Instructional Routines That Promote Prediction

In Part II, we explored some of the cognitive strategies that students might employ as they work toward making increasingly useful predictions in their reading. In addition, some examples of what teachers often do to encourage that cognitive activity were presented.  Now, we turn our attention to the specific instructional routines that teachers can use in an effort to encourage the sort of cognitive activity that characterizes good thinking while engaged in literacy tasks.

At several points in this book, we have encouraged you to continue doing what we are confident you have always done; that is, make conscious and precise decisions about teaching methodologies and classroom structures that promote good thinking and improved ability when a literacy task is encountered.  Sharing those philosophies or approaches with other teachers or administrators can inform the choices about which cognitive strategies or instructional routines might best be used universally and transparently throughout a school’s curriculum (e. g., Fisher, Frey, & Williams, 2002).  However, overwhelming your teaching colleagues or students with an extensive list of instructional routines and cognitive strategies is unlikely to produce a desired result.  Therefore, our first challenge to you is to initiate a dialogue with your colleagues about which routines might be most beneficial for the specific student population sitting in your classroom.

Cognitive Strategies vs. Instructional Routines

In our work on this book, we have followed the advice of others who have carefully chosen words that convey precisely (there’s that word, again) the meaning intended.  Ross and McDaniel (2004) draw a distinction between the cognitive strategies that teachers expect students to employ and the instructional strategies that teachers employ to encourage cognitive activity on the part of students.  For example, a teacher might use an instructional activity known widely as KWL (Ogle, 1986) to enhance a lesson that calls for activating background and prior knowledge (a cognitive strategy students should use in order to make sense of reading).  So, in this portion of the book, we will use the term “instructional routines” to characterize the tools and techniques that teachers use to encourage cognitive strategies on the part of students.  In section two, we used the term “strategy” to refer to the cognitive activities expected of students.  While we believe that using the term “strategy” to refer to both instructional routines and cognitive activity is all right, it is equally important to know exactly what is meant, to know exactly what the distinctions may be, when using the term.  For that reason, we have used two different terms in this book.

Instructional Routines That are Evidence-Based

Our first challenge to you is to think about which strategies and routines fit with your students’ needs and which might be most beneficial to students in other classrooms.  The second challenge is fairly straightforward, if not a bit more difficult to implement.  In current educational parlance, the terms “research-based” and “evidence-based” are used with increasing frequency.  Both terms are used to describe instructional routines teachers use and the textbooks that claim to employ such routines, yet often those that employ the terms cannot state with any certainty what research supports that routine.  We challenge you to become familiar enough with the research that supports using an instructional routine and where the gaps in that knowledge base exist.  In other words, if you say that something is “research-based,” we encourage you to be able to identify research that supports the routine and why that routine may or may not be valuable.

Theorist Neil Postman (1992) explained that a scientific theory is only scientific to the extent that is can be shown to be false; in other words, a theory that is stated in absolute terms is not a scientific theory.  Applying science, Postman contended, to social institutions is problematic, at best, because such institutions are situational, bound by time and the unique experiences of the observers.  Those conceptions that cannot be tested cannot be characterized as scientific.  This does not mean that a conception is not true or that it cannot tell us something about the enterprise of education; it only means that the conception is not scientific—it cannot be tested.  We bring this up here because sometimes teachers know “what works” and what does not.  The danger, we believe, is that a theory of what works is too often generalized (Sagor, 2000) and accepted as good for all students in any instructional situation. Such a generalization is sometimes applied in ways that are not beneficial to the actual students sitting in one’s classroom and justified as “research-based.” To elaborate on our challenge, we think that teachers should constantly ask themselves and their colleagues which instructional routine is most appropriate for the students they serve, and which cognitive strategies are most beneficial (and why they are most beneficial) to those students.

As you read the following sections of this section, ask yourself what research supports the concept, how it helps your students (or not) and what new research must be done to add to the discussion about the utility of the instructional routine.  We present two routines to facilitate modeling of students’ cognitive strategies, two routines that support prediction through related cognitive structures, and seven routines that promote prediction directly.

13: Shared Reading

Sharing connotes, at times, a limited amount of something which must be divided up into smaller quantities.  One piece of cake and two children who want dessert calls for sharing.  At other times, sharing connotes an experience that is enriched when more than one person participates in it.  A movie is more fun, more memorable, more entertaining when viewed with another person; context is created and there is an opportunity to contribute to a shared meaning. A community of readers is created through sharing, too.

In shared reading, the teacher reads aloud while students read along.  This differs from read alouds where the teacher reads but students only listen. (See Table 13.1 for a comparison of several reading formats teachers may employ in the classroom.)  While primary grade teachers are familiar with shared reading using big books, upper elementary and secondary teachers often use shared reading, too.  Examples of texts may not be appropriate for students to read independently or in guided reading situations include texts with a great deal of highly technical vocabulary, texts that include concepts rich in high levels of abstraction, texts for readers who have not fully integrated graphophonic, syntactic, and semantic cueing systems fluently, and texts that provide a foundation or touchstone for further study.

Shared reading provides the teacher with the opportunity to model predicting one’s way through text. When a teacher stops at various points and asks students to predict word meanings or future events, the cognitive strategy of predicting is modeled for the student participants in the shared reading.  We have found, as others have (e. g., Dreher, 2003; Allen, 2002), that secondary students enjoy the shared reading experience just as much as first graders do. Teachers often provide older students with choices of texts to improve engagement with literacy tasks; less often teachers provide opportunities for students to choose the format of the tasks—shared reading, independent reading, read aloud, and so forth.

Step by Step

  1. A text is chosen by the teacher, the students, or through a negotiated process dependent on learning goals and desired outcomes.
  2. Pre-reading activities are identified based on the goals and outcomes as well as students’ needs. These can include a preview of vocabulary, an overview of text structures, a preview of major concepts, a preview of graphs, pictures, charts, headings, and other text features, or a picture walk.  Students may make predictions based on the pre-reading.
  3. During reading, the teacher stops to model predictions and to solicit predictions from students. Primary-grade teachers may point to the words and phrases as the reading progresses.  The teacher may also stop at various points in the reading to review previous predictions about events in the story and to refine predictions as the story unfolds.
  4. Students and teachers work on skills related to the reading (letter-sound correspondences, punctuation and other usage, comprehension strategies, etc.). They may also return to the text or to a similar text for rereading or independent reading. Strickland (1998) describes a strategy for situating skills instruction in meaningful literacy experiences as a whole-part-whole approach that starts with a whole text, explores with students parts of language and skills with language, then returns to a whole text for application and practice.

Applications and Examples

Primary Classroom. Mrs. Levick’s first graders are learning to predict using The Three Little Pigs (Parkes, 1985), a retold version of the classic story.  At the same time, they work on fluency (intonation and expression).

Figure 13.1—In her own words: The Three Little Pigs

Materials – The Three Little Pigs retold by Brenda Parkes and Judith Smith illustrated by Ester Kasepuu, big book, (1985), Bridgewater, NJ: Rigby.

Anticipatory Set – Display the big book for the class. Discuss the title, illustration on the front cover, and how a story might change when it is retold. Ask students if they are familiar with the story and make predictions about how this version might be different.

Objective – Students will participate in a shared reading, predict events, and demonstrate the appropriate expression and intonation while reading fluently.

Instruction and Modeling – Explain to the class why using the appropriate expression and intonation can make reading a book out loud more interesting. Read The Three Little Pigs to the class modeling the expression and intonation. Stop reading after the wolf visits each pig’s house.  Solicit predictions about what might happen next.

Guided Practice – Read the story again with the students joining in when reading the speaking parts of the three pigs and the wolf. Ask students to note differences between the classic version of the story and this retold version.

Check for Understanding – Clarify questions about vocabulary words and the use of expression and intonation. Monitor students for intonation and expression while rereading the story.

Independent Practice – Reread the story with individual students reading the parts of the three pigs and the wolf.

Closure – Review the objective with the class. Verbally praise students for participating in the lesson.

