Comprehending Non-Fiction: Setting Kids Up for Success
In a discussion about students and reading content text yesterday, I heard a familiar refrain from a group of elementary teachers. While some readers were highly successful in reading non-fiction, many others struggled to comprehend content text even when that text for all appearances was "at their reading level." My question for the teachers was, "What are you doing to set the children up for success?"
In content literacy what the teacher does before, during and after reading is crucial to the successful comprehension of content text. By consistently using what Vacca, Vacca, amd Mraz (2017) call the B-D-A Instructional Framework, teachers can set all of their readers up for greater success in reading challenging text.
What does this instruction look like?
Before Reading - Before students read the teacher must assist the students in activating and building background knowledge relevant to the text, spur student curiosity and interest in the text, and help students establish a purpose for the reading. Activating background knowledge is a matter of asking the students to list anything they might already know about the topic and discussing how this knowledge will help them understand what they are about to read. Sometimes when helping students activate background knowledge it becomes clear that students lack the background to successfully read the text. When this happens the teacher can show a brief relevant video, read aloud from a picture book or article that fills in some background knowledge for the students, or simply give a brief lecture that helps fill in some gaps in student knowledge.
Before reading, teachers will also want to introduce key vocabulary and concepts that the students will encounter in the reading. What key words will the students need to understand to successfully comprehend the reading?
It is also crucial to consider student motivation for reading the text. Here it is important that the teacher model her own enthusiasm for the material and provide the students with several exmples that assist the students in seeing the personal relevance of the text. Perhaps most important the teacher can use the process of activating and building background knowledge by asking questions that arouse student curiosity.
Finally, before reading it is also important that students understand the task they are being asked to complete. What is the purpose for this reading? What will the student need to do with this information? What questions will the student need to be able to answer as a result of this reading? Being clear Russ on Reading: Comprehending Non-Fiction: Setting Kids Up for Success: