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6.5: Reading in the Content Area

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    Improving Reading Outcomes

    As previously described, improving reading capacity and comprehension is predicated on improving student fluency and their vocabulary. Therefore, we will describe three methods that have a strong research base testifying to their effects on improving student reading. First we will discuss repeated reading which has been shown to improve student fluency. Next, we will discuss a vocabulary instruction technique known as the Keyword Method. Third, we will discuss a reading comprehension strategy known as collaborative strategic reading. Finally, we will discuss a method that has been found to improve reading in the content area, TWA.

    Repeated Reading

    One of the most widely used and easy to administer interventions to increase fluency is repeated reading (RR). The intervention practice has been the subject of a number of reviews of effectiveness that showed it to be effective particularly at the elementary level (Chard, Ketterlin-Geller, Baker, Doabler, & Apichatabutra, 2009; Lee & Yoon, 2017; What Works Clearinghouse, 2014). In general, RR requires a student to sit in a quiet location with a mentor (e.g., teacher, para, peer) and reads a passage aloud until they meet a fluency goal (Therrien, Gormley, & Kubina, 2006). The following are procedures for performing the intervention.

    Step 1: Prompt Student. “Read this story the best you can and as quickly as you can. Pay attention to what you are reading, as you will need to answer a few questions.”

    Step 2: Read Prompts. Ask student to read question-generation prompts (“who, what, where, when, how” questions, such as “Who is the main character?” “Where does the story take place?”).

    Step 3: Reread. Ask student to reread passage aloud until reaching goal-

    • No less than 2 times.
    • No more than 4 times.

    Step 4: Correct Errors.

    • If student pauses during reading, correct word and have student repeat.
    • Correct all other errors after passage read and ask student to repeat them.

    Step 5: Praise. Provide feedback to student on improvements in speed and accuracy.

    Step 6: Adapt and Answer. Ask student to adapt and answer questions you have placed on cue cards.

    Error correction process:

    1. If no answer or incorrect answer first time, prompt student to look for information in the passage: “See if you can find the answer in the passage.”
    2. If no or incorrect answer second time, point to sentence(s) where answer can be found and prompt: “See if you can find the answer in this sentence.”
    3. If no or incorrect answer third time, provide answer and point to where you found the answer.

    Step 7: End and Adjust. When session ends, adjust the reading material for next time:

    Adjust the difficulty of the reading material for use in the subsequent session using the following guidelines.

    • If, for three sessions in a row, the student was unable to reach the fluency goal in four readings, lower the reading material to be used in the subsequent session by one grade level.
    • If, for three sessions in a row, the student reached the fluency goal in two readings or less, raise the reading material to be used in the next session by one grade level (Therrien, Gormley, & Kubina, 2006, p. 25).

    The Keyword Method

    Mnemonic instruction has been a widely used method to improve comprehension and vocabulary acquisition (Bryant, Goodwin, Bryant, & Higgins, 2003; Scruggs, Mastropieri, & Berkeley, 2010). According to Scruggs and colleagues, “A mnemonic, then, is any procedure or operation designed to improve one’s memory” (p. 79). The specific mnemonic strategy described here is the keyword method. Essentially, the keyword method uses a similar sounding proxy for the target word to aid in acquisition of the new word. For example, if we were to use this method to teach Levi the meaning of the word depredation, from The Hobbit (Tolkien, 1937, 1938, 1966), which means, “the act of preying upon or plundering; robbery; ravage” (Depredation, 2017), we may use the keyword predator. Next, we may show a picture from the movie The Predator to help build a concrete representation in his mind. The following is a step-by-step instruction of the keyword method by Uberti, Scruggs, & Mastropieri (2003).

