children will need this skill in all subject areas.

WHAT IS DETERMINING IMPORTANCE?
When proficient readers read a piece of text, they unconsciously separate the essential from the non- essential information they determine what is important in the text. Non proficient readers fail to do this and count any and all information as important. In essence, one could describe this skill as a sorting and ordering one as children need to :

  • Identify all key pieces of information or facts
  • Sort this information into categories according to the task
  • Order the facts in an appropriate way.

Determining Importance is an evolving skill for children in so for as it changes in accordance with the task set. For example the skill of determining importance needs to be modified slightly depending on the genre children are reading. Prior knowledge (schema) also has a major influence on Determining Importance.

In order to determine importance:

  • Readers use their background knowledge and beliefs to decide what is important
  • Readers must consciously and unconsciously separate the essential from the non-essential information
  • Readers must ponder self or group generated questions to direct their reading.

Perhaps, one of the more difficult aspects of determining importance for readers is their ability to justify their choices and to be objective.

Justification – If a reader chooses their main point they need to be able to explain and support this choice. Readers who can determine importance don’t simply say ‘because I thought it was’. They can back up their point through connection with the text.

Objectivity – Children can think all information is important. Through determining importance, their minds become like sieves – separating information into essential and non-essential facts.

LEARNING OUTCOMES FOR DETERMINING IMPORTANCE UNIT
At the end of this unit the child will be enabled to:

  • Understand what determining importance is
  • Understand why we need to determine importance
  • Separate the facts of a piece of text – important and essential to non important and interesting
  • Group facts according to topic/headings
  • Edit their essential facts/main points as they read more of the book
  • Justify their decision of facts using appropriate evidence from text
  • Modify the approach to Determining Importance based on text genre

TREORACHA AS GAEILGE
Seo roinnt do na focail agus an foclóir ar leith atá ag teastáil chun ceacht leis na straitéisí a dhéanamh as Gaeilge.

  • Ag roghnú Pointí tábhachtacha – Determining Importance
  • Seo nuair a léann tú scéal agus roghnaíonn tú na pointí is tábhachtaí agus coiméadann tú iad ó na pointí nach bhfuil ró-thábhachtach – Determining Importance is when you read a story and you try and separate the important from the no- importance points.
  • An bhfuil seo níos tábhachtaí ná sin? Is that more important than that?
  • An ceart dom é seo a roghnú? Am I right to choose it?
  • An gcuirfidh mé é seo i mo thuairisc? Will I keep it in my memory?
  • Cad atá tábhachtach sa phíosa seo? What is important about this piece?
  • Cad atá níos tábhachtaí anseo? What is more important than that?
  • An feidir linn aon phointi a cheangail/eolas a chur le cheile? Can we join any points/information together?

FICTION GENRE
As they develop greater proficiency with the strategy children should be introduced to progressively challenging narrative texts (class novels) from which they can determine the main idea of chapters and sections.

NON FICTION GENRE
In order to determine the main points in a non-fiction text, children can:

  • Access the text through the index, table of contents
  • Use headings
  • Scan the text
  • Skim the text
  • Be aware of nonfiction conventions: photographs, charts, inserts, graphs, bold print

PROMPTS AND CLUES FOR THINK ALOUD – DETERMINING IMPORTANCE
Setting a purpose should be the first step for all lessons focusing on Determining Importance. A reader’s purpose shapes what s/he determines to be important. Setting a purpose helps readers focus their reading and influences what the reader pays attention to. Graphic organizers are especially useful for setting a purpose when children are developing the skill of determining importance.

  • Look the author must want us to pay close attention to this sentence. It is in a different type of font/ it is much bigger.
  • I think we have moved onto a different section of information because the picture shows the animal hunting – before he was in his home.
  • I think I can add this information to another piece we read earlier in the book.
  • Is this really important information or is it just interesting?

DEBRIEFING

  • I am going to sort through all the information we have gathered
    • Can we join any facts together?
    • Have we repeated some facts?
    • Do we need to include all the facts we have gathered?
    • What information do we need to have first?
    • What information should be put together to form a section/paragraph?
  • How has determining importance helped us in understanding about…..
  • Were there any hints in the text that helped us to determine importance?

VIDEO
The accompanying video shows key moments of modelling of Determining Importance by teachers in different classes. Different genres of books are also used. While the lessons are not shown in their entirety, the highlighted sections capture the essential elements of the lessons.

ANCHOR CHART & CPM
As in other strategy units, an anchor chart is made following the explicit instruction of a particular strategy. It can be generated as a whole class, in groups or in pairs. It is a written record in the children’s words of their understanding of what the strategy is, how to apply it and why they need to use it. The CPM is a visual symbol that the children use when they want to show that they are using a particular strategy. The Anchor Chart and the CPM are displayed in the classroom as a reference tool for the children.