Susan Levick, Alice Birney Elementary School, Colton, California.

Secondary Classroom. Eighth grade students we worked with were assigned to read The Old Man and the Sea (Hemingway, 1952). The sentence structures and the plot in this story are not very difficult; however, this novel presents other problems for student readers who lack guidance.  While most of the vocabulary is familiar, a few terms are used in unfamiliar ways—dolphin is a fish most often known as mahi mahi today, but students confuse it with the marine mammal, for example.  The cause of the phosphorescent glow of the sea is unfamiliar even to Southern California students, and baseball legends of the mid-twentieth century are all but unknown to students today.  The allegorical nature of the story would elude most students if the novel were assigned as independent reading in class or as homework. For this novel, shared reading is appropriate for students. In addition to pre-reading activities to work with concepts and vocabulary, shared reading allowed the students to predict events using their background knowledge, and knowledge of story structures, literary techniques, and the events of the story.

As the reading progresses, the teacher stops at a point in the story where Santiago, the old man of the title, has noticed a bird circling.  Not all the students will recognize the significance of the bird for the story, but some will draw on background knowledge to predict that Santiago is interested in this bird because it knows where the small bait fish are swimming.  They can then infer that the marlin Santiago seeks would be nearby where the bait fish can be located.  The shared reading allows students to draw upon each other’s background knowledge then predict that Santiago may soon hook a large fish.  Little does Santiago know that he is about to begin an adventure the themes of which resonate for anyone who has sought a meaningful life even in the 21st  century.

14:Think Alouds and Models

Thinking, and by extension, comprehension is an invisible process.  Because we can’t see or hear actual thinking, it is a kind of mystery to students how to perform certain cognitive processes.  We can observe the products of thinking—an essay, a speech, a response to a question, and so forth—but the processes themselves are locked in the brain and unobservable. Students who struggle with reading tasks may not realize that there is something they can do to grasp what they read with more certainty simply because they have no experience doing so and have never seen, or heard, the processes.  Telling students to predict is not enough; teachers must show them how that is done.  The think aloud protocol, often shortened to think aloud, is one way to make the hidden processes of the brain visible to observers.

In the think aloud, the reader must be aware of the cognitive processes, like those described in other sections of this book, involved in reading, pause now and then to think about those processes, and be able to discuss the processes (Baumann, Jones, & Seifert-Kessell, 1993).  In addition to voicing their thinking, some teachers ask students to write their thoughts in a process similar to the think-aloud (Wilhelm, 2001). When teachers think aloud, they model the thinking processes of competent readers.  When teachers model their thinking, students are able to “borrow” the thinking strategies they hear (Cazden, 2001; Wilhelm, 1999).  When students think aloud, teachers learn what students are thinking and where their strengths lie.  Students may also think aloud in small groups and partner pairs as a means to enhance discussion and model successive approximations of successful cognitive strategies for each other.

Step by Step

  1. Teachers can model their own thinking processes as they read by explaining what they notice and wonder about as they read. Read-aloud and shared reading are optimum times for students to model for students what good readers are thinking as they read.
  2. Students should be encouraged to model their thinking as they read to each other and the teacher. As they do so, they reinforce the cognitive and metacognitive thinking that is required when reading challenging materials. Teachers can learn how to support students who need additional cognitive challenges or who struggle with reading tasks when listening to students thinking aloud.
  3. Self-questions coupled with thinking aloud can help student internalize the thinking processes of competent readers. In self-questions, the teacher models thinking about reading by asking questions. Examples are: Does that make sense?  Oops, it doesn’t.  Did it fit? Yes, I’m on the right track (Walker, 2005, p. 689).

Applications and Examples

Social studies teacher Toni Kinsey wants her students to actively make predictions as they read their textbooks.  She uses the think-aloud technique to make her thinking about the reading visible.  During a shared reading, her students hear how she makes predictions and asks questions in the context of reading in progress

Figure 14.1: In her own words

This reading section explores the historical and human elements that have shaped present-day Canada. Knowing the origins or the cultural groups and the history of immigration will help prepare students for later debate and persuasive writing topics. I will explain that the strategies we will be using all year when we read. This review and modeling will include the goal of reading to construct meaning. Further, after hearing me model the cognitive strategies and practicing them, students will be better equipped to use them on their own and later will become confident in using them each time they read.

While reading the assignment I anticipate that students will have questions. I will model metacognitive processes by reading the first section aloud to the students. I will ask questions, make predictions, and clarify areas that I do not understand. Next, students will begin the reading assignment on their own after I remind them to use the four strategies in order to facilitate their understanding of the reading and to avoid passive reading.

Two questions that I will model in asking about the text include:

“Why are there so many European immigrants in Canada while only five percent of all Canadians are people of the First Nations?

How does Canada support the native culture and the different citizen groups?”

Both of these topics are addressed in the reading however the answer is spread throughout various sections. It will take some thought and time connecting the portions of the reading selection that contain the information. I will show students how to answer the questions by looking at the sections as a whole instead of separate pieces.

In the section of the textbook about European immigrants it is handy to look at the picture of the French and Indian war and see the suffering of the British. Without reading the selection students may predict that the French and people of the First Nations won the battle. Another prediction I will model is that the areas where most Canadians live are in the Southern regions. By looking at the map of geographic features my students and I will be able to predict the settlement areas prior to reading the section entitled, “Where do most Canadians live?”  I will predict aloud that the rugged terrain and cold climate in the North makes the newest territory, gained in 1999 by the Inuit, Nunavut, less habitable. Each of these predictions will become important to discussions later in the unit.

Toni Kinsey, South Meadows School, Chelsea, Michigan.

15:Question Answer Relationships (QAR)

Many teachers have had the experience of asking students to respond to a question only to have them find and parrot or copy a response that contains key words from the question but that, nevertheless, does not actually answer the question or demonstrate any intellectual engagement with the task.  This behavior on the part of students should not be characterized as laziness or attributed to the students’ intelligence.  On the contrary, it is a lack of training students to attend to the sources of information available to them in making sense of the materials they read (or to which they listen or view).  A classroom structure designed to assist the reader to understand what sources of information they may call upon in responding to or creating questions is the Question Answer Relationship (QAR) (Raphael, 1984).

Training in QARs helps students to establish what they have been asked and then how to identify a response that is appropriate to the type of question.  The QAR structure is designed around the premise that questions are not asked in isolation from each other or the text.  For example, a question asking about the implications of President Truman’s decision to drop a nuclear weapon on Japan during World War II might be a scriptally-implicit question calling for students to employ prior knowledge in after reading one passage, but it might require a response to information literally contained in the passage of a different text. There are four types of QARs (Raphael, 1986); in the first two question types, students rely on information directly in the text.  In the third and fourth question types, students relate what they know from background or prior knowledge with what they read in the text:

  1. Questions that call for students to identify what is literally in the text are “Right There.” These are usually found in one or two sentences within the passage to which a question refers.
  2. Questions that call for students to make textually implicit assumptions or inferences in order to determine an appropriate response from two or more parts of the text are textually implicit and termed “Figure it out” or “Think and search.”
  3. Questions that call for students to draw upon their background or prior knowledge and join that with what they have read are known as “Author and me” questions.  The key differentiation, according to Raphael, is that to understand the question itself, one must have read the text.  In section 2.8, we referred to a story by Hemingway (1987); if we had asked why Schatz thought he was going to die, the question only makes sense if you had read enough of the story to understand who Schatz is and his condition during the story.  Such questions call for a scriptally-implicit inference to be made.
  4. Questions that call for students to use the information from the story in order to apply it or evaluate the information are similarly required to draw upon background or prior knowledge. Students who are asked what they might feel if they were Schatz in the Hemingway story will not respond correctly unless they consider the characteristics of Schatz as they have learned them from reading the story.  This distinction often eludes students and confounds teachers who may think that because they were asked what they themselves would do that any response is acceptable. These questions we call “On my own.”