    1. 1. Carefully examine the class reading materials.
    2. Identify important and challenging vocabulary words.
    3. Make a list of those vocabulary words and their definitions.
      Vocabulary Word Definition
      Aloft High up in the sky
      Specimen Part of a sample to be studied
      Daze In a state of confusion
      Abandon To leave behind
    4. Examine each vocabulary word that will be challenging and recode that word to an acoustically similar, but concrete and familiar word or what we call a keyword or cue word. For example, “leaf” sounds like “aloft.”
    5. Take that keyword and relate it in an interactive picture with the to-beremembered information. In this case, a leaf floating high up in the sky.
    6. Use clip art and make the picture.
    7. Think up some relevant teacher instructions for your target student population. In this case, something like the following: Here is a new way to help you remember the definition of some vocabulary words. When you hear the word “aloft,” think of the keyword “leaf.” Leaf sounds like aloft, and it is easily pictured. What is the keyword for aloft? “Leaf,” correct! Now remember this picture of a leaf high up in the sky. When I ask you what aloft means, first think of the keyword that sounds like aloft. In this case it is what? Right, leaf. Now think back to the picture with the leaf in it and think about what was happening in that picture. Right, a leaf was high up in the sky. That should help you with the definition of aloft, that is what? Correct, high up in the sky.
    8. Remember, when using the keyword method:
      • First learn the keyword.
      • Second, remember the picture of the keyword and the definition doing some thing together.
      • Third, when asked the definition, think of the keyword and what was happening in that picture and retrieve the definition.

    Collaborative Strategic Reading

    Collaborative strategic reading (CSR) is a small group intervention that has been demonstrated to improve the reading comprehension outcomes of students with disabilities (Boardman, et al., 2016). CSR utilizes strategy instruction (Reid, Lienemann, & Hagaman, 2013) within groups of five students of different achievement levels (Klingner & Vaughn, 1998). After teacher instruction of the methods of conducting CSR, groups are formed with the following revolving roles: (a) leader - discusses the text to read and strategy to use; (b) clunk expert - uses clunk cards to remind students of the strategy being used (See Figure 10)); (c) announcer – calls on different group members; (d) encourager - gives positive feedback; (e) reporter – reports the groups efforts to the class after finished; and (f) time keeper – keeps time The CSR strategy is implemented as follows:



    S: We know that today’s topic is _____.

    S: Let’s brainstorm and write everything we already know about the topic in our Learning Logs.

    S: Announcer, please call on people to share their best ideas.

    S: Now let’s predict and write everything we think we might learn about from reading today.

    S: Announcer, please call on people to share their best ideas.



    S: Who would like to read the next section? Announcer, please call on someone to read.


    S: Did everyone understand what we read? If you did not, write your clunks in your learning log.

    S: (if someone has a clunk): Announcer, please call on someone to say their clunk.

    S: (if someone has a clunk): Clunk Expert, please help us out. GET THE GIST:

    S: What is the most important idea we have learned about the topic so far? Everyone think of the gist.

    S: Now we will go around the group and each say the gist in our own words. Announcer, please call on someone to share their answer. Go back and do all of the steps in this column over for each section.


    WRAP UP:

    S: Now let’s think of some questions to check if we really understood what we read. Everyone write your questions in your Learning Log. Remember to start your questions with who, when, what, where, why, or how.

    S: Announcer, please call on people to share their best questions.

    S: In our Learning Logs, let’s write down as many statements as we can about what we learned.

    S: Announcer, please call on people to share something they learned.

    Compliments and Suggestions:

    S: The Encourager has been watching carefully and will now tell us two things we did really well as a group today.

    S: Is there anything that would help us do even better next time? (Klingner & Vaughn, 1998, p. 35).

    Click and Clunk Cards


    Reread the sentence without the word. Think about what would make sense.


    Reread the sentence with the clunk and the sentences before or after the clunk looking for clues.


    Look for a prefix or suffix in the word that might help.


    Break the word apart and look for smaller words that you know. (Klingner & Vaughn, 1998, p. 34)

    Think Before Reading, Think While Reading, Think After Reading

    Reading in the content area has received growing attention in recent years, particularly with respect to implementing the maligned Common Core State Standards. Self-regulated strategy development (SRSD) has become a heavily researched and validated method for improving the reading (Mason, Reid, & Hagaman, Building comprehension in adolescents: Powerful strategies for improving reading and writing in content areas, 2012) and writing (Losinski, Cuenca-Carlino, Zablocki, & Teagarden, 2014) skills of students with disabilities. A particularly effective SRSD intervention to improve comprehension of subject area content is the think before reading, think while reading, think after reading (TWA) intervention (Mason, 2013; Mason, Reid, & Hagaman, 2012). The intervention is taught in six lessons based on explicit instruction and include: goal setting, self-instruction, self-monitoring and selfreinforcement. The actual TWA strategy follows the following process which was adapted from lesson 2, the teacher modeling lesson in Mason, Reid, and Hagaman (2012):

