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Elements of Comprehension

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Joined: Nov 03, 2005
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Posted Jul 26, 2002 at 8:17:08 AM
Subject: Elements of Comprehension

With Cecil Mercer (distinguished professor of LD) and Tom Morris (local geologist) I (one of the luckiest teachers on earth) am writing books on advanced fluency with a comprehension component. Questions will cover the following elements: Fact Recall, Vocabulary, Sequencing, Related Knowledge, Cause and Effect, Main Idea, Simple inferential, and for want of a better name what I call intuitive/inferential. For the life of me, I feel I've neglected something but cannot find it in my notes, library, etc.

I would welcome your response. For help, if you wish, I'll send you several of our developed stories for your input. As always, thanks!

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Anonymous
Joined Dec 20, 2014
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Posted:Jul 26, 2002 9:02:50 AM

-Visualizing strategies (essential for narrative--not as essential for some expository text)
-Predictions (Purpose for reading)
-Questioning (knowing when you know and when you don't know kind of thing)
-Making Connections to one's own life, other literature
-Determining Importance of Text (Main & Supporting ideas).
-Here's a hard one for students w/LD: Synthesizing information.

You are a lucky fellow to study & work with that distinguished, interesting, *humorous*, and gentele Dr. Mercer. Glad to hear that he's still chirping along. Are you getting your Ph.D.?

In my schl district, we have study cadres where we discuss new books. (Sort of like Oprah for teachers...I'm on the reading one. Surprise.) One excellent comprehension-oriented book for regular education is "Strategies that Work" by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis. Another is "Mosiac of Thought"--that one is loaned out so I don't have the author handy. I have a strong focus in regular education. I like this for sped because it keeps me from "dumbing down." (And I teach some regular ed lessons in the classroom in a team teaching environment.) Some of my mild EMH kiddo's cannot do all of it in comprehension, but they do what they can. Even some of my ED students have some difficult comprehension times.

With Visualizing, I use Nanci Bell's stuff for kids with disabilities because it breaks down the steps. (I use her twelve structure words with everyone--they move to writing it very quickly while my LD's do not.) Might be nice to have the other strategies more broken down. I'll have 4 kids with autism (YIKES!) next year. I'm going to need all the comprehension strategies I can get.

I'm excited about your new work.

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Anonymous
Joined Dec 20, 2014
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Posted:Jul 26, 2002 9:44:59 AM

Susan,

I loved you post that you work so hard not to dumb down your ld kids. My son has been dumbed down even in his strenghts. It is such a shame that kids many times aren't given the opportunity to achieve their potentials.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Jul 26, 2002 10:14:55 AM

So how do we know what is someone's potential until they are adults? If anyone ever tells you that IQ measurement is static (stays the same), don't believe them. Schools filled my head with that drivel and Howard Gardner opened a whole new world. I've seen to many dynamic IQ's to believe that they just stay the same. The theory was nice, but doesn't test-out in the real world.

The human brain is too complex to bottleneck into a few test scores. However, all we have right now is the WISC/Stanford Binet world of IQ measurement. We just have to realize that it isn't a measure of *potential* like we originally believed.

I'll climb off my soapbox now.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Jul 26, 2002 12:23:51 PM

Susan,

I agree that IQ tests can't judge potential. My 10 yr. old son scored low end of the WISC III. My theory is that he could not do some of the test because he hadn't been taught how to do some of the material.

He is not a dumb kid he amazes me with his math talents, his directional abilities are also amazing.

He was not taught in school using reading material or programs that made sense to him. Lucky for us we got a great reading teacher to do phonographix with him and his light went on.

For the first time in his life he is reading without being told to do so.

I believe everyone has strengths and weaknesses and if someone can show us a way to learn that make sense to us we can learn. Our weaknesses won't disapper, but if we can find the key we can deal with the weakness.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Jul 26, 2002 1:03:30 PM

unfortunately, it's all we have. I would agree that potential develops in adulthood - otherwise there would be total understanding why some animal species eat their young! I continue to believe that what a person believes they can do and not what they can't do creates success. It might take longer and be a lot more work for some, but the quest is worth it.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Jul 26, 2002 3:44:16 PM

I teach a program called Feuerstein's Instrumental Enrichment. He believes that IQ is not static and that with mediation it can change. Feuerstein has developed an alternative assessment called the learning potential assessment device or the LPAD. This assessment works like this, it measures cognitive skills by first testing the student then, teaching the skill and then retesting. This finds the potential for learning. His theory is that there are not retarded individuals just retarded performers. If you would like to read more about this wonderful man go to this website.http://www.icelp.org/
I teach this program to many of the LD and mildly retarded individuals at my school. I watched a video of teachers at his school working with twin boys who did not even speak at the beginning by the end of the video they were doing very complex tasks and interacting appropriately for their age.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Jul 26, 2002 5:01:04 PM

***

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Anonymous
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Posted:Jul 26, 2002 5:11:47 PM

But thanks, anyway.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Jul 26, 2002 5:13:37 PM

Teaching author's viewpoint.