CHOOSING A PICTURE BOOK FOR DETERMINING IMPORTANCE
The choice of picture book for strategy instruction is very important. The following are the characteristics required of a book suitable to teach determining importance:

  • While it is important to use a wide variety of genres to demonstrate skills, it may be useful to start with non fiction books as they naturally lend themselves to determining importance through their use of headings, sections etc….
  • Chose books that visually determine importance by changes in text type, size of font etc.
  • In the fiction genre, the book should have a strong story journey including place names, times etc.
  • Books based on nature or biographies of famous people are especially useful for determining importance.

A list of picture books suitable for introducing and supporting determining importance is provided. It details picture books which have been used effectively in Irish classrooms at both junior and senior levels.

WRITING GENRES
Linkage and Integration are core principles of the Revised Curriculum. Determining Importance lends itself naturally to the genre of report writing. Therefore, it would be extremely useful to link determining importance with lessons on report writing. Children become aware of the wide variety of genres when they are exposed to an extensive range of picture books. In turn they use these different characteristics in written activities. The following is a web link to pages that provide exemplars of the different writing genres and provides blank organisers for children to use.
http://www.teachers.ash.org.au/jeather/writingfun/writingfun.html

 

TRANSCRIPT OF DETERMINING IMPORTANCE/MODELLING LESSON

 

LOG

Section 9

Inference

What is Inference?
Inference is a process whereby a proficient reader blends information from the text with his/her schema and prior knowledge to create opinions that are not explicitly state by the author but are inferred through hints etc. In essence, inference is ‘reading between the lines’. It is the creation of the implicit meaning of the text by the reader.

In using inference, a proficient reader will

  • Use background knowledge to make decisions about text
  • Make decisions about texts that are not explicit
  • Consider texts in terms of their background knowledge to create unique meanings by supplying information that is not provided by the author

This raises an interesting question – what is the difference between prediction and inference? Prediction is making a ‘guess’ about what might happen next. It may or may not be right. Inferring is piecing together clues from the text and your own life to draw a conclusion that is correct. Children can find it difficult to distinguish between these two strategies initially and need support to do so.

LEARNING OUTCOMES FOR INFERENCE UNIT
At the end of this unit the child will be enabled to:

  • Understand what inference is
  • Understand the difference between prediction and inference
  • Piece together clues from text, picture and schema to derive a deeper meaning
  • Justify their inference using appropriate information from the text and the three types of connections
  • Revise their inference as the text progresses
  • Discuss others’ inferences

TREORACHA AS GAEILGE
Seo roinnt do na focail agus an foclóir ar leith ata ag teastáil chun ceacht leis na straitéisí a dhéanamh as Gaeilge.

  • Ag léamh isteach Inference(reading into)
  • Saghas tomhas A type of prediction
  • Ag usáid an t-eolas atá acu ón leabhar, chun teacht suas le rudai a d’fhéadfadh a bheith

bainteach leis an scéal. Using the information that is in the book to gain a deeper understanding of the story.

  • Nod (Hint)
  • Thug an t-udar nod dúinn nuair… The author gives us a hint when
  • Tá nod ann There is a hint there
  • An gceapann tú go bhfuil an t-údar ag tabhairt nod dúinn? Do you think that the author is giving us a hint?
  • Conas go bhfuilim ag teacht suas le seo? How did I come up with that?
  • Cad a thuigimse anois? What do I think now?
  • An athraíonn é seo mo thuairim? Does it change my opinion?
  • An athraíonn é seo mo thomhas? Does it change my prediction?

PROMPTS AND CLUES FOR THINK ALOUD – INFERENCE
Introduction

  • Let’s activate our schema – Have we any schema about this book? What is it?
  • Can we make any predictions from the title? Picture?
  • Have we any connections? I have a text to text connection because in history…….

Development

  • I think I can make an inference. I think the character is afraid because in the story ……
  • I think that the boy is in …………….. because in that time in history ………………..
  • I think that this story is going to end like ………………… because he is going through the same as that character.
  • I think my inference needs to be changed… How can he ……
  • I think the author is trying to tell us …….

Debriefing

  • Let’s revise our inferences. How did we come up with that conclusion?
  • Does my inference match with what the author is trying to tell me? Do I need to revise my inference?
  • How did this skill help me when I was reading the book? Would I have understood the true meaning of the book if I hadn’t used this skill?

VIDEO
The accompanying video shows key moments in modelling the development of inference. While the lessons are not shown in their entirety, the highlighted sections capture the essential elements of the lessons.

ANCHOR CHART & CPM
As in other strategy units, an anchor chart is made following the explicit instruction of a particular strategy. It can be generated as a whole class, in groups or in pairs. It is a written record in the children’s words of their understanding of what the strategy is, how to apply it and why they need to use it. The CPM is a visual symbol that the children use when they want to show that they are using a particular strategy. The Anchor Chart and the CPM are displayed in the classroom as a reference tool for the children.

