The Role of Reading in Guided Inquiry: Building Engagement and Understanding

Following on from a previous post about the excellent professional learning session delivered by Dr Ross J Todd from the Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey; his colleague Dr Carol A Gordon presented an interesting session last week to School Library Association of Victoria delegates.

The Role of Reading in Guided Inquiry: Building Engagement and Understanding was the second presentation  of the day. If you are interested in the link between effective reading and the resulting effective researching, please view and consider this engaging, relevant and thoughtful and presentation.

The notes below are a record of the session:

Carol Gordon – The Role of Reading in Guided Inquiry: Building Engagement and Understanding

  • Reading with older students; learning phonics for 14 year olds in demeaning. Research came up with what did work. These are strategies that came from evidence-based research. Context is inquiry.
  • Can use information search process as a framework for these strategies.
  • “Children reading for Gilad Shalit” YouTube video shows real engagement even though students were previously struggling readers.
  • Need commitment, emotional attachment and engagement for the students to learn to research well.
  • We want the whole Blooms. Creating, evaluating, analysing, applying, understanding and remembering.
  • Authentic learning tasks such as this one based on Anne Frank: “A bit of outrage is a good thing that helps them engage with the task.” This is asking kids to be historians rather than journalists. Historians want to know the truth. Use primary documents and artifacts and interpret the evidence as they see it. Deep understanding of what history is, what historians do and the questions that they ask. Task to a high academic level. Problem solving, decision making, display and share their work. Choices about how they present; radio broadcast, write a news story, etc. Interdisciplinary applications. Methodology needs to encourage kids to use the new information in another way; relate to other situations; Blooms, variety in tasks. Keep a journal of blog to see how they are doing. Opportunities to work in groups and revise their work. Use rubrics to show students what good, average and poor looks like. We give them opportunities to reflect. Time is a pressure, but they need time to think. We must build that time in. Show them an exemplar of what a good news story looks like. Self assessment and peer review. Get kids to evaluate the task for you. How did it go for them? You will learn by asking them. You can then change this for the next time this is taught.
  • Formative assessments are based on journals, rubrics, portfolios, peer review, self-evaluations, Graphic organizers, Mapping, Checklists, Statements of intent, Rough drafts.
  • Reading skills are thinking skills. Our role in reading is much more expansive.
  • Free choice is the most important thing in terms of reading engagement.
  • Book; “Strategies that work” by Anne Goudvis and Stephanie Harvey is worth looking at.
  • How is reading digital text different from reading print text? “Are we losing the deep culture of reading?” is a more pertinent question rather than “is the book dead?” Better for kids to print out rather than read from the screen as an intermediate step. Graphic organisers and concept mapping and Wordle are not enough. Use printouts to analyse notes so that you know what they really mean and you can work out what is important and what you should use. Hard copy is really important. Passive kinds of approach to reading is not getting kids where they need to be. Encourage them to annotate and gather, sort.
  • Never give a child something to read that is at instructional or frustration level if you expect them to read it independently. Need help with this at school.
  • When comprehension breaks down, many students skip sections or words that are confusing and pick the text up again where they can understand it. The problem is, they have lost valuable information and opportunity to improve their own reading. 
  • Activating Prior Knowledge (GNR) Emotional attachment needed. Prior knowledge is who you are; your experiences, your emotions. Tap into this to help kids read well.
  • o Establishing prior knowledge, or what the learner already knows, is critical to helping them read better. Research shows that there is no difference between the recall of good and poor readers when their prior knowledge is the same. Therefore, prior knowledge can be instrumental in improving reading comprehension.
  • § Here is an example. Mrs. Clark announces to the class that they are going on a nature walk. They go outside and walk across the street to a county nature park. They walk about a half-mile and stop. They sit down and Mrs. Clark asks the class to imagine that they are lost. She asks the students to help her come up with some ideas about how they can figure out where they are, and how they will get back to school. One student suggests backtracking until they recognize where they are. Another student suggests walking until someone recognizes a familiar tree or flower as a landmark. Another student suggests that Mrs. Clark use her cell phone to call the park supervisor to come and find them.
  • § Mrs. Clark relates each of the answers the students give to clarifying what you are reading.
  • § Backtracking is similar to rereading material when you realize that you have lost your way in the story and do not know what is happening. Looking for familiar landmarks is similar to readers activating prior knowledge of vocabulary, grammar, and syntax (Hackey, et al, 2003). Calling the park supervisor on a cell phone relates to referring to outside resources, such as dictionaries or atlases. The students begin to understand that pretending they are not lost is not going to get them out of the woods, and pretending to understand what they are reading when they really did not will not enable them to fully understand the reading assignment.
  • § When the class arrives safely to their classroom, Mrs. Clark gives the students a reading assignment and a pad of sticky notes. She models reading a short passage and marking words or concepts she is not quite sure of with the sticky notes. Students then practice reading independently and highlight any words or concepts that they do not understand in the text.
  • § The next day, they write the words they marked on the board. Mrs. Clark models ways to determine the meaning of the words, such as using a dictionary, using keywords surrounding the unfamiliar word, using picture clues, and rereading. The students are comforted to realize that many students wrote the same words on the board. This helps them to build a community of learners and helps Mrs. Clark to identify vocabulary words that need further explanation.
  • Kids pretend that they don’t have the breakdown in comprehension and they get more and more lost and disengaged. Kids need to be taught to ask questions.                                                                                             
  • o Brainstorming. Developing a purpose for reading.
  • o K-W-L chart.
  • o Using Visuals to assess prior knowledge. Why pictures? They inspire questions and interest. They provide a tangible element when focus blurs and clarity is elusive. Offer a starting point. Offer support of a group working with similar themes, situations. Record in a reflection sheet (done as a group).
  • o Use Wordle to create a reading/writing summary. Words that evoke images? Good self-analysis tool for peer assessment.
  • o Wordsift analyses text. More sophisticated. Concept map and mind maps are different. Asking kids to explain why topics/words are connected. These helps kids that are on information overload.
  • o Voicethread uses voice. They can create their own book talks. Naugatuck HS on VoiceThread. Authentic learning.
  • o Determining importance, All information is not equal. Get rid of what is not important. Illustrations are important; they can represent data in a table, graph, etc. Use these tools to elaborate on an idea. A quotation is an illustration. They need to elaborate on it and link it to one of their ideas.
  • o Statement of Intent with research question. TL must sign off on it. Passport to continue.
  • o Information circles. Idea of Literature circles and adapted to informational text. Group kids by topics they are interested in. Break up tasks. Students have roles (leader, illustrator, vocab guru).
  • o Different types of questions. Some info is literal, some is inferred. Give them ‘what if’ questions.
  • o Sticky notes or Diigo.
  • o Graphic organisers are very good for analysis. We don’t give kids the tools to process the information that they find. Graphic organisers give kids the ability to process and analyse notes.
  • o Kidspiration/Inspiration
  • o Inferring and predicting are just as important for informational text. Read with higher interest.
  • o Blogs effective with helping with reading, They read each other’s work. Get kids prepared for class. Framework for thinking about pre-reading. Many kids will read a blog rather than a book. Their absence is visible from a blog.
  • o Best books for visualizations: Visualize This: Books about the Arts, Notes on a Page: Books about Music, Into the Past: Books about History,
  • o Theories and Revelations: Books about Math and Science, Challenges and Change: Stories of Politics, Identity, and Understanding, Seriously Surreal: Tales of (Im)possibility, Over-the-Top: Sly and Sophisticated Humor, All Cracked Up: Fractured Fairy Tales and Fables
  • o Double entry journal. Quotes/My thoughts about quotes. Forces kids to interpret. Do I understand what I have read?
  • o Kids have to make connections with their reading text, eguse graphic novels for visual alternatives for stories
  • o 16 Steps to Monitoring and Regaining Comprehension
  • § 1. Reread.
  • § 2. Read ahead.
  • § 3. Stop to think
  • § 4. Try to visualize.
  • § 5. Ask a new question.
  • § 6. Make a prediction.
  • § 7. Study the illustration or other text feature.
  • § 8. Ask someone for help.
  • § 9 figure out unknown words.
  • § 10. Look at the text structure.
  • § 11. Make an inference.
  • § 12. Connect to background knowledge.
  • § 13. Read the author’s or illustrator’s note.
  • § 14. Write about the confusing parts.
  • § 15. Make an effort to think about the message.
  • § 16. Define/Redefine the purpose for reading the text.