Note that question types two and three call for students to make inferences of two different types (cognitive strategy 8).  In question type two, students make connections among parts of the same text, but in question type three, students must draw on background and prior knowledge (which can include other texts with which students are familiar) as information sources to construct a response.  As we noted in cognitive strategy 9, questions are helpful tools for teachers and students alike in looking ahead to what a text might reveal and focusing attention on relevant aspects of a text in order to make good predictions.

Step by Step

  1. Use short passages to demonstrate the types of questions and how responses may be located using different sources of information: a specific location within a text, multiple locations within a text, integrating information that is text dependent, and evaluating or applying that information.
  2. As students are learning to think about the types of questions they have been asked, it is helpful for the teacher to provide a line or space under the question (Raphael, 1984). This provides a scaffold for them to think about what type of question has been asked and a reminder about how to locate that information. As an example, refer to the story “August Heat” in the next section, 16.

In “August Heat,” the stone mason is putting the finishing touches on a monument for an exhibition.  How might the marble used in this monument convey a sense of what is to come later in the story?

Right There: __________________________________

Figure It Out: __________________________________

Author and Me: ________________________________

On My Own: __________________________________

  1. Permit students to use the QAR structure as a discussion tool rather than require all their responses in writing which slows down the processing of what has been read. Help students, through discussion, to respond not only with the answers to questions, but to consider how they used different sources of information and knowledge of types of questions to craft a response.

Applications and Examples

Secondary classroom.  In cognitive strategy 8, you read about Dryer Thackston’s twelfth grade students using questions to help them understand an essay before, during and after reading. Mr. Thackston has provided a copy of the essay to students on which they can highlight important concepts and annotate their thoughts.  Below, note how Mr. Thackston uses the QAR on the same reading passage to assist students in reading a difficult text and being able to think about that text on multiple levels.

Using a QAR to Understand That a Conk Is More Than Style

What does a hair style tell about a person?  For Malcolm X, it can reveal a great deal about a person’s morality.  My own grade-level English 12 students complete a unit called Voices of Others that has as its theme how people feel about living on the margins of society.  As a part of this unit, students read “Hair” (Malcolm X, 1997), an excerpt from Malcolm X’s autobiography, in which he discusses how his judgment of beauty had become so aligned to white standards that he endured a painful chemical treatment to straighten his hair.  The learning objectives are for students to read the passage and understand Malcolm X’s point and then relate it to their experiences or observations.  The passage is only 819 words long and has a 6.0 Flesch-Kincaid readability grade-level rating. Despite the shortness of the passage and the relative ease of the reading, many of my students do not understand  Malcolm X’s main point, which is that by trying to live up to someone else’s standards he had degraded himself.

Students will have difficulty relating to some of the colloquial terms and phrases used in the passage, such as “school me”, “congolene” and “conk” (Malcolm X & Haley, 1964) as well as the concept of conking one’s hair.  Many students do not know what lye is, so they will not recognize Red Devil as a brand of lye.  On a more abstract level, they may have difficulty understanding how straightening one’s hair is a form of self-degradation.  I will front load most of these vocabulary items before we begin reading, and I will guide students to the more abstract meaning through the use of guiding questions (Davis, 2004).

I have decided to use a question-answer relationship (QAR) (Raphael, 1984, 1986) activity (Figure 3-7.1) to help my students better comprehend the excerpt.  Asking students questions before reading helps them to focus on important aspects of the reading (Alvermann & Phelps, 2005; Chapman & King, 2003).  QARs serve this purpose as well as explicitly guiding the student’s responses to the types of questions being asked and to the reading itself. Effective readers use prior knowledge to better comprehend their reading (Davis, 2004) and the QAR teaches this purposefully.  Another advantage is that the questions promote specific types of thinking in students; in this case the “Putting it Together” questions require students to draw inferences from the text which is a difficult for many of these students.  Using QARs will help my students better comprehend the Malcolm X excerpt and make them aware of different reading and learning strategies that they can use better comprehend other readings. QARs helps students master content and develop skills that they can continue to use long after the may have forgotten about Malcolm X and his conk.

Many of my struggling on grade-level English 12 students do not think about their relationship to the reading or the questions being asked.  This strategy will help these students because it states those relationships outright (Raphael 1984).  By knowing where the information is located, students know whether returning to the text will be a useful strategy for answering a question or whether it would better to examine their own prior knowledge and experience.  Many of these students also have a difficult time discerning important facts from unimportant facts, but knowing the questions in advance will help focus on the more important facts (Alvermann & Phelps, 2005; Chapman & King, 2003).

The QAR can help students understand how Malcolm X felt marginalized in a society that defined beauty in terms that he, as an African American, could not possibly meet.  Many of my students feel marginalized in school because they cannot comprehend the same texts some of their classmates readily comprehend.  By giving students the QAR, they can comprehend X’s message and develop reading and thinking skills that may lead them to feeling less marginalized.

Figure 3.15.1

QAR Reading Guide: Malcolm X’s First Conk

Directions:    Read the questions below and then read the excerpt from The Autobiography of Malcolm X (Malcolm X & Haley, 1964).  On your own paper, answer each question in complete sentences.  Where appropriate, give specific examples to support your answers and help you explain them.

Right There: In addition to writing your answer to the following questions, mark and label the part of the excerpt that will answer the following questions.

1) How much money does Malcolm X say he will save when Shorty “[schools]” or teaches him how to give himself a conk?

2) Why did Shorty have Malcolm X feel the outside of the jar of congolene before he put it on Malcolm’s hair?

3) What is the belief that Malcolm X says many “Negro men and women in America who are brainwashed into believing”?

Putting it Together: The answers to the following questions are stated directly.  You will have to answer them by inferring the answers.  Mark and label the passages that lead you to your answers to these questions.

1) How substantial is the amount of money that Malcolm X saves by having Shorty conk his hair?  (Don’t focus on the dollar amount—look for something in the story to compare with the barber’s price for a conk.)

2) Why does Malcolm X curse at Shorty while his hair is being rinsed?

3) According to Malcolm X, what are the moral implications of conking one’s hair?

The Author & You: You will have to use clues from the text as well as your own knowledge to answer these questions.

1) What purpose do the Vaseline, rubber apron and gloves serve since they are not ingredients?

2) Why would African Americans at the time want to look “white”?

3) Why would Malcolm X call such African Americans “brainwashed”?

On Your Own: Answer the following questions by using your own experiences and observations.

1) Where do standards of beauty come from today?

2) What do people do to their bodies today that Malcolm X might objectionable?

3)   Are hairstyles or any of your answers to the previous questions moral decisions?  Why or why not?

16:The Directed Reading-Thinking Activity

When you read the title of this section, what did you think you would find out by reading?  Perhaps you thought that the directed reading-thinking activity has something to do with thinking; then perhaps you thought that was too obvious.  Nope, good prediction; keep reading to see what you find out.  Maybe you predicted that this strategy is the newest strategy from some university researcher with an acronym to match.  Also a good prediction; keep reading to find out.  Now that you’ve read this paragraph, you might think this section will give you some ideas about how to connect cognitive processes and texts.

The directed reading-thinking activity, DR-TA, as Stauffer explained it (1969) differed from the before reading–during reading–after reading planning sequence that has been the staple of reading teachers since Emmett Betts (1946) described the directed reading activity in the middle of the last century.  Betts proposed that teachers should take an active role in developing readiness for reading (often called pre-reading), guiding the purposes for reading, etc. Stauffer suggested, instead, that readers could learn to set their own purposes for reading, identify appropriate cognitive strategies to approach the text, make aesthetic connections with text, generalize  from  principles in the text to other texts and situations, and so on. The teacher’s role in the DR-TA is to provide structures and guidance that promote student independence.  While Stauffer highlighted the differences between his DR-TA and Betts’ directed reading activity, we don’t view the two roles as incompatible.  Teachers can prepare and guide students and promote students’ independent use of cognitive strategies at the same time. The authors of the Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (Chamot & O’Malley, 1994) suggest that teachers gradually release responsibility for implementation of cognitive strategies over time until students are able to use and evaluate a given strategy independently.  Often, the DR-TA is integrated in context of the before-during-after structure (e. g., Fisher, Brozo, Frey, & Ivey, 2007).