CHOOSING A PICTURE BOOK FOR INFERENCE
The choice of picture book for strategy instruction is very important. The following are the characteristics required of a book suitable to teach inference:

  • Pupils must be unfamiliar with the text.
  • Pupils must have some degree of a schema for the topic as they need to be able to make informed choices and schema is needed to justify their choices.
  • It may be useful to use a book that is based on a history topic where the children can use their schema to develop this skill.
  • It may be useful if the book has one main question that can be answered through inference especially when the skill is being introduced. The book therefore needs to contain a number of clues that guide children to finding the answer.

A list of picture books suitable for introducing and supporting determining importance is provided. It details picture books which have been used effectively in Irish classrooms at both junior and senior levels.

 

TEACHER READ-ALOUDSCAFFOLDING THE STRATEGY OF INFERRING

 

 

LOG

Section 10

Synthesis

What is Synthesis?
Synthesis is a complex, evolving process where a reader constructs and manipulates meaning during and after reading. For teachers, synthesis should be described as when children use all their comprehension skills, that have been explicitly taught and modelled, to construct their own individual meaning from a piece of text. Synthesis cannot be described simply as a skill – rather synthesis is an understanding that reading is not the deployment of a sole skill but the need to use a variety of strategies continuously in order to construct meaning from text.

If one was to simplify synthesis, it may be described as summarization whereby readers retell the story. However, this oversimplifies what synthesis is. In a way, while the end product is important, synthesis is more about the process.

When proficient readers deploy this skill they;

  • Reread to clarify
  • Reread to deepen understanding
  • Combine new ideas with earlier interpretations
  • Organize the different pieces to create a meaning greater than the sum of each piece.

LEARNING OUTCOMES FOR SYNTHESIS UNIT
At the end of this unit the child will be enabled to:

  • Understand what synthesis is.
  • Understand how and why we use synthesis when reading.
  • Use all the comprehension strategies independently.
  • Chose the most appropriate reading strategy/strategies when reading different texts.
  • Be a confident skills driven reader.

TREORACHA AS GAEILGE
Seo roinnt do na focail agus an foclóir ar leith ata ag teastáil chun ceacht leis na straitéisí a dhéanamh as Gaeilge.

  • Ag Soiléiriú Synthesis
  • ag cur na píosaí eolais atá bailithe agat ó phíosa den scéal le chéile chun tuiscint níos doimhne a fháil ar an scéal Gathering all the information to attain a deeper understanding of the text.
  • Ag usaid na scileanna go léir Using all the skills)
  • Eolas Iniata Schema
  • Tomhas Predictions
  • Pictiurlann sa Cheann Visualisation
  • Ceangailt Connections
  • Ag Léamh Isteach Inference
  • Ceistiúcháin Questioning
  • Ag Roghnú Pointí Tábhachtacha. Determining Importance
  • Ag Clárú Clarifying
  • Ag Díchódáil Declunking

PROMPTS AND CLUES FOR THINK ALOUD – SYNTHESIS
It may be useful to revise all the comprehension strategies at this point using the anchor charts and CPM. It will refresh the children’s minds.

The teacher will then model the skill through a think aloud whereby all skills will be deployed interchangeably.

  • I have a prediction here because…
  • I have schema and a text to self connection here because I live by the sea and we read a book on fish

DEBRIEFING

  • What skills have I used?
  • Did I use the same skill when reading the text?
  • Can I only use one skill at one time?
  • What strategies did I use most of?
  • Are there any skills I could have taught about more?

VIDEO
The following video is an exemplar of how synthesis can be development in the classroom. It shows how the children need to use a variety of strategies that have been explicitly taught previously. While all children need to grow in their understanding that we need to use a variety of strategies to be proficient readers, the video focuses primarily on synthesis in senior classes.

ANCHOR CHART & CPM
As in other strategy units, an anchor chart is made following the explicit instruction of a particular strategy. It can be generated as a whole class, in groups or in pairs. It is a written record in the children’s words of their understanding of what the strategy is, how to apply it and why they need to use it. The CPM is a visual symbol that the children use when they want to show that they are using a particular strategy. The anchor chart and the CPM are displayed in the classroom as a reference tool for the children. CHOOSING A PICTURE BOOK FOR SYNTHESIS
The choice of picture book for strategy instruction is very important. The following are the characteristics required of a book suitable to illustrate how synthesis can be used:

  • Pupils need to be unfamiliar with the text.
  • It would be useful if the pupils had relevant schema for the book to encourage questioning and connections. It may be useful also to choose a book with a similar theme/topic that has already been covered to encourage comparisons and text to text connections.
  • Picture books with a strong story – picture books based on a particular history theme are quite useful as all strategies can be applied.

A list of picture books suitable for introducing and supporting synthesis is provided. It details picture books which have been used effectively in Irish classrooms at both junior and senior levels.

CROSS CURRICULAR INTEGRATION
Synthesis is not a strategy that is solely associated with reading. It is a comprehension strategy that is applicable to all areas of the curriculum. Without synthesis, information in general cannot be internalised in any subject area. When children have internalised this skill and can use it in an independent way, they will interact more fully with all aspects of the curriculum.

