plot charts, and diagrams to help students analytically explore the meaning of the selection. Each student then read the selection again at home, preferably aloud to a parent. The next day, students read passages once again from the same text, this time to one another in pairs. In addition, children wrote in their journals and read books of their own choice for 15 to 20 minutes each day at school and at home. The results were quite positive: children showed significant growth in their reading skills across the school year.

Words and Knowledge

Can teachers improve their students’ word knowledge and comprehension through instruction? The answer is yes. Vocabulary instruction does create measurable increases in students’ word knowledge. But how we go about it makes all the difference. Teaching specific words may improve children’s knowledge of those particular words taught—but that is all it does. It is important to explore new words and concepts at every opportunity and to revisit them frequently, enriching their usage and meaning. It is also important to develop the children’s inclination to notice and learn about new words they encounter on their own while reading. In addition, they also build their vocabularies through reading. As stated throughout this book, kids need to read every day, both in and out of school.

“Even children with limited comprehension skills will build vocabulary and cognitive structures through immersion in literacy activities. An encouraging message for teachers of low-achieving children is implicit here. We often despair of changing ‘abilities,’ but there is at least one partially malleable habit that will itself develop ‘abilities’—reading.”

—Keith Stanovich


Ontario Institute for the Study of Education

Toronto, Ontario

Comprehension Techniques

Children can learn to monitor their own reading process and develop better comprehension skills. Explicitly teaching children to use conscious strategies is effective, according to several studies, particularly with children at risk. One example is a method called reciprocal teaching, which focuses on an exchange of turns in dialogues between teachers and students.

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