The DR-TA is a classroom structure teachers can use to promote independent use of the prediction strategy. DR-TA, like many of the classroom structures described in this book, is highly adaptable; it can be used in a variety of ways.  DR-TAs work well in small groups, with individuals, and in whole class settings.  Students may write their predictions, the teacher may do so, or the predictions may simply promote discussion without formal structures like worksheets or reader response journals.

Step by Step

  1. The teacher determines stopping points in the text where prediction and discussion of the predictions might logically occur. Many teachers provide a large index card or blank piece of paper to cover remaining text beyond the stopping point on the page.  In this way, students are encouraged to stop and think about their reading rather than simply plowing ahead while other students catch up.  Students learn to evaluate and determine their own purposes for reading.
  2. For texts with illustrations, maps, and charts, ask students to preview the chapter or section looking specifically at these features and others like words in bold type and end materials for the chapter to gain some idea of the topics for the chapter. In other texts, typically fiction, ask students to read the title.  Once students have done this, the teacher asks, “What do you think the story (or chapter) will be about? Students volunteer predictions.  These may be recorded on the chalkboard, on chart paper, or in the students’ reader response journals.  Teachers often note the predictions mentally without recording them in writing to facilitate the discussion.  Students can be prompted to elaborate on their predictions with a question such as, “Why do you think that?”
  3. Students then read silently or in shared reading to the first stopping point.
  4. Teachers may then ask students to summarize by asking, “What have we learned, so far, in the reading?” At this point in the reading, it is worthwhile to review the predictions from the last stopping point to determine if the predictions are still possible or if they should be discarded. New predictions should be volunteered and reasons for the predictions, based on the reading, should be sought.  Vacca and Vacca

    (2005) suggest that explicitly attributing a prediction that has been refuted may not produce a desirable result.  We suggest that teachers consider the tone and manner in which predictions are evaluated as reading progresses without attributing the prediction to a specific student.
  5. Continue reading to stopping points the engaging in the prediction, validation, refutation cycle until the end of the section or story.

Applications and Examples

The DR-TA is an adaptable structure; if students are viewing a video or film instead of reading, a directed reading-viewing procedure might be in order (Cunningham, Cunningham, & Arthur, 1981). If students are listening to a guest speaker, the “R” for reading might be substituted for an “L” as in listening helping students think about what they are learning regardless of the media or text type.

As you read this section, did you notice that you made predictions based on background and prior knowledge then adjusted those predictions as you gained additional information by reading?  The DR-TA is a tool teachers use to assist students in becoming autonomous readers who can engage in predictive tasks just as you did in your reading.  Below, we provide an example of a DR-TA used with a small group in a discussion format.  As students move through the story, they also create a need to know what happens next; motivation for reading becomes an intrinsic part of the readers’ repertoires. In this example, note that the reader doesn’t impose preconceived constructions about the content on the students.  If the teacher doesn’t maintain neutrality about each prediction, the students will quickly come to rely on the teacher’s construction of the text’s meaning rather than learn to do so on their own (Johnston, 1993). Click to read an example of how DR-TA might be used.

August Heat” by W. F. Harvey (1910)

Teacher:        Now what could a story titled “August Heat” be about?

Student 1:      Well, it is probably about something that happened one very hot summer.

Student 2:      Yes, but it might be a story about a police officer.

Teacher:        The police?  Why do you…

Student 2:      Sometimes the police were called “the heat” in the past.

Teacher:        Okay, anything else?  Other ideas?  Then open your book and read to the bottom of page one.


August 20th, 190—.

I have had what I believe to be the most remarkable day in my life, and while the events are still fresh in my mind, I wish to put them down on paper as clearly as possible.

Let me say at the outset that my name is James Clarence Withencroft.

I am forty years old, in perfect health, never having known a day’s illness.

By profession I am an artist, not a very successful one, but I earn enough money by my black-and- white work to satisfy my necessary wants.

My only near relative, a sister, died five years ago, so that I am independent. I breakfasted this morning at nine, and after glancing through the morning paper I lighted my pipe and proceeded to let my mind wander in the hope that I might chance upon some subject for my pencil.

The room, though door and windows were open, was oppressively hot, and I had just made up my mind that the coolest and most comfortable place in the neighbourhood would be the deep end of the public swimming bath, when the idea came.

I began to draw. So intent was I on my work that I left my lunch untouched, only stopping work when the clock of St. Jude’s struck four.

The final result, for a hurried sketch, was, I felt sure, the best thing I had done. It showed a criminal in the dock immediately after the judge had pronounced sentence. The man was fat— enormously fat. The flesh hung in rolls about his chin; it creased his huge, stumpy neck. He was clean shaven (perhaps I should say a few days before he must have been clean shaven) and almost bald. He stood in the dock, his short, clumsy fingers clasping the rail, looking straight in front of him. The feeling that his expression conveyed was not so much one of horror as of utter, absolute collapse.

There seemed nothing in the man strong enough to sustain that mountain of flesh.

I rolled up the sketch, and without quite knowing why, placed it in my pocket. Then with the rare sense of happiness which the knowledge of a good thing well done gives, I left the house.

Teacher:        Okay.  Now, what do you think?

Student 2:      Well, there’s an artist who works at home.  And he’s drawn a picture of a criminal standing at the dock.  I’m not sure what that means.

Student 3:      Me, neither.  “Dock” doesn’t sound like a place to tie up a boat the way it’s used in this story.  It sounds like part of a courtroom.  Anyway, we were right about one thing.  The story is set in summer when it’s hot.

Teacher:        Right.  What did you read that confirmed this prediction?

Student 3:      Well, it says right here in the sixth paragraph that it was “oppressively hot.”

Teacher:        Ah.  Right.  The artist is about to go somewhere.  What do you think?

Student 4:      He’s going to go swimming?  I think the public bath is a swimming pool.

Teacher:        Could be.  What else?

Student 1:      He’s a relative of the man in the courtroom.  He’s going to go visit him in jail, maybe.

Teacher:        Okay, read to the middle of the next page; put your index card just under the word “death.”

I believe that I set out with the idea of calling upon Trenton, for I remember walking along Lytton Street and turning to the right along Gilchrist Road at the bottom of the hill where the men were at work on the new tram lines.

From there onwards I have only the vaguest recollection of where I went. The one thing of which I was fully conscious was the awful heat, that came up from the dusty asphalt pavement as an almost palpable wave. I longed for the thunder promised by the great banks of copper-coloured cloud that hung low over the western sky.

I must have walked five or six miles, when a small boy roused me from my reverie by asking the time.

It was twenty minutes to seven.

When he left me I began to take stock of my bearings. I found myself standing before a gate that led into a yard bordered by a strip of thirsty earth, where there were flowers, purple stock and scarlet geranium. Above the entrance was a board with the inscription—



From the yard itself came a cheery whistle, the noise of hammer blows, and the cold sound of steel meeting stone.

A sudden impulse made me enter.

A man was sitting with his back towards me, busy at work on a slab of curiously veined marble. He turned round as he heard my steps and I stopped short.

It was the man I had been drawing, whose portrait lay in my pocket.

He sat there, huge and elephantine, the sweat pouring from his scalp, which he wiped with a red silk handkerchief. But though the face was the same, the expression was absolutely different.

He greeted me smiling, as if we were old friends, and shook my hand.

I apologised for my intrusion.

“Everything is hot and glary outside,” I said. “This seems an oasis in the wilderness.”

“I don’t know about the oasis,” he replied, “but it certainly is hot, as hot as hell. Take a seat, sir!”

He pointed to the end of the gravestone on which he was at work, and I sat down.

“That’s a beautiful piece of stone you’ve got hold of,” I said.

He shook his head. “In a way it is,” he answered; “the surface here is as fine as anything you could wish, but there’s a big flaw at the back, though I don’t expect you’d ever notice it. I could never make really a good job of a bit of marble like that. It would be all right in the summer like this; it wouldn’t mind the blasted heat. But wait till the winter comes. There’s nothing quite like frost to find out the weak points in stone.”