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Section 11

Application for Strategies

What is Synthesis?
The previous sections you have explored the individual strategies of:

  • Predicting
  • Visualising
  • Making Connections
  • Questioning
  • Monitoring Comprehension – Clarifying & Declunking
  • Determining Importance
  • Inferring
  • Synthesising

The focus of these sections has been on initial teacher modelling through explicit instruction with a scaffolded release of responsibility to the child. As children become independent strategy users they will require opportunities to apply them autonomously and to self-evaluate their progress. This section will concentrate on the self-regulated use of strategies in collaborative groups and the role played by assessment for learning.

At the end of this section you will be enabled to:

  • Appreciate the full cycle of scaffolded instruction from teacher modelling through to independent self-regulated strategy use
  • Prepare pupils for supportive and engaged learning as part of a collaborative group
  • Understand and establish Transactional Strategies Instruction (TSI) as a methodology in your class
  • Choose texts appropriate for TSI
  • Observe pupils independently using strategies to comprehend the meaning of a text using TSI
  • Appreciate the cross-curricular potential for strategic thinkers using ‘Jigsaw’ approach
  • Become familiar with the term Assessment for Learning and the appropriate range of AfL tools including Sharing the Learning Intention, Self-Assessment and Feedback for Learning
  • Become familiar with a range of approaches to assess pupils’ use of comprehension strategies

INDEPENDENT SELF-REGULATED STRATEGIC READERS
The aim of comprehension strategy instruction is to develop active and purposefulreaders who are able to apply a collection of strategies to construct personal interpretations of the text, evaluating and questioning as they read. From the initial think aloud, the teacher has been scaffolding her instruction to release responsibility for strategy use to the reader. As children’s competence and confidence in strategy use increases, opportunities should be allowed for pupils to model and explain strategies for one another. In collaborative groups, the children work together to construct a personal interpretation as they apply strategies to the text. The long-term aim of such activity is that the pupils internalise and adapt strategies for use when interacting with future texts.

TRANSACTIONAL STRATEGIES INSTRUCTION (TSI)
(PRESSLEY ET AL., 1992)

Transactional Strategies Instruction is the term given to peer-led collaborative groups constructing personal understanding of their text while simultaneously modelling strategy use for each other. The mixed ability grouping allows struggling readers to understand the processes used by more expert readers. Put simply TSI is a group of 4/5 readers of differing abilities using their strategies to devise a collaborative interpretation of the text. The term ‘transactional’ refers to the fact that the meaning does not lie solely with the reader or in the text, rather in the interaction between the two.

WHY COLLABORATIVE GROUPS?
Whole class discussion of the text is a very active, engaging and interesting experience for all involved. As a teacher you are constantly being forced to reconsider your own interpretation of the text based on the questions and insights provided by the children. It is very rewarding and exciting to appreciate the higher level of thinking involved. However, a whole class read-aloud with thirty children brings its own limitations. A high quality picture book will inspire many and varied strategies from all pupils. By responding to each other, the children are refining and revising their understanding. But all of this takes time. It is a challenge to find the balance between allowing the discussion of strategy use deepen the understanding of the story and the need to keep the story alive by reading on. One of the most difficult aspects of read aloud is deciding to continue to read the text while children are using their CPMs to indicate strategy use.

Collaborative groups provide a solution for this dilemma. In a group of four or five everybody gets to express their thoughts and opinions, while the text is still being explored in a timely manner. It also provides a supportive environment for children who find a whole class discussion daunting. Furthermore, individual children can achieve more with the support and encouragement of their peers, than would be possible working independently. Finally, the collaborative interpretation of the text reached is far deeper than would have been possible by any individual – Four heads are indeed better than one.

PREPARATION BEFORE STARTING TSI
Seeing TSI in action is similar to placing the final piece of the jigsaw and being able to appreciate fully the part each piece of the puzzle has played in forming the picture. Similar to making a jigsaw, much preparatory work needs to be done before children can engage in TSI. Developing children’s readiness for such collaborative group work is central to the ultimate success of the lessons and is a process that should not be rushed.

The previous modules have explored in detail the approach taken in explicitly teaching comprehension strategies. Almost from the start of the school year a teacher should begin preparing his/her children for collaborative group work. The first decision is the groups themselves. The class needs to be divided into groups of four, with five members being preferable to three where necessary. A number of factors need to be considered in arranging the groups:

  • Reading abilities based on teacher observation and standardised reading results (Each group normally contains one expert reader, two average readers and one struggling reader. This will obviously vary according to each class)
  • Leadership skills & personalities
  • Mixture of boys and girls where appropriate
  • Focus, attention and motivation of group members.

The group membership is maintained for the year, developing co-operation, support and a common understanding of accepted practices in the group. I have found it effective to use these groups for all collaborative assignments across the curriculum.

