Coteaching Comprehension Strategies During Inquiry Learning

As you likely know, the references to coteaching reading comprehension strategies in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership are summaries based on my previously published professional books focused on this topic.

In those books, I focus on seven reading comprehension strategies that can be applied to all texts and across all content areas: activating or building background knowledge, using sensory images, making predictions or drawing inferences, questioning, determining main ideas (or importance), using fix-up options (to gain or regain comprehension), and synthesizing. All of these strategies can and should be applied to both print and digital texts. For educators who want more information, lesson/unit plans, and graphic organizers and assessment tools to support instruction in teaching/coteaching comprehension, I highly recommend these books.

Coteaching During Inquiry
Coteaching reading comprehension strategies during inquiry learning is a way for school librarians to position their work at the center of their school’s academic program. “Many of us see our role as fostering the enjoyment and appreciation of literature in all genres and information in all formats—but we have stopped short of taking part in actual reading instruction. Helping youth become capable readers is the goal of every school. Improving students’ reading achievement and improving teachers’ reading instruction are critical concerns of all school principals. If we are to position ourselves at the center of our schools’ literacy programs, then we must become leaders in reading instruction” (Moreillon 2008, 27).

Inquiry learning offers an authentic opportunity for school librarians and classroom teachers to coteach reading comprehension strategies. During inquiry, coteachers model using think-alouds to demonstrate to students how to approach unfamiliar or difficult text. They show that two (or more) people will bring different background knowledge to reading a text and apply different strategies to wrestle with meaning making. Coteachers model the behaviors of lifelong learners.

Difficult Texts
When students are seeking information to answer their questions, they will invariably interact with texts that are above their proficient reading level. At these points during inquiry learning, students will need to be able to reach into their reading strategy toolkits to select and apply the best tool(s) for the comprehension challenge. Educator and peer modeling are essential to making visible what is often invisible to striving and struggling readers. Understanding reading as problem solving helps strengthen students’ ability to think critically and make meaning from texts.

Students need scaffolds and frameworks to support them as they develop complete reading comprehension toolkits. Graphic organizers and elementary bookmarks and secondary bookmarks such as these found in Chapter 2 in my reading comprehension book resources can help give students the reminders they need to be effective comprehension problem solvers. Developing a set of initial questions to ask when approaching unfamiliar text is another way to support effective reading and information seeking. (See page 64 in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership).

In order to wrestle with difficult texts and engage in deep reading, readers must employ comprehension strategies (see seven strategies listed above). Deep reading takes time. “The quality of how we read any sentence or text depends, however, on the choices we make with the time we allocate to the processes of deep reading, regardless of the medium” (Wolf 2018, 37).

Disposition: Persistence
When we are modeling, it is important for educators demonstrate persistence with difficult texts. In their book Reading for Understanding: A Guide to Improving Reading in Middle and High School Classrooms (1999), Schoenbach, Greenleaf, Cziko, and Hurwitz offer a strategy that I have used since reading their book almost twenty years ago. Ask students to bring in texts for which adults will be challenged to make meaning. Examples could be rap or other song lyrics, video games, technology, or other manuals, or any text for which students have expertise or experience and educators don’t. Using think-alouds, educators demonstrate that they must reach into their reading strategy toolkits to make sense of the text. Students then have the opportunity to assess the educator’s understanding and meaning making process (56).

Regardless of our age, background experiences, and reading proficiency, all readers will bump up against difficult texts. In order to read deeply, all readers will need to show persistence in solving comprehension challenges. Students will also run into other roadblocks in their information-seeking process; they can lose momentum or threaten to give up all together. Activating and applying the disposition persistence during inquiry learning is essential. Practicing persistence is important to being successful in life as well as in schooling.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. Do the administrators and faculty colleagues with whom you serve view school librarians as reading comprehension teachers?
  2. If they do, how can you capitalize on this leadership opportunity? If they don’t, how can you change this perception?

Works Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2007. Collaborative Strategies for Teaching Reading Comprehension: Maximizing Your Impact. Chicago: ALA.

_____. 2008. “Position Yourself at the Center by Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies.” Teacher Librarian, 35 (5), 27-34.

_____. 2012. Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact. Chicago: ALA.

_____. 2013. Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Elementary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact. Chicago: ALA.

Schoenbach, Ruth, Cynthia Greenleaf, Christine Cziko, and Lori Hurwitz. 1999. Reading for Understanding: A Guide to Improving Reading in Middle and High School Classrooms. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Wolf, Maryanne. 2018. Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World. New York: Harper.

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