How about one from the top of Bloom's heap: evaluating.

I pulled out an older book titled, "Strategies for Success" by Lynn J. Meltzer. Good example of what's on the market. Dr. Mercer probably knows her since he knows everyone.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Jul 26, 2002 10:06:36 PM

Besides the elements mentioned by Susan Long, another element which I did not realize to be important until this year (kid is almost 12), is syntax. Mine has difficulty figuring out who did what in complex sentences with lots of dependent clauses. I find teaching grammar by diagramming sentences ala The Complete Book of Diagrams from www.riggsinst.org to be extremely helpful as diagramming is a way of representing complex language in a visual way. It is a pity that this useful concept has fallen out of favor.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Jul 27, 2002 12:21:08 PM

While I am not clear on exactly what this program is intended to look like, I do agree that there are several ways to approach comprehension. We can simply read and ask questions from Bloom's taxonomy. This is testing, not teaching.

I believe teaching comprehension has to do as much with setting the stage at the outset as it does with questioning after the reading.

Good reading comprehension instruction in a reading group setting requires the asking of probing questions before the reading, followed by "why do you think so?" We need to get children to examine their thinking. We can help them to do this by asking leading questions and by modeling the process of examining our own thinking.

To read is to comprehend and to comprehend is really to think. Since we rarely remove the passage from a child in the instructional setting or even in a standardized test setting, then we are not testing memory, we are testing how well a child can use the information they already possess along with that contained within the passage to think.

So, I like a program that instructs the teacher to ask for predictions and requires the student to defend these predictions. No lazy brain stuff allowed. I provide highlighters to my students so they can highlight sentences that offer proof or support for their answers. Somehow building this element into a program would be important to me, a special ed. resource teacher. I believe models, or think alouds, are a crucial aspect of TEACHNG youngsters to comprehend. Can the program incorporate this feature?

I also very much agree with Shirin that syntax is an issue. Complex and less regular sentence structures do confuse many children. The issue is to teach syntax from a functional standpoint from the outset, with the intent that the students will learn to generate a variety of sentences themselves. There are various "writing" programs, in addition to the program Shirin likes, that teach sentence structure. I personally avoid traditional diagramming because I struggled with this during school, as did most of my classmates. The manner in which it was taught was NOT conducive to improving comprehension skills or written language. I have not looked at the Riggs materials, so I cannot assume that criticism is true of them as well.

Good luck, please let us know when this program is ready or if you want it tested here or there, maybe you will have some takers.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Jul 27, 2002 4:51:07 PM

When working with dyslexic students(emotionally disturbed teens), I try to
use a multi-faceted approach, involving auditory, visual, tactile, kinesthetic.
For instance, in introducing main ideas, I put a number of related articles
in a bag, tell the student to take them out, and make an educated guess as to
what they have in common.Upon doing so, I congratulate them on finding the
main idea. I then move on to sets of words, one of which is the main idea of
the others.

When teaching literary elements such as characterization, setting, mood, etc.,
I teach these individually through movies, familiar and unfamiliar, the reason
being is that it is easier to identify these elements initially when seeing the story
visually. That way, they are relieved of the additional burden of reading the
words. Then, when they are adept at identifying the literary element visually
through the movie, they can more easily identify in a story that they DO read.
One movie I love when teaching elements of characterization is "It's a Wonderful Life". It is rich in characterization........the decent George Bailey,
the villainous Mr. Potter........and the film makes it relatively easy to discover
HOW we know they are the way they are.......their words, actions,whatever.

My list could go on........these are just two ideas. Let me know if you would
like to hear more!