It is as important to explicitly teach and model group work strategies as those of comprehension. Before commencing group activities the teacher explicitly explains her expectations for the group. Clearly stating that:

  • All members are to take an active role
  • Language that may be used to include shy/reluctant members of the group
  • The importance of body language and tone of voice
  • How to express your views in a positive/ constructive manner
  • NEVER using the phrase ‘That’s wrong/ silly etc.’
  • Compromise!!! – My answer may not always be selected from the group
  • Turn taking – not dominating the group
  • Supporting each other
  • Making eye contact when speaking to each other
  • Maintaining only one conversation in the group
  • Remaining task focus
  • How to refocus members of the group
  • When to seek help/guidance from the teacher

Of course all of the above is not accomplished in one session. Throughout the year the teacher reviews, models and scaffolds the children’s group skills development so that when she is ready to begin TSI the children are comfortable and confident working together socially.

The initial group sessions can be on simple activities where the focus is merely interacting positively with each other. Quizes, puzzles and board games are ideal for this. As the children become more proficient with turn-taking, compromising and involving each other in the process, group work can be extended to other curricular areas. The teacher sits in as a member of each group, modelling and scaffolding the desired behaviour of a good group member. It is essential that the groups are operating effectively before TSI is introduced and it is advisable to delay TSI until your children are competent with both the comprehension strategies and the collaborative group work elements.

WHEN SHOULD I START TSI?
As with comprehension strategy instruction, the pace and development of TSI is determined largely by the readiness of your class. TSI has been used very successfully from 2nd to 6th class. In 2nd – 4th class a guideline of between the February mid-term break and the Easter holidays is realistic. You know your children best and will be able to determine when they have internalised the strategies sufficiently to self-regulate their application. With regards to the senior classes, it is most effective to wait until the beginning of Term 2.

INTRODUCING TSI TO CHILDREN
Teacher modelling and scaffolding is a central feature of TSI. When the teacher first decides to introduce TSI to the children it is advisable to:

  • Explain why we are doing this – sharing the learning intention
  • Review the success we have achieved in working together collaboratively
  • Be clear and explicit about the role and responsibilities of each group member.

ROLE EXPECTATIONS
Each group member is assigned a role as either:

  • Leader
  • Prediction Expert
  • Questioning Expert
  • Declunking Expert
  • Clarifying Expert (Fifth optional role – if not used this role is assumed by the leader)

The purpose of the role is to further internalise the strategy. If I am the Prediction Expert then I need to know why, how and when people make predictions. I am self-regulating my use of the strategy while also modelling it for others. It is important to note that as prediction expert I am not ‘in charge’ of making predictions rather I ensure that predictions are made and discussed and I allow opportunities for others to respond to predictions. The teacher will explicitly explain each role to the children, taking the opportunity to model each role over the coming days. As you can imagine it is important not to introduce too much too soon here. Modelling a different role each day for the class will ensure that within a week the children are familiar with them, trying to show them all in one sitting will only lead to confusion and blurring of role expectations.

In future sessions you may wish to assign the roles to each pupil. There is no ‘best’ role, but it may be advisable not to assign the role of ‘declunking expert’ to your weaker reader until he/she is familiar with the strategies for declunking a word. The same roles are generally maintained for a week when initially using TSI to allow the pupils become familiar with them. After that the roles are rotated and the process repeated. When pupils have experienced all roles, you/they may decide on an alternative way to assign roles. A ‘role card bag’ is included in a folder each team receives. Children randomly select a card from the bag and that indicates the role they will assume. A copy of the role cards and all other resources included in this folder will accompany this module.

Children with learning difficulties can assume a full and valued role as a member of the TSI group. In fact it can be a very rewarding experience for them as they come to realise that decoding is only one element of reading and that when it comes to making predictions, connections, visualising etc. they can be the equal of the more able readers. This is a very affirming experience and it is wonderful to watch their self-esteem blossom through this process. The learning support or resource teacher can play an important role by preparing in advance for the next role they will assume. In the video that accompanies this section you will see children with specific learning difficulties assuming full and valued roles in TSI groups.

CUE CARD/SCRIPT
Once the children are familiar with the roles the teacher needs to model how to interact with the text. Even though the children were responding to each other during read alouds, the teacher normally chaired the discussion, prompting, scaffolding and synthesising the issues. Now the responsibility is being passed to the children. To facilitate the discussion and exploration of the text a ‘script/ cue card’ is placed in their folder. The teacher explicitly explains how to use the cue card:

  • On your role card you will see a picture. The leader has a picture of Bart Simpson. Anytime that Bart Simpson appears that is a sign that you need to lead the group discussion.
  • I am the prediction expert so I will lead my group members by making a prediction. I can see if anyone wants to respond if they make a hand signal (CPM). Then I will invite the other members to make predictions. I will be in charge of this section of the discussion so I will make sure everyone is involved, that no one dominates the group, that everyone feels respected.
  • Discuss how much text should be read before stopping to discuss our strategies (As much as my hand can cover… then to the end of that paragraph).
  • Discuss the importance of valuing each other’s contributions and treating all contributions in a positive manner. Rather than just listening to someone make a prediction and moving on it is respectful to tell them that it was an interesting point/ made me think/ a good prediction etc.
  • I am the de-clunking expert. I am not expected to know how to read all the words. I need to give strategies to help my group declunk a word. I have to think of ways to declunk a word without just telling my friend the word. If we come across an interesting word I will record it on my WOW card (copy of card in TSI folder accompanying this module). Later the teacher will explore the word with the whole class.

