Stages 3&4: Constructing Meaning - Description
Comprehension - What do I teach? How do I teach it?
For readers who have developed some fluency with decoding, now is the time to learn how to dig into text to construct meaning and think critically - the art of comprehension. Rather than tackle the "Comprehension Smorgasbord" with a little bit of this and a little bit of that, we provide you with our tried and proven developmental comprehension progression, Stages 3 through 6, which provides systematic coverage of increasingly complex strategies. You will be amazed at what you learn about the way your readers are processing text.
Stage 3: "Unpacking Sentences" (Constructing Meaning)
The launching pad for Comprehension Strategy Instruction is Stage 3. Whether your readers are working at text with a reading age of 15+ years or 8 years, this is their starting point. Our simple routine (which we think is quite unique) shifts the locus of control from the teacher to the students, providing them with the opportunity to truly habitualise independent comprehension skills that transfer into everyday reading.
Our favourite Michael Pressley quote provides us with our starting point.
“The goal with comprehension strategy instruction … is to teach students to take over their own reading and thinking.”
After the early stages of comprehension strategies instruction [that is after the teacher is no longer introducing the strategies] the teacher’s role in the conversation is limited to prompting students to be active in deciding how they might process the text at any point.” (Pressley, 2015)
So, we have a goal … to get our readers to a place where they are doing all the work for themselves, the genuinely active reader whose brain subconsciously, even relentlessly, seeks out understanding of the text in front of them, without our intervention.
WHAT do we Teach to achieve this comprehension goal?
In Stage 3 we introduce you to Unpacking Sentences, our foundational strategy for developing active readers who are habitualised to construct meaning and think critically WHILE they are reading.
This is also tied in to our developmental progression, why we call this “A Systematic Approach to Comprehension Strategy Instruction”.
HOW do we Teach Comprehension?
As Pressley suggests, after the initial teaching of some strategies, the teacher withdraws allowing the reader to assume responsibility for constructing meaning and thinking critical. This is to allow the time and the space to achieve autonomy with these skills. This is a perfect alignment with our SharpReading teaching and learning methodology, EXPLAIN, MODEL, GUIDED PRACTICE, followed by lots of INDEPENDENT PRACTICE until the reader can demonstrate fluency (an automatic mental response to text).
Stage 4: "The Deep 4" (Constructing Meaning)
Stage 4 adds four of the most important comprehension strategies to the reader's toolbox to help interpret and clarify the literal meaning of sentences. Visualisation, Prior Knowledge, Asking Questions, Forming Hypotheses - yes these may all sound familiar but SharpReading gives them a very different treatment. While readers will have been using these intuitively as the unpack sentences in Stage 3, we now bring them out into the open to force the brain to be more conscious flexible and work harder at developing the active reading skill we are after.
Stage 3 Start-Up Workshop
Stage 3 is the foundation to all of our Comprehension Strategy Instruction, and as such we treat this as a operate stand alone start-up workshop. Whether students have a reading age of 8 yrs or 15+ yrs, they all must start here and gain fluency with 'unpacking sentences'.
Teachers appreciate the opportunity for face-to-face interaction as we outline the research and the pedagogy behind our approach to reading instruction. The workshop is very practical. At the end of the day you should walk out feeling very confident about implementing our routines in your classroom the very next day.
Built into your workshop fee is 12 months access to Stage 3 ONLiNE which provides you with all the support you need to become TRULY fluent as a SharpReading teacher - Teacher Scripts, Palnning and Assessment Templates, Teaching Charts and video clips to provide models of the teaching and lots of practice with monitoring students in action.
You do not have to purchase any additional resources. As with all our SharpReading Stages you can easily use the existing resource you have. We do, however, provide you with some FREE samples of our StoryBytes and InfoBytes which will make it very easy for you to make a start.
WORKSHOP COST: NZ $195+GST (includes 12 months access to Stage 3 ONLiNE - value NZ $99+GST)
Stage 3 ONLiNE
As we have said, 12 months access to Stage 3 ONLiNE is an integral part of your workshop fee. If you don't have access to one of our Start-Up Workshops, you can still purchase a 1 User Licence for the ONLiNE training. - everything you need to be a successful Stage 3 teacher is there waiting for you; an in-depth explanation of the theory and practice, video modelling of the routines, practical activities to develop the skills you need, lots of resources and templates.
Stage 3 ONLiNE COST: NZ $99+GST for a 1 User Licence
When are students ready to start Stage 3?
Students are ready to start Stage 3 when they are 'fluent decoders'.
Decoding and Comprehension compete for available short term memory and decoding will always trump comprehension. Therefore it is important that a certain level of decoding fluency is achieved (the decoding process is sufficiently automated to leave space in the head for other things) before asking the reader to focus their cognitive energy on some heavy duty constructing of meaning.
The criteria for moving on to Stage 3
1. The reader must demonstrate reasonable fluency at a reading age of 7 or above. That means a good flow as they are reading, not hesitant word by word decoding.
2. The reader must have an efficient word attack strategy so they can sound out and chunk unfamiliar / multisyllabic words which start appearing in the text they are reading at around a reading age of 7 years.
3. The reader must be monitoring their reading and self correcting miscues especially visual clues ("That doesn't look right!").
4. The reader must be able to hold onto the gist of the sentence - they are using the new found space in their heads to ‘hold onto meaning’ not necessarily construct it for themselves.
Students in Junior Classrooms
The usual expectation is that students in the first two years of school will be working on Stages 1&2 (Developing Decoding Strategies). Towards the end of the second year some may be meeting the criteria above and could be ready for Comprehension Strategy Instruction.
Students in Middle and Upper Primary Classrooms
In the middle and upper school (7-13 year olds) most students will be reading at or above their chronological age and will meet the criteria above.Whether they have a reading age of 7 or 15+,all students must work their way through Stage 3 as this is the foundation which Stages 4-6 are built upon.
CLICK HERE for our 'SharpReading Scope and Sequence' for schools where SharpReading has been implemented over a number of years.
In every middle and upper primary classroom there will be a number of student who still have decoding issues (1 or 2 years behind their chronological age is a useful marker) and will probably not benefit from the challenges of Stage 3.
For advice on what to do with these students, click on the link to "The Struggling Older Reader".
Stage 4 Start-Up Workshop
Stage 4 is introduced as part of a Stage 4-6 Start Up Workshop. These stages are what we call 'bolt ons' to the Stage 3 routine. No new routine is required. The assumption we make is that with lots of practice, the cognitive energy being expended in Stage 3 reduces as the thinking becomes automatic, just as it does for the decoder in the diagram above approaching readiness for Stage 3. We now add in new complexity - an addition to the 5 Steps routine but not a new routine.
This is very helpful for the learner because it allows them to consolidate the automatic process they have learnt while tackling something new.
Stage 4 ONLiNE
Of course you do not need to attend a Stages 4-6 start-up workshop. Once you are well embedded in Stage 3 you will understand our processes and thinking and it is very easy to pick up the additional stages by doing the ONLiNE training.
In fact we offer Stages 4&5 ONLiNE as a package. Stage 6 is not yet available ONLiNE.
CLICK HERE for more information about Stage 5.
Stage 4&5 ONLiNE COST: NZ $99+GST for a 1 User Licence