Nell Duke Keynote – Day Two OLI

Developing Informational Reading Comprehension – Keynote

References – 2002 edition of What research has to say about reading instruction and N. Duke 2003 text with Scholastic

Reading Comprehension “definition” – simultaneously extracting and constructing meaning through interaction and involvement with written language. (RAND, Reading Study Group, 2002)

Factors that impact comprehension:
readers – activity (why kids are reading) – text
(and all influenced by context)

Informational text is not a synonym for nonfiction. Think instead about informational text as addressing the natural or social world and that has particular linguistic features to accomplish that purpose.

Nonfiction is a big “umbrella” – under that comes informational text, procedural text (“how to” text), nonfiction narrative, biography & autobiography, persuasive text, reference books, etc.

Informational text is typically read differently than some other kinds of text (i.e., fictional narrative). For example, it is often read nonlinearly, selectively, and at a pact that varies from place to place in the text.

Common features of informational text: timeless verbs and generic nouns, technical vocabulary, graphic devices, navigational tools (headings, subheadings, page numbers)

(National Geographic Young Explorer, What do you do with a tail like this?, “Let’s go rock collecting” – sample titles)

8 Essential Elements
1. Provide experience with informational text, starting early. (There is growing evidence that reading comprehension is genre-specific to a least some degree, students need substantial experience with informational text — in HS kids are being read to vs. comprehending the info on their own, there is a relationship between informational text and growth in knowledge in a discipline.)

LOOK AT GUTHRIE, 2004 study of grade 4 students’ engaged reading time.

2. Teaching Strategies for Comprehending Informational Text (Even if you just teach one of these strategies, you’d make improvements in kids’ comprehension – monitoring and adjusting as needed, activation and applying relevant prior knowledge, questioning, thinking aloud, attending to and uncovering text structure, constructing visual representation), summarizing (likely the most difficult to do.)

“gradual release of responsibility” – teacher needs to “back off” as time continues and kids “own” the strategy. (What happens in most classes is that we teach something and immediately expect kids to have it. We forget the coaching in the middle — explicit description of strategy, modeling in action, collaborative use of strategy, guided practice, individual use)

Reutzel, Smith, & Fawson (2005) – research indicating that strategies can be taught in clusters, quickly used as sets rather than individually.

Collaborative Strategic Reading (cross between cooperative learning an reciprocal teaching
Students in groups of 4-5, students apply 4 comprehension strategies – preview text, “click and clunk” (to monitor comprehension), getting the gist (glean and restate the main idea), Wrap up and summarize. (EACH STUDENT HAS ROLE – leader, clunk expert, gist expert, announcer, encourager.) Kids complete learning logs before and after reading — predict what I will learn, identify clunks, questions about the important ideas.

3. Caring, a lot, about the authenticity and motivation..
Authentic literacy events are those that replicate or reflect reading and writing purposes and texts, specific to the genre, that occur in the world outside of a schooling context. (i.e., “school writing” – report on a state, read the textbook and answer the questions VS reading to learn something and writing to convey that information to someone who wants to learn something.)

How to?
Use discrepant events to generate questions (Prisms on the overhead) – creates cognitive dissonance and stimulates inquiry..
Demonstrate phenomena to generate questions (e.g., volcano, tub of caterpillars)
Serendipitous events brought from the world outside – Think “teachable moments” (e.g., broken arm – wrote an informational text for a students’ family – included nutritional information!
Literacy in response to COMMUNITY (e.g., pond brochure for other kids who will visit a site)
Literacy as a part of problem solving (e.g. parent comes in and needs help moving piano during unit on simple machines.)

4. Engaging students in rich discussions of text
See = questioning the author, instructional conversations – Goldberg 1992)
ETR – Experience-Text-Relationship

5. Building vocabulary and world knowledge
(More effective literacy teachers pay closer attention to vocabulary – research base for this claim.
CORI – concept oriented reading instruction ( — focuses on a conceptual theme in life science, engages student in real-world interactions and reading texts (informational, narrative and poetry), includes oral reading fluency practice, comprehension mini-lessons, guided reading, writing and independent reading – kids write an information book about the topic they are studying as outcome — written from portfolios gathered throughout unit. Emphasis on motivational support – includes collaboration, self-efficacy work, etc.) — Take one hour out of reading block and replace with CORI – kids score better on their reading tests. Wow.