The script is like a menu of strategies. Self-regulating, independent learners will be able to choose those that best suit their interpretation of the text. The cue card will lead the pupils through the discussion and help scaffold their strategy use. However as the children become more independent the script will impede the discussion of the text. At this point advise the children to leave the script in their folder. They will still be able to refer to it, but a more authentic discussion will result when they are not constrained by a prescribed script.

TEACHER INVOLVEMENT
The initial fortnight of implementation sees the most involvement on the part of the teacher. After modelling each role with a group in front of the class, allow the groups to begin to work independently. The support of LST, RTT, RT or other adults at this stage would be beneficial. It has been found most effective to spend one entire session with each group, modelling and scaffolding as a collaborative member of the team.

While the other groups may not receive your support at this stage, working solely with one group will ensure that they completely understand the process at the end of the session. Another group can be focused on the next day. Even operating on her own a teacher could ensure that all groups are fully functioning within a fortnight. Trying to support several groups in one session can dilute the effectiveness of the instruction.

Once pupils are comfortable with TSI the teacher continues to release responsibility, acting as a facilitator rather than a director of the lesson. This can be a difficult role to assume – as teachers we are used to being in control of the learning activity. However, it is a very proud moment when you see children independently using strategies to develop a personal understanding of the text. They are so active and engaged that the conversation is always on topic and never wanders to what they did last night. At this stage the teacher adopts a supporting role, she may be approached to help scaffold understanding when the pupils’ strategies have failed. She is also still using read alouds to support and scaffold strategies at a whole-class level.

SELF-ASSESSMENT
One of the aims of TSI is to develop self-regulating strategic readers. To become so children need to be cognitive of the degree to which they use strategies in the reading of a text. At the end of each TSI session the children use a self-assessment sheet found in their folder. Working collaboratively they review:

  • How well they worked together
  • How well they
    • Made predictions
    • Made connections
    • Declunked words
    • Questioned
    • Visualised
    • Sought clarification
    • Inferred
    • Responded to each other
  • The most interesting thing discussed
  • Where they wish to focus next time

By using this self-assessment the children are aware of strategies they are using effectively, but also can focus on developing others in the next session. A copy of the self-assessment form is in the TSI folder accompanying this module.

TEXT SELECTION
TSI can be used with all text genres, but as with read-alouds best results will be obtained when using high quality, interesting literature. It is impossible to have an authentic, interesting discussion of a text if the children have read it beforehand. Poetry, novels, other curricular texts can all generate high levels of interaction.

CONCLUSION
TSI is a highly effective approach to support active, self-regulating strategic readers who are able to work collaboratively to generate personal interpretations of a text. It requires intensive modelling and scaffolding of group and strategy development prior to and in the initial stages of implementation. TSI ensures involvement of all pupils and allows pupils to internalize strategies for their own use.

TSI FOLDER – RESOURCES
A selection of resources for implementing TSI is supplied.

VIDEO
A video accompanies this module showing fifth class pupils using their strategies to explore a text on Roald Dahl. Two groups are followed as they create personal interpretations of the text. The pupils first received explicit strategy instruction in September and were first introduced to TSI in late January. The footage was taken in May, when the pupils had approximately four months experience of TSI. The groups are mixed ability.

REFERENCES
Presseley, M., El-Dinaer, P.B., Gaskins, I., Schuder, T., Bergman, J., Almasi, L., & Brown, P. (1992). Beyond direct explanation: Transactional instruction of reading comprehension strategies. Elementary School Journal, 92, 511-554.

WHAT IS JIGSAW?
‘Jigsaw’ is a co-operative groupwork activity, which can be used to further develop the comprehension strategies. It was first developed by Aronson in 1978 and was one of the first co-operative learning methods developed. It was later revised and adapted by Robert Slavin. In my work with the Comprehension Strategies this year, the groupwork activity ‘Jigsaw’ can be combined with the comprehension strategies.

Jigsaw highlights the cross-curricular potential of the comprehension strategies. It is particularly suitable for the senior classes when exploring a topic in History or Geography. Such an approach illustrates to pupils that literacy is across the curriculum and that the comprehension strategies they used when reading a picture book or a novel can also be used when reading about a topic in History or Geography.

HOW DO YOU SET UP ‘JIGSAW’ IN YOUR CLASSROOM?
It involves dividing pupils into co-operative groups of three or four members, the same groups as for Transactional Strategy Instruction. Each co-operative group member is assigned a letter, A, B, C, or D. Pupils study a topic e.g. Marie Curie. Each pupil will read and explore one sub-topic relating to Marie Curie.