“Then what’s it for?” I asked.

The man burst out laughing.

“You’d hardly believe me if I was to tell you it’s for an exhibition, but it’s the truth. Artists have exhibitions: so do grocers and butchers; we have them too. All the latest little things in headstones, you know.”

He went on to talk of marbles, which sort best withstood wind and rain, and which were easiest to work; then of his garden and a new sort of carnation he had bought. At the end of every other minute he would drop his tools, wipe his shining head, and curse the heat.

I said little, for I felt uneasy. There was something unnatural, uncanny, in meeting this man.

I tried at first to persuade myself that I had seen him before, that his face, unknown to me, had found a place in some out-of-the-way corner of my memory, but I knew that I was practising little more than a plausible piece of self-deception.

Mr. Atkinson finished his work, spat on the ground, and got up with a sigh of relief.

“There! what do you think of that?” he said, with an air of evident pride. The inscription which I read for the first time was this—


BORN JAN. 18TH, 1860.


ON AUGUST 20TH, 190—

“In the midst of life we are in death.

Some students flip back the pages of the story to check the name of the narrator.  Then the teacher asks a question.

Teacher:        That’s interesting.  Now what do you think?

Student 5:      OK—these two guys know each other and the stone mason is playing a practical joke.

Student 1:      Hmmm.  Maybe, but they don’t seem to know each other once Withencroft enters the stone mason’s shop.  Maybe it’s some sort of time shift where one or the other went forward in time.

Teacher:        You may be right.  What else?

Student 2:      Well, the two guys don’t seem to know each other, but Atkinson has created a gravestone with Withencroft’s name on it.  We might find out how that happened on the next page.

Teacher:        Let’s find out.  Read the next section to the words, “…but I knew what he meant.”

For some time I sat in silence. Then a cold shudder ran down my spine. I asked him where he had seen the name.

“Oh, I didn’t see it anywhere,” replied Mr. Atkinson. “I wanted some name, and I put down the first that came into my head. Why do you want to know?”

“It’s a strange coincidence, but it happens to be mine.” He gave a long, low whistle.

“And the dates?”

“I can only answer for one of them, and that’s correct.”

“It’s a rum go!” he said.

But he knew less than I did. I told him of my morning’s work. I took the sketch from my pocket and showed it to him. As he looked, the expression of his face altered until it became more and more like that of the man I had drawn.

“And it was only the day before yesterday,” he said, “that I told Maria there were no such things as ghosts!”

Neither of us had seen a ghost, but I knew what he meant.

Student 2:      [summarizing] Wow, Atkinson carves a gravestone with Withencroft’s name on it and Withencroft has drawn a picture of someone who looks like Atkinson in a courtroom.  Okay, it looks like something is going to happen.  I think we’ll find out how these two guys know each other.

Student 4:      Yeah, the two must know each other and just don’t remember.  Maybe this is one of those mysteries where one guy cheated the other one in a card game.

Teacher:        All right.  Anything else?  What about the stone with the crack in it?

Student 5:      Oh, right.  Maybe the stone is going to fall on Withencroft.

Teacher:        Perhaps.  Let’s read to the end of the next page to see how things turn out.

You probably heard my name,” I said.

“And you must have seen me somewhere and have forgotten it! Were you at Clacton-on-Sea last July?”

I had never been to Clacton in my life. We were silent for some time. We were both looking at the same thing, the two dates on the gravestone, and one was right.

“Come inside and have some supper,” said Mr. Atkinson.

His wife was a cheerful little woman, with the flaky red cheeks of the country-bred. Her husband introduced me as a friend of his who was an artist. The result was unfortunate, for after the sardines and watercress had been removed, she brought out a Doré Bible, and I had to sit and express my admiration for nearly half an hour.

I went outside, and found Atkinson sitting on the gravestone smoking.

We resumed the conversation at the point we had left off. “You must excuse my asking,” I said, “but do you know of anything you’ve done for which you could be put on trial?”

He shook his head. “I’m not a bankrupt, the business is prosperous enough. Three years ago I gave turkeys to some of the guardians at Christmas, but that’s all I can think of. And they were small ones, too,” he added as an afterthought.

He got up, fetched a can from the porch, and began to water the flowers. “Twice a day regular in the hot weather,” he said, “and then the heat sometimes gets the better of the delicate ones.

And ferns, good Lord! They could never stand it. Where do you live?”

I told him my address. It would take an hour’s quick walk to get back home.

“It’s like this,” he said. “We’1l look at the matter straight. If you go back home to-night, you take your chance of accidents. A cart may run over you, and there’s always banana skins and orange peel, to say nothing of fallen ladders.”

He spoke of the improbable with an intense seriousness that would have been laughable six hours before. But I did not laugh.

“The best thing we can do,” he continued, “is for you to stay here till twelve o’clock. We’ll go upstairs and smoke, it may be cooler inside.”

To my surprise I agreed.

Student 3:      I know.  The stone guy is going to knock off Withencroft.

Student 4:      Maybe, but the Atkinson doesn’t seem to have a reason to kill him.  I think there will be an accident and Atkinson will be blamed for it.

The discussion continues, then the teacher summarizes the predictions the group has identified.

Teacher:        Okay, we predict that there will be an accident where Atkinson is blamed, that there will be an accident and Atkinson will testify in court about it, or that there will be a twist in the plot and Withencroft finally is overcome by the heat and kills Atkinson.  Please read to the end of the story to find out.

We are sitting now in a long, low room beneath the eaves. Atkinson has sent his wife to bed. He himself is busy sharpening some tools at a little oilstone, smoking one of my cigars the while.

The air seems charged with thunder. I am writing this at a shaky table before the open window.

The leg is cracked, and Atkinson, who seems a handy man with his tools, is going to mend it as soon as he has finished putting an edge on his chisel.

It is after eleven now. I shall be gone in less than an hour.

But the heat is stifling.

It is enough to send a man mad.

Teacher:        Well, what do you think happened?

Student 2:      Is that the end of the story?  Where’s the last page?

Teacher:        That’s it.  The author ended his story at this point to leave the reader wondering how it all turned out.  What do you think is an ending that fits the circumstances?

The students discuss possibilities and point out features of the story that lend credence to their predictions.  Atkinson is sharpening a chisel and could have killed Withencroft.  The table is rickety and Withencroft falls and hurts himself.  The conversation continues. In DR-TA, extending and refining comprehension is a key element.  The students’ discussion demonstrates the increasing accuracy of the predictions as they work through the reading. When done well, the DR-TA helps create an environment that is both conversational (Haggard, 1988) and promotes learning through predictions.

17:Reciprocal Teaching

Paulo Freire (1970) proposed that the roles of teachers and students are not as clearly demarcated as we educators sometimes believe. Feire’s book often confounds readers for a variety of reasons; it was written in a time and place and about a segment of the world’s population about which teachers in western classrooms today understandably know little. One concept, however, that we think has nearly universal appeal as an educational goal is that of the teacher-student, students-teachers.  Simply, teachers have a role as learner in the classroom, and students have (or should have) a role as teacher or leader of their own and others’ instruction. Often, Freire’s ideal sounds good, but how it works in the increasingly political world of education seems elusive. One classroom structure with potential to help students become the subject or agent for their own learning is reciprocal teaching.  In this structure, the teacher models the particular behaviors of good readers; later, students learn to take on the role of teacher to facilitate discussion and model the cognitive strategies of good readers.