One component – “idea circle” (think reading group). Organize kids around an idea as opposed to an individual book. (i.e., how do we get water in desert habitats?) – all kids are reading different texts organized around the idea. Shared goal in the circle leads to an outcome (i.e., present findings to another group)

Informational text repeats key vocabulary multiple times (vs. narrative).

(My apologies to Nell, as I needed to leave early in order to be ready for my session this morning.  To my students – I have handouts to share if you’d like…)


A fun tool that I just learned about from Will Richardson’s recent blog post… Fun!

Judith Irvin on Motivating Students

These notes are from Judith Irvin’s keynote this morning at the Ohio Literacy Conference… I thought you all might find these interesting… I’ll ustream sessions out tomorrow morning – more on that to come…

(She is from Florida State University –

Definitions of literacy:

1600-1900 Sign your name

1930 – Functional literacy – moved to grade equivalents (3 or more grade levels completed)

Today – the definition is much more expansive.

Leadership model for improving adolescent literacy – how do we sustain literacy development? (This has been her focus for the past five years – Carnegie Foundation as funder.)

At the center of the model – student motivation, engagement and achievement. (Interesting – technology isn’t called out in any facet of her model.)

Books – Taking Action, Meeting the Challenge in Adolescent Literacy – forthcoming…, Taking Action on Adolescent Literacy (Toolkit for Leaders) – forthcoming…

I can’t do anything about what is happening for students outside of school walls. I can control what happens in the “circle of influence” exercised within the 7-8 hours of school day.

THE TEACHER CANNOT DO IT ALONE – THE SCHOOL MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE. (See Judith Langer’s work.) Otherwise, we offer kids isolated moments of engrossed learning in an otherwise disconnected series of classes.

Early adoescents’ biggest concerns – 6th graders – no free play in middle school, how to open their locker.

Kids talk about “when we get to the the real world” – where do they think they are? WE NEED TO KNOW WHERE THEY ARE.

Helping students with text:

Start first by addressing the changes in school structure, the nature of instruction (different between elementary trained and secondary trained teachers), higher expectations of independent learning..

BIG change from narrative/trade books in elementary (80%) to 80% expository/informational text. (WHO TEACHES HOW TO READ EXPOSITORY TEXT? – We do this explicitly with narrative text but rarely do with expository text… There, we jump straight to the content…) Tests at 8th grade level – 60% expository text. (Reading and content have to go together – even though admins. are cutting out science/math classes for reading interventions on narrative focused reading…)

We use the way that a text looks to engage with/read content. (Graphic signals here. Italics, boldface type, headings, quotes) We also use signal words (cause/effect, problem solution, compare/contrast, sequence, description, proposition/support — each of these categories helps us to think about the text that follows) as an element of text structure.

Ask: Why am I reading? (pleasure or understand/remember)
If understand/remember, then ask: What am I reading? (Expository or Narrative?)
If Expository, then we need a strategy before, during and after reading. If narrative, then we likely need only a strategy for unpacking/following/engaging with text…

What do students read outside of school? (Table-talk time)

When we say “kids don’t read anything,” what we mean is “kids don’t read our stuff.”

Kids read all the time for their own purposes. As teachers, we need to honor, respect and connect to those literacies that kids bring into the classroom. (Interesting – her examples here are still all print based – magazines, drivers manuals, CD inserts)

Imagine a bulletin board – “How do you read this?” at the top – include train schedule, magazine, sale flyer, CD, etc.

Metzler – The Literacy Engagement and Instruction Cycle
Goal = Improve student confidence, competence, and efficiency
Do – Engage students in literacy tasks that are meaningful and purposeful
Our role as teachers – support students by providing instruction, motivation, and guided practice of literacy support strategies in context.

Task focused learning – there are those with a fixed view (believe intelligence cannot be changed, attributes success or failure to factors outside of their own control, focus on ability-focused goals like getting a grade vs. learning the material) of intelligence and those with an incremental view (intelligence can be changed through effort, attribute success or failure to themselves – i.e., “I studied,” focus on task focused goals – learning the material vs. getting a grade)

How to translate into classroom?
Hold students to higher standards to read and think and help them get there.
Reward systems and teacher talk
Celebrate effort and progress, not ability (i.e., we didn’t give a kid who read his first book a certificate for Pizza Hut but we did celebrate his effort and commend him – raises it to a higher level. Think Alfie Kohn.
Self evaluation – authentic assessment with meaningful feedback
Have a better answer to the question “Why do we need to know this?” – Anecdote about student learner asking “why can’t we ever learn something we need to know NOW?”
We need to love our kids. (and respect the developmental tasks they are engaged in.)