 The School Library Association of Victoria should be congratulated for providing such transformational and important professional learning sessions. Thanks to Rhonda Powling for supplying Bright Ideas with some photos from the session.

2 thoughts on “The Role of Reading in Guided Inquiry: Building Engagement and Understanding

  1. I wasn’t at this session but am very grateful for these notes and the ppt presentation. I’m a fan of guided inquiry and these wonderful researchers.

    I would love to hear the thoughts of others who were at the session in regard to a couple of points, as I realise the notes and the ppt can’t give the full story. I appreciated the great ideas for relevant teaching of literature/reading, both fiction and non-fiction.

    What bothered me: First this statement (and the pictures of old and new librarians on the slide) –

    “In the 20th century the school librarian focused her efforts on recreational reading and what was available in the library collection. She motivated students to read through book talks, author visits, library displays, reading lists, and book fairs. These are all passive activities that may raise the profile of reading, but do not directly involve students in reading.”

    All these things can be passive but can equally be the basis of conversations, lots of reading and generally building active relationships with readers and developing a reading culture.

    The second thing is the risk of overteaching at the expense of reading for enjoyment. Currently I am reading Readicide by Kelly Gallagher which was discussed just recently on The English Companion Ning, & some of the ideas for teaching literature rang warning bells in the light of this book.

    So, I guess I would not like to see the baby thrown out with the bathwater. Kids need access to a vibrant and broad reading environment, including lots more than books. They also need an enabling adult or two or three who reads a lot and can help them develop as readers.

    Very pleased that the guided inquiry literature is including reading specifically, so not wanting to moan too much about this, but would like to hear what some who were present made of this presentation.

  2. Hi Marita. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

    I was at the session and in no way were Dr Gordan and Dr Todd decrying what was done in the 20th Century. They were encouraging us that in the 21st Century, we are very well placed in schools to deliver more meaningful teaching and learning for our students.

    All of the research that Dr Gordon and Dr Todd have completed has all had evidence as its basis. I think that Dr Gordon was meaning that we can focus on students who really struggle with their reading and that we can help them connect emotionally with the topic they are reading; this makes reading so much more powerful. Then they are able to research more effectively as well.

    I do agree that reading must not be over taught, or the enjoyment will be lost.

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