  • Pupil A: Marie’s early life
  • Pupil B: Marie’s dream to go to University
  • Pupil C: Marie’s achievements
  • Pupil D: Marie’s later life

The teacher prepares reading material for each sub-topic prior to the lesson.

Each piece of the jigsaw is independent but all of the pieces are needed to satisfactorily learn about the life of Marie Curie. Pupils begin work in their ‘Base Group’. This ‘Base Group’ has pupil A, B, C, and D. The teacher provides pupils with a text based on their particular sub-topic e.g. Pupil A receives Text A ‘Marie’s Early Life’. They are given time to read their sub-topic. During this time, the pupil independently identifies any ‘clunks’ they have, any important points, questions, connections etc.

After a sufficient period of time, pupils then form ‘Expert Groups’. This involves all of the ‘A’ pupils forming a group, all of the ‘B’ pupils forming a group etc. Depending on the size of your class, it may be necessary to form two ‘Expert A’ groups. Try not to have expert groups larger than 4 pupils. When pupils are in their ‘Expert Group’, they are given an opportunity to collaboratively discuss their sub-topic and share any connections, clunks or questions they have. They also identify the Very Important Points (VIP) in the text that they will be later explaining to their base group.

It is important to note, that while pupils are in their base group or expert group the teacher monitors each group’s progress and acts as a facilitator, providing additional support when needed. After a sufficient period of time, pupils return to their base group and teach each other the sub-topic they studied. When each pupil has explained their sub-topic, pupils then complete a ‘Placemat Assessment’ activity. This involves pupils recording their Very Important Points. This placemat assessment activity is shown in the video. Each pupil in the group is accountable in this way.

The video shows an example of a ‘Jigsaw’ lesson with a senior class. It is important to note that there are other variations of the use of Jigsaw. It is also important to note that developing such co-operative groupwork structures in your classroom takes time. It involves quite a lot of movement during the lesson. However, once effective classroom routines are established pupils become accustomed to the format of the lesson. Also, pupils need to be familiar with and comfortable using the strategies before beginning work in co-operative groups.

ASSESSMENT: AN OVERVIEW
Assessment is considered an integral part of the teaching and learning process. The integrated use of assessment as part of the teaching and learning process has the power to enhance the quality of children’s learning in literacy. The etymology of the term ‘assessment’ is noteworthy. It originates from the Latin, assidere, which means ‘to sit beside’ (O’Leary, 2006: 8). This image of the teacher and learner sitting beside each other working in tandem evokes a positive relationship between teaching, learning and assessment. Monitoring pupils’ progress in different curricular areas is considered an essential function of assessment. Information from assessment enhances a teacher’s capacity to provide a comprehensive picture of a child’s progress and development and impacts on future teaching plans. The general aims of the Revised Primary Curriculum (DES, 1999: 7) inherently recognise the importance of developing the full potential of the child. To enable this holistic development, the integral role of assessment in the teaching and learning cyclical process is considered essential as demonstrated by the following definition:

‘Assessment is integral to all areas of the curriculum and it encompasses the diverse aspects of learning: the cognitive, the creative, the affective, the physical and the social. In addition to the products of learning, the strategies, procedures and stages in the process of learning are assessed’ (DES, 1999: 18).

The NCCA similarly emphasises the relationship between teaching, learning and assessment in defining assessment as:

‘the process of gathering, interpreting, using and reporting information about a child’s progress and achievement in developing knowledge, skills and attitudes’ (NCCA, 2007: 23).

Assessment is therefore, not solely concerned with gathering information about a child’s progress but also about interpreting, using and communicating this assessment information to inform future teaching and learning. In 2007, the NCCA launched ‘Assessment in the Primary Curriculum: Guidelines for Schools’. There are many ideas on how to incorporate assessment into everyday classroom practice in this document.

WHAT IS ASSESSMENT FOR LEARNING?
The ‘Assessment Guidelines’ divide assessment into two categories, ‘Assessment for Learning’ and ‘Assessment of Learning’. This is described as a ‘re-envisioning of assessment’. Assessment for Learning is closely allied to ‘formative assessment’, assessing during the learning process. Assessment of Learning is closely allied to ‘summative assessment’, assessment at the end of a unit of work.

Assessment for LearningAssessment of Learning
Self-AssessmentQuestioning
ConferencingTeacher Observation
Portfolio AssessmentTeacher-designed tasks and tests
Concept MappingStandardised Testing

 

KEY PRINCIPLES OF THE AFL APPROACH INCLUDE:

  • Sharing learning goals with students
  • Helping students recognise the standards they are aiming for
  • Involving students in assessing their own learning
  • Providing feedback, which helps students to recognise what they must do to close any gaps in their knowledge or understanding
  • Communicating confidence that every student can improve
  • Adjusting teaching to take account of the results of assessment (NCCA, 2008:1)

Assessing pupil’s use of the strategies is a vital part of Comprehension Strategy Instruction. The following section will outline three principle approaches of Assessment for Learning that can be used in conjunction with the comprehension strategies.