Components that make up the construct of student motivation:
expectations for students
connections between content being studied and life experiences
student choice in what to read
collaboration between students in reading, writing, investigating
instruction (multiple and providing guided practice and modeling)
grading policies which honor going above and beyond and support revision
student recognition (prominently displayed in classrooms, evidence that students are valued)
feedback (frequent, accurate)
student effort (students try their hardest to show what they know)


Importance of prior knowledge – highly personal depending on our experience and culture. (i.e., what is the major piece of furniture called in your living room? – responses range from sofa, couch, davenport, recliner, tv) Schema as the set of file folders we have in our file cabinet/mind. (Fat folders when we know a lot – thin when we don’t) You can’t teach them something new unless you connect it to what they already know – and, at times, you need to give them a folder and some content before you can make those connections. We also need to help them organize what they know.

“Ping pong reading” – read the question, find the answer… read the question, find the answer… YOU DON’T HAVE TO UNDERSTAND ANYTHING ABOUT THE CONTENT OF THE TEXT!

Students don’t fail to finish a project because they don’t care or know when to stop. They don’t know where to start.

Scaffolding – helping students move to more and more complex tasks. (It is meant to be taken away!)

HOW WILL STUDENTS BECOME BETTER READERS, WRITERS, THINKERS, and SPEAKERS of this content (math, science, social studies, music, etc.) AS A RESULT OF BEING IN YOUR CLASS? (as opposed to what we talked about when we said “every teacher a reading teacher.”)

When you create a literacy-rich environment, you communicate that this is a reading/writing/thinking community. Here – adults model reading and writing, post student work, classroom libraries are throughout ALL classrooms, reading time happens in ALL classrooms, read aloud program – schoolwide (Some of this is “plug and play” and some takes time and a team to implement)

CREATIVE IDEA – Posters of school staff and known community members reading (plays with the drink milk campaign – “just read”) (I’D LOVE TO SEE THESE EMBRACING MULTIMODAL READING!)

Literacy is not something to put on an already crowded plate… literacy IS the plate.

“Food” for thought…

This is CRAZY…

Recommended reading…

So, this isn’t beach-reading, but these are books that are really pushing some of my thinking about web 2.0 tools and technologies – and play well in dialogue with “The Dumbest Generation.”

Clay Shirky – Here Comes Everybody

Keen – Cult of the Amateur

Palfrey & Glaser – Born Digital:  Understanding the first generation of digital natives

Interview with author…

If you are interested, here is an audio interview with the author from my last post.

The Naysayers…

Why is it that the people who seem to get the spotlight when it comes to talking about new literacies, technology, and how kids learn are the naysayers? I’ve just finished reading “The Dumbest Generation” by Mark Bauerlein – another in what feels like a long string of books with the thesis that young adults/teens/children are becoming less and less “smart” given the kinds and uses of technologies made available to them. Sigh. My gut reaction to these kinds of books is usually to get heated, write something passionate for a teaching journal, and hope that a teacher’s thinking gets moved. That said, this, and the others like it (i.e., Oppenheimer) end up on the NY Times best sellers list and significantly impact readers across the globe. These writers aren’t teachers. These writers don’t do more than step into carefully chosen classrooms (usually non-representative or even generalizable) for a limited period of time, place their gaze typically on what they pre-determined they wanted to see, and then publish conclusions that have impact on parents’ and the “popular” view on the topic.  I think they miss a big point – technology is disruptive – and sometimes that is a VERY good thing.  I’m all for critically examining practice and new technologies – but this (and others like it) swings too far to the other extreme.

Maybe this is part of the reason that I want you to be thinking about the power of your voice (in creating a counter-story of sorts)… Maybe it is part of the reason I’ve been thinking so critically about the kinds of schema that teachers (and those in the popular media) need to have in order to create the classrooms that will actually move students’ thinking… Or, maybe, I’m just venting… This is a disappointing read – and one that makes our work harder. (And, I’m now wondering – what is the counter-text? And, could it have the same “punch” and impact? What if we tell the stories of kids and teachers who are doing really important, engaging work? Does that “sell” as well? Or, is there something “bigger” in our culture that we want to buy into the vision of technology as destructive as opposed to engaging/empowering/necessary… etc.?) I’m fired up. I want to write “The Smartest Generation.”