In conventional reciprocal teaching, students work in small groups with the teacher who employs a cognitive apprenticeship model (Bruer, 1993; Collins, Brown, & Holum, 1991) with the aim of making the invisible and complex processes of reading visible to the student, a novice reader.  Cognitive apprenticeship calls for teachers to employ teaching methods that permit students to learn how expert readers, in this case, think about difficult texts.  These methods include the following: 1). The teacher models the expected performance, 2). Students perform a task as the teacher coaches through observation and facilitation throughout the apprenticeship, 3). The teacher makes the task manageable and explicit through scaffolding (Eby, 1998), 4). Students are given the opportunity to verbalize what they have learned and how they process their thinking, 5). The teacher models reflection and provides opportunities for students to do so, comparing their performance with others at the same time, 6). Teachers model and encourage students to pose and solve problems (Freire, 1970) that arise as they think about the content and process of reading a given text. Reciprocal teaching also relies on the idea that learning should be situated in authentic tasks (that is, actual reading of texts rather than isolated instruction in the skills of reading) and that it moves from global conceptualization of the whole task before consideration of the parts.

In approaching difficult reading, students must learn strategies that efficiently direct attention, through self-monitoring, to those aspects of the text most likely to be relevant to the reading task as it is situated in a larger context, say a content-area classroom. In designing reciprocal teaching, Palincsar and Brown (1984) identified four cognitive strategies that their research showed as characterizing the thought processes of good readers.  These four cognitive strategies appear in all the adaptations of reciprocal teaching since the researchers first explained their classroom structure in 1984.  The four strategies are: summarizing (see section 2, strategy 11), questioning (see section 2, strategy 9), clarifying (see section 4), and predicting (the subject of this book).  As you have, by now, come to realize, these four strategies are inter-related, so taking a global approach to instruction relying on reciprocal teaching is of particular value.

Reciprocal teaching, in its original configuration, called for a teacher to work with an individual or small group of students.  Many teachers and researchers, sensing the appeal of the structure, have devised a variety of adaptations to make the reciprocal teaching intervention instructionally useful in classrooms with 20 to 40 students in them (e. g., Carter, 1997; Marks et al., 1993). In each variation, the teacher plays a significant role, but students assume increasing responsibility over time for use of the strategies to foster comprehension, monitor comprehension, and advance the group discussion.  In the process, the students have an opportunity to see expert modeling from the teacher of the four cognitive strategies, to compare their performance with that of others, and to take on the role of expert reader with scaffolding by the teacher and peers.  Engagement with reading tasks is likely to increase for students as they have the opportunity to interact meaningfully as agents (capable of acting independently) in the reading process with the teacher, their peers, and the text (Oldfather, 1995).

Step by Step

Determine a format for implementing reciprocal teaching that promotes the concepts of cognitive apprenticeship and student use of the four cognitive strategies: summarizing, questioning, clarifying, and predicting. Marks, et al. (1993) observed three possibilities:

  1. Students are divided into large groups of approximately eight students. Within each group, the students are assigned to pair up with one other student. Paired students read the text together, preparing questions, summaries, and clarifications and summaries; the teacher monitors this interaction. After reading, the students return to their large group and a student leader initiates discussion while students address each other, using the initial paired-reading conversation as a scaffold, rather than addressing the teacher.
  2. Students are asked to read the text preparing summaries, questions, clarifications, and predictions, in advance. They then join a large group discussion (a whole class of 7 to 12 students in a special education setting, as reported by Marks, et al. 1993) where a leader calls on students to share the products of their cognitive preparation; e. g., summarization, etc. The teacher may participate by modeling a question at the inferential level (see section 2.8, for examples) and so on. The student leader may not elect to call on the teacher right away. In this adaptation, students progress through the large-group discussion by considering one cognitive strategy at a time.
  3. The teacher provides a graphic organizer which characterizes the structure of the text (see section 2.3). Students read the text independently noting as they read one prediction, one clarification, a question, and one summary at one point in the text. The teacher provides some instructional mediation in generating questions of various levels of complexity, summarization, and so on. Once students have completed this task, they return to the class but sit in small groups representing learning teams or cooperative learning groups.  Using the notes generated that represent the four cognitive strategies, students discuss these within the small group for a pre-determined time period.  Recalling the coaching nature of reciprocal teaching, the teacher circulates among the groups listening to discussion and interjecting from time to time.  When time for small group discussion is over, the students return to the whole-class configuration with the teacher now leading the discussion.  Groups may be given time to confer and present their best question for the rest of the class to deliberate.  Group presentation of their discussion results including summaries, and reports of prediction and clarification continues.
  1. Ensure that students have ample opportunities to practice the strategies with support from the teacher, in small and large groups with their peers, in response journals, and, of course, any time they are asked to (or choose to) read and study difficult materials.
  2. Provide job aids, such as posters and bookmarks, which remind students of these thinking strategies and perhaps provide opportunities for students to include their thoughts in text by writing directly on the text (glossing) or using sticky notes to do so. Encourage students to share these written products of their thinking with each other and with you, the teacher.
  3. Students will not be proficient at all the skills called for in reciprocal teaching, at first. Expect that their performance will improve as they observe models from teachers and peers and monitor their own comprehension over time with multiple texts.

Applications and Examples

Sara Fratrik uses reciprocal teaching as a classroom structure with the students who receive special education services to help them engage with texts they find challenging.

Figure 17.1 In her own words, Sara Fratrik of Aberdeen Middle School in Aberdeen, Maryland.

Teachers need to model these processes as they read aloud to show students how to enhance their comprehension.  The final step in this process is to allow students to practice using the four skills of predicting, questioning, clarifying, and summarizing on their own.  It is important to model the process for a sufficient amount of time and allow many opportunities for student practice for this process to work.  I plan to begin modeling reciprocal teaching in my classroom with our social studies unit on early modern Europe.  One of the content objectives for this unit is that students will understand the rule of Queen Elizabeth and how it affected England then and now.  Our literary objective will be that students will read for information.

The reading assignment I chose to begin with is a one-page excerpt from a section in the book about special people that were relevant to the civilization we are studying.  This book series involves age-appropriate pictures and content at a lower reading level.  The page includes a picture of the person and a thought provoking, author and you (Raphael, 1986), question at the end of the reading. This book and section of the content and history may be challenging for my students, so reciprocal teaching is a perfect fit for my students, the text, and the learning objectives.

For the first time introducing reciprocal teaching I will read the text aloud while they read along to my students while stopping myself to predict, ask questions, and clarify.  The first sentence of the text is a good place to set a prediction.  It tells that Queen Elizabeth was only twenty-five when she became queen. At this point I would ask the students if they thought she would be a good queen or not.  I expect that some will say yes, because she is too young and will not know what to do, while others will say no and believe that twenty-five is old.  I will continue reading and revisit this prediction to have students determine if they predicted correctly, incorrectly, or still want to read to see what else they can learn.  When you read on a little more, the text tells of the Spanish Armada invading England.  The text specifically asks the reader if they will win. This is a great point for a prediction and it is generated by the text.  I expect some of my students will use their prior knowledge about what they learned about England and say that it is a big country so the Spanish will not win, while others will say the Spanish will win because Queen Elizabeth will not know what to do.

During the reading my students will also need some clarification on a few words and concepts.  They will probably need to clarify the word armada.  The best strategy for this would be to read on for clarification.  After the word is introduced the text defines the word.  Even if the text did not define the word, reading on would be appropriate because it talks about sailing and warships, thus helping the students to see that the Spanish armada was a group of Spanish warships.  Another difficult concept may be the short mention of William Shakespeare in the text.  I would recommend that the students research further to better understand the text.  The best way would be to use the Internet and read some of his work.

As we read, the students may have some questions.  Two questions I predict the students might ask include why the Spanish invaded England and why England set their own ships on fire.  The best way to answer these would be with a class discussion during and after reading.  These questions involve a lot of on your own thinking as they are not pointed out specifically in the text. Finally, students will need to learn to summarize what they have read.  Summarization is important because it teaches the students to pick out the important information while putting less effort into the unimportant information.  To introduce this part of the strategy I will have a summary, see below, of the text for my students to review and thus have an example to base their future summaries on.

Sample Summary:

Queen Elizabeth was a young queen and many people were unsure if she would be a good queen.  She proved herself by defeating the Spanish at sea when they invaded England.  She was thought to be a good ruler because England became a powerful nation and she took time to be with her subjects.