SHARING THE LEARNING INTENTION
Sharing the learning intention and making criteria for success explicit to learners is regarded as a key feature of Assessment for Learning. This is connected with the teacher’s explicit instruction of the comprehension strategies. Pupils are aware from the beginning what strategy they are learning about and why they are learning the particular strategy. Sharing the learning intention with pupils involves using explicit instruction and this creates greater transparency between the teacher and pupils. It also ensures that pupils understand the criteria for success. The creation of anchor charts serves as a reminder of the learning intention for each particular strategy. There has been clear evidence in each of the videos of the teacher explicitly stating what he/she hopes the children will focus on for that particular lesson.

SELF-ASSESSMENT
Self-assessment involves pupils looking at their own work in a reflective way. They identify positive aspects of the work and parts that could be improved and try and set a personal goal for themselves. Self-assessment is a skill that requires a considerable amount of time to develop. It is directly connected to the ‘gradual release of responsibility’ model that was outlined. It enables the child to take greater responsibility for his/her own learning.

Self-assessment can be incorporated into the co-operative groupwork activities used as part of Comprehension Strategy Instruction. At the end of a T.S.I. or a Jigsaw lesson, it is a good idea to complete a Group Self-Evaluation. Pupils in their co-operative group discuss and rate how they co-operated as a group. They can also identify an area they may need to improve upon for their next T.S.I. lesson.

The creation of self-assessment checklists is a useful way to support pupils in revising and editing their writing in a particular genre. To create such a self-assessment checklist, a good idea is to scan a sample of a pupil’s written work. Teacher and pupils can then collaboratively examine the story and compose an appropriate checklist. It is recommended that teacher and pupils collaboratively create these self-assessment checklists focusing on the important text features in each genre. The format of the attached self-assessment checklists could be used with pupil’s own statements, as there is a greater sense of ownership for pupils if they create the checklists themselves. This is similar to the rationale for creating your own class anchor charts. Pupils can re-examine their written piece using the self-assessment checklist and then make appropriate revisions to their written piece before completing the final draft.

FEEDBACK FOR LEARNING
Conferencing is an assessment method, which provides the opportunity for specific feedback to one pupil or a group of pupils (NCCA, 2007: 24). Teacher/pupil conferencing in a supportive classroom environment is considered a ‘structured discussion involving a teacher and one or more pupils that focus on a specific topic or piece of work whether ongoing or completed’ (INTO, 1997: 38). This kind of teacher/pupil conference could take place with a T.S.I. group or a Jigsaw co-operative group. Individual evaluative feedback can also be provided on pupil’s written work.

For example, when pupils are completing work on the strategy ‘Determining Importance’, the genre of report writing could be completed. Using AfL, the teacher can provide ‘comment-only feedback’ to pupils based on their written work. The feedback, positive in tone, focuses on the next steps to be taken in the learning cycle. The feedback focuses on what needs to be done to improve. Such individualised feedback caters for the heterogeneous (mixed) range of abilities in a classroom setting.

The activity ‘Two Pluses And a Wish’ can be used to provide ‘comment-only feedback’ to pupils based on their written work. The two pluses are two positive aspects that were evident in the piece of writing. The ‘wish’ is one aspect that you would like the pupil to work on the next time they complete a written piece. This emphasises to pupils that there is always room for improvement. Rather than assigning a grade, this approach clearly shows pupils what they need to do to improve.

 

 

HOW DO YOU ASSESS CHILDREN’S USE OF THE STRATEGIES?
While comprehension strategies will ultimately improve pupil’s overall comprehension, it is difficult to assess pupil’s use of the strategies. A standardised test will not truly capture if a pupil is using the strategies or not.

Teacher observation of pupils in their T.S.I. groups, Jigsaw groups or as you complete a ‘read-aloud’ is another method to assess pupil’s use of the strategies. Observing pupils as they interact and discuss their understanding of what they are reading is a helpful tool when trying to assess their use of the strategies. In each section, prompts and cues for conducting a think aloud were outlined. Once pupils are familiar with the strategy, they will begin using similar language. It will be possible to observe pupils using the language of prediction, making connections and visualising as they become more and more familiar with the strategies.

REFERENCES
Department of Education and Science (DES) (1999), Primary School Curriculum: Introduction, Dublin: The Stationery Office

Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) (1997), Teaching and Learning: Issues in Assessment, Dublin: INTO

National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) (2007), Assessment in the Primary School Curriculum: Guidelines for Schools, Dublin: NCCA

National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) (2008), Assessment for Learning – Key Principles (online) www.ncca.ie (accessed on 16/2/’08)

O’ Leary, M. (2006), ‘Towards a Balanced Assessment System for Irish Primary and Secondary Schools’, Oideas 52, 7-24

 

 

 

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