More Words of Comprehension Wisdom

Sheena Cameron

I am so impressed with Sheena Cameron’s book, Teaching Reading Comprehension Strategies a practical classroom guide, that I will continue to share some of her wisdom.

Introducing and teaching comprehension strategies

Cameron has adapted a model from Duke and Pearson (2002) for introducing and teaching comprehension strategies in the classroom. She includes five components:

  1. An explicit description of the strategy, which includes when and how it should be used – in the gradual release of responsibility this is part of the I do it stage.
  2. Teacher modelling of  the strategy in action – again this is part of the I do it stage.
  3. Collaborative use of the strategy in action – we do it stage.
  4. Guided practice using the strategy with gradual release of responsibility  –  this could fit both in the we do it and the you do it together stage depending on where the students are at.
  5.  Independent use of the strategy – you do it alone.

This is a newspaper text I have kept and laminated as it is perfect for teaching vocabulary and figurative language.


Cameron mentions how important is to be modelling strategies to students of all ages. She stresses the importance of preparation prior to modelling and that sticky notes can be helpful prompts. Once the preparation is done the first time, it is easy to use multiple times. Her advice is to begin collecting texts that are suitable to model particular strategies.


She also mentions the use of think-alouds (Davey,1983) as being a simple but extremely effective technique. This helps those who struggle with reading. They can hear and see what a good reader does when making meaning from text. It is also important that students practise think-alouds – as teachers we can quickly find out what students are thinking and how they are using the various strategies.think alouds

Handy hints

To conclude this post, here are some of the handy hints that Cameron suggests  to assist implementation of the comprehension strategies:

  1. Use a wide variety of materials to model: stories, textbooks, articles and visual texts such as photographs, graphs, maps and tables. I really agree with this – there are so many good, short and interesting texts out there. Find texts that fit within the learning areas of the curriculum – they provide context and teaching comprehension strategies doesn’t become an add-on.
  2. Plan think-alouds.
  3. Read the text aloud, pausing to make comments about what you are thinking (don’t this so much that the flow of the text is interrupted).
  4. Focus on the strategy you are teaching. If appropriate, refer to already taught strategies where applicable.
  5. Keep the modelling session short and sharp – hook in the students.
  6. Take a few opportunities to show word attack and fix-up strategies.
  7. Remind students that all readers get stuck sometimes, but good readers stop, clarify the problem and do something about it.

Cameron, S. (2009) Teaching Reading Comprehension Strategies a practical classroom guide

The power of reading aloud

You're never toos old

reblogged from Comfortspringsstation

My two youngest teenage children won’t like me telling you this, but at times, I still read aloud to them – albeit texts like Shakespeare’s The Tempest (difficult for most literate adults to read, let alone a 17 year old completely uninterested in navigating Shakespeare’s difficult language).

Although growing up,  I had always been an avid reader, I credit Professor Kerry Mallan from Queensland University of Technology for expanding my limited repertoire of reading genres. As a part of a Children’s Literature subject in my post graduate degree, Professor Mallan read aloud in most lectures. One example was when she read expressively from a book about some rogue cats and then she stopped, leaving me wanting more. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the author of that particular text but I do remember going straight to a library the next day and borrowing it so I could finish the story.

There began my love for all genres, with fantasy and science-fiction now being two of my favourites. I also saw the power of reading aloud to students and stopping at points that left them gasping for more.

Never underestimate the power of reading to students.

As stated in my previous blog, the authors of First Steps in Reading (FSiR) recommend seven reading procedures. Two of these procedures fit quite nicely within the ‘I do’ step of the Gradual Release of Responsibility.

The first is Reading to students – this is reading for sheer, unadulterated pleasure. A wide variety of texts should be chosen, it should be uninterrupted and daily for about 10-15 minutes. Choose texts you enjoy and encourage students to bring in texts they enjoy. Activate their prior knowledge and demonstrate enjoyment, surprise, suspense and other reactions as you read. Disrupt the flow only if meaning has been lost, allow time for students to reflect on and respond to what has been read, and make texts available for students to explore later.

I remember my long-time teaching partner, Judy and I scheduling the reading aloud to students as a daily routine. It became a routine that students looked forward to and had them clamouring for more at the end of the 15 minutes.IMG_1126

Modelled reading, the second procedure, is where the focus is on ‘explicit planning and demonstration of selected reading behaviours’ (Reading Resource Book, p11). Teachers  choose a text that allows multiple demonstrations and use clear ‘think aloud’ statements that have a single or limited focus. This behaviour is most effective when students are asked to ‘have-a-go’ at the behaviour as soon as possible after the demonstration. Sessions are most effective when they are kept to five to ten minutes.

Again the text is introduced to the students to activate prior knowledge. The teacher pauses at a pre-determined place to demonstrate the reading behaviour and this is continued throughout the reading of the text. Students can ask clarifying questions but the focus is on the teacher ‘think-alouds’. It is important to allow students to review the behaviour – a cumulative chart can be established to record the modelled behaviours.

Thinks of all those great texts that you genuinely love or are interested in and share those. Choose texts and reading behaviours that link to the curriculum you are teaching. In a world governed by technology, teachers have an opportunity to share a genuine love of reading and to ignite that passion in students.


Dr Seuss poster from edutopia