The key to making reciprocal teaching work is modeling until students can begin to generate questions, predictions, clarifications, and summaries on their own.  Once they are able to do this, many opportunities for practice will help the students to do these things whenever they read and this is the whole point to reciprocal teaching.


The KWL structure (Ogle, 1986) is intuitively appealing, and it is instructionally elegant.  It proceeds at the outset from the idea that students know something and that what students already know can help them construct new understanding.

New understanding grounded firmly in previous learning is far more likely to stick and become the foundation for further learning.  KWL potentially scaffolds the complex tasks of associating new understandings with background and prior knowledge and of learning how this association is carried out.  The lack of procedural knowledge needed to make inferences about text may interfere with student understanding even when the declarative knowledge—the content–is present.

Strategy selection in any instructional situation is more than just reaching into a grab bag or bag of tricks. In fact, we actively resist the characterization of a bag of tricks. It must be purposeful, and the procedural value of the strategy should be obvious to the student.  However, Egan (1999) points out even the best graphic organizer can become repetitive and overly predictable if used too frequently.  Fortunately, variations of the KWL exist as a result of inquiry by teachers and teacher educators (see Table 18.1).  Each uses prior and background knowledge with a graphic organizer to scaffold procedural knowledge so students develop a habit of thinking that characterizes scholarship:  inquiry.  The “Want to Know” section of the KWL asks students to predict what they will learn based on the knowledge they already have identified and organized in the “Know” step of the classroom structure.

Step by Step

  1. Students work individually, in small groups, or as a whole class (Egan, 1999) to create a graphic organizer (Figure 18.1a) divided into three columns. In the first, students identify through brainstorming the existing knowledge they already possess about the instructional topic—What I Know.
  2. Once students finish brainstorming, they categorize the types of information students expect to use. Our experience is that this important step is often left out.
  3. In the second column, students determine what they want to find out that they don’t already know—What I Want to Know.
  4. After reading, students complete the third column by putting down what new information they have acquired—What I Learned.

Applications and Examples

When teacher candidates take classes emphasizing the instructional needs of students learning English in the credential classes we teach, we begin with a KWL chart.  Because topics related to bilingual students are often in the newspaper and the talk they hear during their field experiences often emphasize this aspect of education, teacher candidates often have a wide range of knowledge upon which they can draw even before reading the first chapter of the course text.  The KWL chart helps them organize this information.  Those teacher candidates with misinformation also have an opportunity to reconceptualize their understanding through the process, as well.  Then, as students read and participate in other class activities they are able to see how their conceptions of what they want to know change to accommodate the new information.  The graphic organizer makes very clear what the teacher candidates have learned and how they have come to this understanding with the result that they are far more likely to remember and use the knowledge.

When Columbus Day approached, kindergarten teacher Chris Iacono wanted to tap what students already knew about this explorer.  She wrote about her experience using [Figure 18.2]

[Insert Figures 18.2a, 18.2b, 18.2c about here.]
Figure 18.2 In her own words, Christine Iacono, Mary B. Lewis Elementary School, Colton, CA.

After seeing the blank expressions on my kindergartner’s faces when I announced that were going to learn about Christopher Columbus, I decided to use a modified version of KWL with them.  Since none of them truly knew anything about Columbus, I started the lesson by displaying several books about Columbus on the bottom tray of the white board.  I told students that I was going to read some of the books to them because he was someone famous that I wanted them to know about.

I asked them to look at the covers of the books and think about what they thought the books might tell them about Columbus.  I wrote the title of our chart, Christopher Columbus, and the letters K., W., and L. in different colors on the white board.  I explained that we were going to list the things we know about Columbus under the K and the things we want to know under the W before I would read the books.  Then, I told them that we would be listing things in the L section after I read to them to find out all the things they learned about Columbus from the books.

The first student answer I wrote in the K section was, “He is a pirate,” I asked the student why he thought Columbus was a pirate, and he justified his statement by pointing out the obvious ships on he covers of all the Columbus books.  I continued listing their answers and asking them to tell me their reasoning for their answers.  We categorized the predictions, orally, as jobs and places where Columbus worked.  We moved on to the W section, and the first question was, “Is he a pirate?” The students generated several relative questions and the final question was, “When is his birthday?”  Then I chose two of the books and read them aloud to the class.  During the reading, whenever I would get to a part of the book that answered their questions from the W section, I could see and hear the “aha” from the group.

After the readings, we started listing the things we learned from the books in the L section of our chart.  The first things we listed were, “He is not a pirate,” and “He is a sailor.” We continued to list the things we learned, but when we looked to see if we had answered all of our questions from the W section, we were missing one answer about Columbus’ birthday.  Someone thought he book said it as October 12, 1492, but we went back into the book and found that date was not his birthday—it was the day he landed on the island.  When I asked them how we could find the answer to our unanswered question, another student came up with “the computer.” We logged on to the computer and searched to find a site that gave us some information about his birthday.  They were surprised to find out that there was not an exact date listed, and we added the information to our chart even though is wasn’t in the book.

The KWL chart was very successful.  It made it possible for students to look for relevant clues about Columbus from the covers of the books and justify their ideas. It focused their attention by giving them a purpose during the readings—answering their own questions from the W section, and it helped them organize what they learned from the books.  The question about his birthday even extended the lesson to include a technology component that we weren’t expecting.  We finished with an art project about the three ships in Columbus’ fleet.

Figure 18.2c Informational Books We Read

Carpenter, E. (1992). Young Christopher Columbus, Discoverer of New Worlds.

New York, NY: Troll Associates.

Gross, R. B. (1974). A Book About Christopher Columbus.

 New York, NY: Scholastic.

Bjorkman, J. (1991).  In 1492. 


New York NY: Scholastic.

Strong, S. (1991). The Voyage of Columbus in His own Words (a pop-up book).

Columbia: InterVisual Communications, Inc.

Read more about the real Christopher Columbus:

19:Guided Reading and Summarizing Procedure (GRASP)

In Part II, cognitive strategy 11, we explored how summarization might help students attend to the important attributes of a text and make more precise predictions as a result.  Learning to summarize effectively is an important skill, one that a classroom structure with the acronym GRASP (Hayes, 1989) can help students to master.  Based on summarization rules this classroom structure is best used as an introduction to the concept of summarizing.  Brown, Campione, and Day (1981) suggest the following rules for summarizing:

  1. Deleting trivial information. In figure 19.1a a student organizes information from a nonfiction article according to what is interesting and what is important.
  2. Delete redundant information.
  3. Label categories for listed information—army and navy can be recategorized as “military.”
  4. Identify and relabel subordinate actions to a superordinate—“Sherman marched his army across Tennessee to Atlanta then on to Savannah” can be relabeled as “Sherman marched his army to Savannah.”
  5. Find and select the author’s topic sentence in each paragraph where one exists.
  6. Create or invent a topic sentence if the author has not written one into the text.


Step by Step

  1. Find a suitable text that ranges from 500 to 1500 words (Hayes, 1990). Identify the cognitive strategy, summarizing, students will work with and that they will work in groups for this exercise.  Students will also need to know that the procedure they use in groups will also work for them when they have summaries to write as individuals.
  2. Students are directed to read the text and remember all they can. After reading, the class lists all they can remember from their reading on a chalkboard or chart paper.  At this point, students may be simply retelling all they remember. Students then reread the material to determine if they missed any significant information that should be on their list.
  3. Students and teacher review their list to identify the important categories of information represented in the text. The group notes any relationships among the categories they establish.
  4. Finally, students write their summary with directions to leave out unimportant information and details, to combine information where they can, and to add information and sentence elements to make the summary coherent. In figure 19.1b, the student organizes the final summary.

Applications and Examples

Whitney Johnson uses GRASP with her students when plots become complex.  Students using GRASP are able to revisit and reconstruct the plot in their minds as a result of this summarizing activity.  Summarization and prediction share a link in that both require attention to relevant details.

[Insert Figures 19.1 and 19.1a about here.]



Figure 19.1 In her own words, Whitney Johnson, Lanier Middle School, Buford, Georgia.

