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The Preview: Education

Give your students new strategies for grasping writing and comprehension

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Get a free weekly lesson plan for providing structured, explicit instruction to help your students master effective essay writing skills

Research has told us this much: If we want struggling learners to succeed, we must teach them strategies explicitly. Without structured, deliberate instruction in the areas in which they struggle they are unlikely to absorb the skills they need.

Two new guides from Brookes Publishing provide explicit strategies to help students overcome their hurdles to learning. The new Powerful Writing Strategies for All Students outlines why some students struggle with writing, and Reading Research in Action offers 7 strategies for improving students' reading comprehension. (Be sure to download your free weekly lesson plan on essay writing, to the right.)

To make the best use of strategies* found in Powerful Writing Strategies, it helps to understand the approach behind them.

What is SRSD?

Self-Regulated Strategy Development is a writing strategies approach developed by Karen Harris and Steve Graham, authors of Powerful Writing Strategies. SRSD has been used in elementary through high school classes. This approach has proven, in extensive research, to help students—especially those who struggle—become more effective writers and develop more positive attitudes about writing and about themselves as writers.

Over the past two decades Harris and Graham learned that students with writing problems share critical characteristics: they produce writing that is less polished, expansive, coherent, and effective than that of their peers.

These students

  • lack critical knowledge of the writing process
  • have difficulty generating ideas and selecting topics
  • do little to no advance planning; engage in knowledge telling (that is, write down what they think they know about a topic, without confirming if it is right or wrong)
  • lack important strategies for planning, producing, organizing, and revising text
  • have difficulties with mechanics that interfere with the writing process
  • emphasize mechanics over content when making revisions; and
  • frequently overestimate their writing abilities

Many of these students have difficulty with self-regulation, including the self-regulation of organized, strategic behaviors. They may have difficulty comprehending task demands, producing effective task strategies, and using strategies to mediate performance.

Many of these students also experience reciprocal relationships among

  • academic failure
  • self-doubts
  • learned helplessness
  • maladaptive attributions
  • unrealistic pre-task expectancies
  • low self-efficacy; and
  • low motivation

Impulsivity, difficulties with memory or other aspects of information processing, low task engagement and persistence, devaluation of learning, and low productivity are also among the issues these students and their teachers may deal with.

SRSD was created to address not just students' difficulties with the writing process, but also their attitudes and beliefs about writing, motivation, and self-efficacy. It provides structured, explicit instruction to meet these students' needs. (See the sample weekly lesson plan, above, for an example of SRSD in action.)

*Adapted from Powerful Writing Strategies for All Students by Karen Harris, Steve Graham, Linda H. Mason, & Barbara Friedlander.

7 strategies* to improve students' reading comprehension

Comprehension strategies are procedures that readers apply to guide their reading or writing, according to Reading Research in Action: A Teacher's Guide for Student Success. Written by the authors of the landmark Voice of Evidence in Reading Research, Reading Research in Action is their answer to teachers' request for an easy-to-use guide on how to translate the results of reading research in the classroom. Research has revealed seven strategies shown to be effective in improving reading comprehension.


Teaching method

Comprehension monitoring—to enable students to develop awareness of the cognitive processes used in reading, to realize when they are not understanding the text being read, and to know how to fix the situation

Teach students to

  • use think-aloud procedures to identify when problems occurred
  • look back in text for information to solve problems
  • restate text in more familiar terms, and
  • look ahead in text for information to solve a problem

Cooperative learning—to teach students to complete reading tasks together to become more independent readers (independent of the teacher), and to develop social skills related to learning and literacy

Give students a chance to practice

  • partner reading
  • summarization of paragraphs
  • turn-taking in making predictions
  • word recognition
  • describing story structure, and
  • summarizing the story

Graphic organizers—to use visual representation to aid students' memory of content and organization of information in a text

Show students how to graph or map ideas in a structure using

  • graphic metaphors (e.g., umbrella as main idea with related ideas under it)
  • maps with the main idea in the center and related concepts around it, or
  • box diagrams (e.g., problem, action, and results boxes to fill in)

Story structure—to teach students that a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Students should practice retelling what happened in each section. Story maps are one way of helping students organize the components of a story graphically. By Grade 2, students should be able to identify characters, settings, problems, and solutions

Demonstrate how to

  • represent the events of a story in visual form with students finding the key events in a narrative text
  • answer who, where, when, what, and how questions about the story, and
  • construct a map of the setting, problem, goal, action, and outcome

Question answering—to teach students to focus on specific content, facilitate reasoning (how or why questions), and look back in the text when they cannot answer questions, and to distinguish between those questions that require the integration of background information and those that call on recognition or repetition of what was read

Ask questions and have students

  • look back for answers if they cannot answer correctly after the first reading
  • analyze questions as to whether they require literal information from the text or the drawing of inferences by combining background knowledge with information from the text

Be sure to ask

  • open-ended questions that have different possible answers and require revisiting the text to justify one's response
  • questions that require critical thinking and analysis, and
  • questions that support substantive engagement and discussion rather than simply generating the response you already have in mind

Question generation—to enable students to become independent, active readers by learning to pose and answer questions about the text; to teach the student to generate why, how, when, where, and which questions in order to increase awareness of whether the material is being understood

Ask students to

  • generate questions that integrate information from different parts of the passage read
  • evaluate their own questions as to whether the questions contain important information, are integrative, and can be answered based on what is in the text

Summarization—to teach students to identify the central ideas in a text, use prior knowledge to make inferences, and generalize as well as express related ideas in a succinct, well-organized way

Instruct and guide students in

  • summarizing
  • omitting trivial and redundant details
  • using superordinates in order to generalize
  • identifying topic sentences, and
  • generating topic sentences where they are not explicitly found

*Adapted from Reading Research in Action: A Teacher's Guide for Student Success by Peggy McCardle, Vinita Chhabra, & Barbara Kapinus.

Clear strategies to improve writing and reading ...

book coverPowerful Writing Strategies for All Students


book coverReading Research in Action: A Teacher's Guide for Student Success


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