Strategy Decision Making
Dr. Susan Davis Lenski
Portland State University
• Middle and high school readers often do not
comprehend what they read.
• They lack the strategies to help them
comprehend what they read.
• They may not be able to generalize their
strategies to content-area literacy tasks and lack
instruction in and knowledge of strategies
specific to particular subject areas, such as
math, science, or history.
(Biancarosa & Snow, 2003)
Where is that Holy Grail?
“Some days I feel my students are I are caught in a
riptide of futility. I feel that I have failed them. I, too, want
to be invited behind the magician’s curtain and
taught all the tricks of teaching reading and writing. I
want to share with my kids how profoundly words,
reading, and writing have enriched my life, seen me
though some tough moments, helped me to define self
and resurrect self when my ego has been flattened.
Sometimes I feel discouraged but never hopeless. I keep
pursuing the Holy Grail of teaching literacy. I am a
Middle school special education teacher
Ongoing Research Project
• 25 middle and high school teachers
• Urban setting
• Four different schools, all with 80% or
higher at-risk population
• Enrolled in reading endorsement program
through Portland State University
Application to Reading Next
• Direct, explicit comprehension instruction
• Effect instructional principles embedded in
• Text-based collaborative learning
• Diverse texts
What works? What doesn‟t? What works for social
studies, but not for science? What works for Joe but not
for me? I would be greatly relieved if some wonderfully
experiences teacher would just hand me 12 strategies
and say, „Use these,‟ then add a new one every week or
two. Greatly relieved!!”
First year middle school teacher
Start with Texts
Science Texts Social Studies Texts
Journals Diaries, letters
Lab reports Political cartoons
Graphs, charts Picture books
Data tables, diagrams Newspapers
Internet texts Poetry
Video texts, microscope slides Commercials
Maps, posters Instructions, directions
Informational books Recipes
Cartoons, pictograms Billboards, bumper stickers, posters
Newspaper articles Lyrics
Summaries Internet texts, on-line bios
Start with Texts (cont.)
Charts, diagrams Textbooks
Plans, patterns (architecture) Gallery guides
Budgets, financial reports Media terms
Schedules, time tables Magazines
Instruments: seismic, volcanic, etc. Journal articles
Instructions, operations Catalogs
Historical references Critiques
Maps, trend patterns Internet sources
Statistics Photos, original art
Problems, equations Movies
Textbook explanations Symbolic representations
Start with Texts (cont.)
Language Arts Spanish (ELL)
Textbooks stories Posters
Novels Body languages
Internet Sources Idioms
Short stories Time tables, menus
Diaries, letters Newspapers
Zines, graphic novels Computer language programs
Newspapers, magazines Environmental print (graffiti)
Essays Informational books
Picture books CDs that accompany texts
Book reviews Text messages, letters
Multigenre Text Example
• Social Studies text, Across the Centuries
• “Istanbul was Once Constantinople” by They might be
• “The Barbarians,” History channel reenactment
• The Bayeux Tapestry (Art)
• Scenes from The Lord of the Rings (Movie)
• Guest speaker, Peace Corps volunteer (Uzbekistan)
• The White Mountains, by John Christopher (Novel)
• Age of Empires II, Video game
Text-based Strategy Decisions
What are the demands of this text?
Knowledge rating scale
Thinking about the Readers
What preparations do students need before they read?
Accessing background knowledge
Connecting with prior experiences
Knowledge of content
Which strategies would be useful to prepare readers for this text?
• What are the learning processes students need to activate?
• Setting purposes
• Monitoring understanding
• Drawing conclusions
• Making connections
• Which strategies would help students comprehend the text?
• Discussion web
• Problemitizing texts
• Teaching students how to transfer strategy
use to new situations is one of the most
difficult aspects of strategy instruction.
Readers tend to learn and use strategies
in the contexts in which they were
• Almasi, 2003
Steps to transfer of strategies
– Describe the strategy “What is it?”
– Model strategy
– Explain how the strategy works “How to do it.”
– Guided practice
– Explain how and when to use strategy in other
(Adapted from Almasi, 2003)
• Teachers had great difficulty thinking about
literacy processes and standards as they
• Teachers found strategy instruction useful in the
• It helped the teachers focus on literacy processes.
• The lessons became more engaging for students.
• Teachers felt more satisfied with their teaching.
• Students achievement has begun to
increase on the state tests.
• Teachers are talking about lessons in
• Almasi, J. (2003). Teaching strategic processes in reading. New
• Biancarosa, G., & Snow, C. (20030. Reading next: A vision for
action and research in middle and high school literacy. Washington
DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.
• Duffy, G.G. (2005). Visioning and the development of outstanding
teachers. In Z. Fang (Ed.), Literacy teaching and learning (pp. 321-
328). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
• Gaskins, I. (2003). Taking charge of reader, text, activity, and
context variables. In A.P. Sweet & C.E. Snow (Eds.), Rethinking
reading comprehension (pp. 141-165). New York: Guilford.
• Snow, C., & Sweet, A.P. (2003). Reading for comprehension. In A.P.
Sweet & C.E. Snow (Eds.), Rethinking reading comprehension (pp.
1-11). New York: Guilford.