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Anonymous
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Posted:Jul 27, 2002 5:02:41 PM

Diagramming sentences has fallen out of favor with me because it becomes
for the student another task he has to learn which may or may not make
language easier to understand.The difficulty of learning diagramming makes
sense if it helps the student make sense of language. With mine, it has not.......
it has only served to frustrate them more and make language-learning more
irksome.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Jul 27, 2002 5:08:39 PM

Anitya.........can we team teach?? LOL

I too am a sp. ed. resource teacher who also teaches self-contained students.
I agree with every single thing you said!! The ultimate goal of the reading
process is to think on what is being written. Questions like "What do you
think is going on in this story.......how do you know........what part of the
passage makes you think so.........." not only guide the students to think
beyond the literal, but ultimately makes the reading process so much more
enjoyable!

Thank you for your input.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Jul 27, 2002 7:47:42 PM

I think you teach comprehension by directly modeling how a good reader omprehends. Then provide guided practice. For example, I read a picture book to my class and talk about how I connect to the text. I may discuss how it reminds me of something in my own life, another book I have read or something I saw on the news. Then, I read the text again and I ask the student about anything it reminds them of and how this helps them understand the story. We would do this with many different text of many different genre always together. Then, they would read independently and make notes of their connections and how the connections helped their comprehension. Finally, the students share their comprehension and their connections. Comprehension is not answering literal questions. It is far more that that. Students need to be taught how to interact with the text. My favorite quote about reading is "The reader writes the story" This is exactly it! This interaction is true comprehension

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Anonymous
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Posted:Jul 27, 2002 8:22:36 PM

is different than taking a book and having kids do tasks that are at different levels of Blooms. At least, I think so.

I particularly notice synthesis because, while I do it well, I have a difficult time teaching others to synthesize what they have read (or to what they have listened--implied).

Have you read this Jerome Rosner book? Email privately if you wish to respond, but don't wish to post.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Jul 28, 2002 4:10:02 AM

I really appreciate Anitya's, Jim in New Orleans', and Nan's insights. They are so true. As an LD resource teacher myself, I would simply like to add one thought to their excellent ideas. When the teacher teaches comprehension, s/he sets the purpose for reading, asks the probing questions, helps make the connections. The trick is for the KIDS to learn to ask themselves those questions and make those connections. Because we teachers aren't attached to our students at the hip, our goal must be to make them independent in what we're modeling for them! I know I lose sight of that sometimes, so caught up am I in the strategies themselves. Unless the kids can use them on their own, they'll be on our caseloads forever! Ken, in writing your book with Drs. Mercer and Morris, in addition to identifying your excellent comprehension strategies, you might want to address the issue of independent functioning!

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Anonymous
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Posted:Jul 28, 2002 11:55:59 AM

Maybe I missed it somewhere. What is the title?

Comprehension is tricky because it cannot be taught in the same sense you can teach decoding skills or math facts. Makes decoding skills pretty darn easy to teach by comparison. I also believe, and may be slammed for this, that intelligence has a significant affect on comprehension competency, even with good teaching, unlike decoding which I don not believe is significantly impacted by intelligence.

I have a child who has a HFA diagnosis and I have a devil of a time teaching him comprehension. He is literal, totally literal, and we don't seem to get transfer from one situation to another. Everything has to be explicitely taught, all the nuances of language. All the good teaching in the world has not changed much in the way of his ability to pick up a new selection, read and answer inferential, evaluative and synthesis questions successfully. Once you teach it to him, he may get it, but move on to the next selection and you start over. It is a slow process and he has average intelligence.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Jul 28, 2002 12:28:13 PM

Rosner, Jerome. (1993). Helping children overcome learning difficulties. (3rd ed.) New York: Walker & Co.

Now, your IQ statement. Your opinion certainly has been the ed norm for many, many decades. Since intelligence and dendritic growth are not static like we originally believed, then ability is not static either.

What I do believe we can agree upon in the ability arena: Some children are not ready for the thinking skills we've pushed upon them on a given day. There are other dots, farther back in the sequence, they've not connected for a potentially huge variety of reasons. But when I see that kids connect everything up to synthesis, I want a cadre of strategies with which to teach. That's why I threw it into the mix. Because I'm a natural synthesizer, I have never been very good at analyzing the tasks involved. I'm sure some grad student out there somewhere has done it...

I agree with you that decoding/word recognition has fewer variables on the surface: getting it into memory and retrieving it has a significant number of variables. Comprehension has many, many facets--we sure agree on that point!

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Anonymous
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Posted:Jul 28, 2002 2:14:06 PM

Barb, absolutely. Part of teaching anything is a gradual release of responsibility. The key to this is gradual. The teacher has to model and offer guided practice and then gradually have students take over responsibility for the use of the strategies. Lots of discussion and sharing will help students to discuss their comprehension of the stories.

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