More and more, literacy is being understood as a foundation for learning. As students read, they are presented with the task of deriving meaning from texts. Through this process, students acquire new knowledge, and this acquisition forms the basis of learning. Given this understanding of the relationship between reading and learning, teachers are encouraged to incorporate literacy activities into all of their curricula. This is the basis of the content area literacy philosophy. Teachers, then, are faced with the dual challenge of selecting texts relevant to their subject area and guiding students through the process of obtaining meaning from those texts. This can seem daunting to teachers who feel they are untrained in literacy strategies or otherwise unprepared to handle the demands of introducing reading strategies into their curriculum. To help, we have compiled three of the most popular instructional strategies for guiding students through reading activities.
Directed Reading-Thinking Activity (DR-TA)
This strategy, developed by Russell Stauffer in 1969, monitors student comprehension of texts through a cycle of predicting, reading, and editing predictions. DR-TA gives students a direct purpose for reading, i.e., confirming or revising their predictions, which guides them through the entire text. This method is also beneficial in the way it draws on students’ prior knowledge of a topic.
In order to implement DR-TA in the classroom, first select a text. Then have students make predictions about the text’s content based on the title and their prior knowledge of the subject. Moving forward, block the text into sections and have students revise their predictions after reading each one. Before moving onto the next section, have students make new predictions about the rest of the text. Repeat this process until students have read the entire text. At the end, review the entire piece by asking questions about the author’s main point, the mood of the piece, whether students agree with the author, etc. Encourage students that provide an “I don’t know” answer to think hard about what they just read and how they feel about it. Also, always be sure to have students support their predictions with examples from the text.
Read, Encode, Annotate, Ponder (REAP)
This method was developed in 1976 as a way of solidifying texts in readers’ long-term memory. REAP uses a post-reading schema to organize the reader’s thoughts about a text, thereby reinforcing not only the content of what was read, but also the reader’s reactions to that content.
Each letter in REAP is indicative of a separate part of the process. First, students are asked to read a given text for comprehension. Then, students encode the piece by putting the author’s main ideas into their own words. After that, students annotate the text by providing their own analysis of the piece’s message. This analysis can take many forms, and can include summarizing, questioning, providing a personal view, and criticizing. Finally, the ponder stage of REAP requires students to reflect not only on their own analysis, but also on the analysis of others.
What I Know, What I Want to Know, What I Learned (K-W-L)
This popular strategy was created by Donna Ogle in 1986. It works by creating a graphic representation of how students interact with the text. Primarily a tool for pre- and post-reading, the student benefits from seeing how their understanding was affected by the text. The chart format also makes this activity good for group completion.
Implementing K-W-L requires constructing a three-column chart. The first column, the K column, will contain everything that the class already knows about the subject. This step engages students’ prior knowledge to give them an idea of the baseline they are starting from before they read the text. The next column is the W column, and it will contain what students want to know about the topic in the form of questions. By formulating the content of this column in the form of a question, students give themselves a purpose for reading, i.e., answering these questions. Finally, the last column, the L column, contains all the things the students learned by reading the text. Make sure students point out the questions in the W column that were answered and consult other resources for questions that weren’t answered by the text.