    SAY, “I’ve gotta read this book for social studies class. The TWA strategy is going to help me figure out what is going on and remember it. So, what should I do first? Procrastinate? No. Mr. L. said I should do three things before I start reading. First, I need to think about what the author is trying to say. Right. The title is ‘Being and Nothingness. (Sartre, 1956)’ Ugh. OK, let’s read the first sentence.

    (Read the first sentence.)

    Wow. Heavy. I think I may need to read the second sentence.

    (Read the second sentence.)

    Okay. So, let me try to figure this out. Sartre is saying that people have been thinking about what it means to exist and that they’ve been moving from sort of conflicting ideas of spirituality, or heaven and the reality of the world we live in towards the idea that existence is based simply on the experience. He used the word ‘monism’. We learned the term monism, it means not believing in the distinction between mind and matter, or God and the world. So, Sartre’s purpose is to describe this idea of monism. When an author is describing something, he will give main ideas and details.

    (Put a big ol’ CHECK! on the self-monitoring sheet; Figure 2).

    So, step 2 is to think about what I know about monism.”

    Talk to the class about monism. Be sure to discuss vocabulary to be used and define it.

    (Put another big ol’ CHECK! on the self-monitoring sheet)

    SAY,” OK, step 3, I need to think about what I want to learn from this huge book.

    (Discuss with the class some questions you have about existentialism. CHECK!)

    OKAY! I’ve completed the first three steps of the think before reading part, and I’m ready to get my read on!”

    Read the second paragraph at normal speed, then, speed up. Then SAY, “Holy Gucamole, this does NOT compute! Take a breath. I need to slow down. The TWA check sheet says I need to remind myself to slow down otherwise I won’t be able to understand what I’m reading.”

    Discuss with students that taking healthy pauses at punctuation marks can help with going too fast.

    Start reading again at a prudent speed and stop when you get to something that can help link to prior knowledge.

    (model linking information)

    Read again until you hit another spot you don’t understand.

    SAY, “Goodness gracious, this is DEEP and confusing…

    (model reading it again and checking the vocabulary journal for the definition of a word you don’t understand.)

    SAY, “Duuuuuuude, I tots get it now. TWA is helping me understand this!”(Model reading the rest of the passage using these procedures, paying attention to vocab words.)

    SAY, “Wow, I know a lot more about existentialism now and am totally questioning what it means to exist. Like, do other people really exist or are they just there because I am here to experience them? OK, what’s next? Think After reading… The first step is finding the main idea and supporting details.

    (Present markers.)

    These markers are gonna help me isolate main ideas and supporting details. I’m gonna do this in the first passage.”

    (highlight main ideas in yellow. CHECK! Highlight supporting details in blue.)

    “Right, what’s next? Strike out anything that’s not important.”

    (Cross out with pencil. Model summarizing the information. CHECK!)

    Repeat for each paragraph. Every once in a while, reassure yourself by saying things like, “Great Googlymoogly, this is taking forever! But the more I do it, the faster it’ll get,”

    Every once in a while, SAY, “This is making it so I can retell what I’m reading. I’ve got all the good stuff highlighted!”

    (Model retelling the paragraph. CHECK!)


    Reading is a necessary skill to allow a person to become connected with society, particularly in out increasingly digital society. Recent efforts in improving the reading of all students (e.g., Every Student Succeeds Act, 2015) have unearthed many practices to improve reading skills. Particular attention has been applied to the evidence that many of the reading difficulties experienced by our students are a result of poor instruction, and not a disabling condition. Thus, the utilization of practices based on validated research practices has been mandated and those practices have begun to be identified. The use of the practices outlined in this chapter within a framework of data-based decision making (as outlined in Chapter 2) should help students access the curriculum and life.

    This page titled 6.5: Reading in the Content Area is shared under a CC BY-ND license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Mickey Losinski (New Prairie Press/Kansas State University Libraries) .

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