In a unit on scary/suspenseful stories, students will read “The Monkey’s Paw” (Jacobs, 1902),” a short story. After reading the story, students will be able to distinguish between how tone and mood is developed throughout a story, the importance of character motivation in a story, and the sequence of events. In order to help students further understand these concepts, I will use the series-of-events chain, a compare/contrast matrix, and GRASP as study strategies. Using the summaries they create, they will be able to apply their knowledge to the next suspense story in the unit and predict its structure in order to focus more fully on the story.

The GRASP strategy is a thorough way to ensure that students remember certain parts of the story. What I really like about the strategy is that the students write down as much as they can without looking back. I feel that this activates the students’ memory and encourages them to not rely on the text. By writing what the students call out on the board as important things to remember as part of the summary, the teacher is also modeling how to delete concepts, regroup them, and identify topics in the summarization process and be more concise. Anything we can use in the classroom to promote thinking with the text is beneficial. Supporting what students read and learn in more than one way will only encourage the important ideas and concepts.


The cliffhanger is most often associated with television series when one season ends with some shocking event that leaves the viewer wondering what happened.  It is a plot device that begs the viewer (or, in our case, the reader) to predict what is going to happen next.  If you are in our generation, you will remember the season when everyone wanted to know “Who shot JR?” Many authors of extended texts also use this technique, too. Readers can detect this structure and create a sense of excitement about what might happen next as they read. As with other cognitive strategies described in this book, teachers can employ them to enhance what students mentally do as they read. When employing this classroom structure, note how prediction interacts with other cognitive strategies.  Want to know how to implement cliffhangers as a classroom structure?  Be sure to tune in next fall…Okay, you win, we will leak the method to you right now before the fall season begins…

(Contributed by Chad Semling)


“This is one of the more effective during-reading strategies I have used.  My students not only leave a reading with a greater understanding of the content but also enjoy the process.  I have used this strategy with not only reading materials but also classroom lectures and video/multimedia programs.  The “Cliffhanger” not only helps the students develop their perception skills, but it also requires them to evaluate their own understanding and practice summarizing what they have read.”

Step by Step

In all actuality, this is a very simple reading strategy to implement.  There are just a few simple steps to follow to make this tool work.

  1. Choose a point within the selected reading to stop, but be sure to include enough reading so that the students have been exposed to evidence and details that allow them to form their predictions.
  2. Once they have reached the predetermined stopping point, have them summarize (in their words) what has transpired to that point.
  3. Have the students gather evidence from the reading that will help them make a prediction about what will happen next (or at the end of the story).
  4. I like to have the students share their predictions (and facts supporting their thoughts) in small groups but you could have them share their thoughts with the entire class.  This allows for great discussions on different points of view and understanding.
  5. Finally, have the students finish the reading (or next section) and then compare their predictions to what actually takes place in the reading (this makes for a great journal entry).

Depending on the length of the reading selection or other source material, you may want to have the students make several predictions at different points.  This serves two purposes; first it breaks up larger material so the students do not become overwhelmed, and second it provides an opportunity for the students to make adjustments/revisions to previous predictions based on the new information they have read or heard (It is a good idea to have the students use different colors for each prediction).

The most important thing you can do as a teacher is to make sure your students feel comfortable with making predictions.  You need to reassure them that there is no “wrong” prediction as long as it makes sense given the evidence they provided.  It is also very important that teachers make this as enjoyable as possible for the students.  Do not make this “just another worksheet” assignment.  This is a great way to engage students, do not waste that opportunity.

Applications and Examples

In his own words, Chad Semling, Menomonie Middle School, Menomoni, Wisconsin shares his instructional cliffhanger strategy.

One example of this strategy in action uses Edgar Allan Poe’s “Pit and the Pendulum” as the text.  I use this reading as part of a lesson dealing with the Spanish Inquisition.  Due to the complex nature of the vocabulary (especially for seventh graders), it is a good idea to pre-teach the terms as much as possible.  I also recommend an audio version of the reading or at least reading the selection aloud (shared reading).  The following is a sample of the reading that allows the student to gather evidence to make their predictions.  It should be noted that I usually have the students stop four or five different times throughout this reading due to its length.

“So far I had not opened my eyes. I felt that I lay upon my back unbound. I reached out my hand, and it fell heavily upon something damp and hard. There I suffered it to remain for many minutes, while I strove to imagine where and what I could be. I longed, yet dared not, to employ my vision. I dreaded the first glance at objects around me. It was not that I feared to look upon things horrible, but that I grew aghast lest there should be NOTHING to see. At length, with a wild desperation at heart, I quickly unclosed my eyes. My worst thoughts, then, were confirmed. The blackness of eternal night encompassed me. I struggled for breath. The intensity of the darkness seemed to oppress and stifle me. The atmosphere was intolerably close. I still lay quietly, and made effort to exercise my reason. I brought to mind the inquisitorial proceedings, and attempted from that point to deduce my real condition. The sentence had passed, and it appeared to me that a very long interval of time had since elapsed. Yet not for a moment did I suppose myself actually dead. Such a supposition, notwithstanding what we read in fiction, is altogether inconsistent with real existence; — but where and in what state was I? The condemned to death, I knew, perished usually at the auto-da-fes, and one of these had been held on the very night of the day of my trial. Had I been remanded to my dungeon, to await the next sacrifice, which would not take place for many months? This I at once saw could not be. Victims had been in immediate demand. Moreover my dungeon, as well as all the condemned cells at Toledo, had stone floors, and light was not altogether excluded.

A fearful idea now suddenly drove the blood in torrents upon my heart, and for a brief period I once more relapsed into insensibility. Upon recovering, I at once started to my feet, trembling convulsively in every fiber. I thrust my arms wildly above and around me in all directions. I felt nothing; yet dreaded to move a step, lest I should be impeded by the walls of a TOMB. Perspiration burst from every pore, and stood in cold big beads upon my forehead. The agony of suspense grew at length intolerable, and I cautiously moved forward, with my arms extended, and my eyes straining from their sockets, in the hope of catching some faint ray of light. I proceeded for many paces, but still all was blackness and vacancy. I breathed more freely. It seemed evident that mine was not, at least, the most hideous of fates.

And now, as I still continued to step cautiously onward, there came thronging upon my recollection a thousand vague rumors of the horrors of Toledo. Of the dungeons there had been strange things narrated — fables I had always deemed them — but yet strange, and too ghastly to repeat, save in a whisper. Was I left to perish of starvation in this subterranean world of darkness; or what fate perhaps even more fearful awaited me? That the result would be death, and a death of more than customary bitterness, I knew too well the character of my judges to doubt. The mode and the hour were all that occupied or distracted me.

My outstretched hands at length encountered some solid obstruction. It was a wall, seemingly of stone masonry — very smooth, slimy, and cold. I followed it up; stepping with all the careful distrust with which certain antique narratives had inspired me. This process, however, afforded me no means of ascertaining the dimensions of my dungeon; as I might make its circuit, and return to the point whence I set out, without being aware of the fact, so perfectly uniform seemed the wall. I therefore sought the knife, which had been in my pocket when led into the inquisitorial chamber, but it was gone; my clothes had been exchanged for a wrapper of coarse serge. I had thought of forcing the blade in some minute crevice of the masonry, so as to identify my point of departure. The difficulty, nevertheless, was but trivial, although, in the disorder of my fancy, it seemed at first insuperable. I tore a part of the hem from the robe, and placed the fragment at full length, and at right angles to the wall. In groping my way around the prison, I could not fail to encounter this rag upon completing the circuit. So, at least, I thought, but I had not counted upon the extent of the dungeon, or upon my own weakness. The ground was moist and slippery. I staggered onward for some time, when I stumbled and fell. My excessive fatigue induced me to remain prostrate, and sleep soon overtook me as I lay.”


Depending on the material, I either have the students follow a format outlined on an overhead or whiteboard.  However, especially early on, it is a good idea to pass out a sheet with the instructions and guidelines (See Figure 20.1a).  The “cliff” I use is to help the students visualize the prediction process at each stopping point; feel free to develop your own format.