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Science IDEAS

Reading Comprehension Routine for Elementary School


A key element of the Science IDEAS Reading Comprehension Routine is to relate what is being read to a combination of student prior knowledge and what has been read up to that point in the passage. This is something that expert readers do automatically. The purpose of the Science IDEAS Reading Comprehension Routine is to guide students to enhance the comprehension of what they read by guiding them to approach comprehension as an expert reader would.

The use of the routine by teachers consists of two steps: Teacher Preparation and Use with Students

Step 1: Teacher Preparation to Apply the Reading Comprehension Routine

  1. Teacher reads through the entire selection and develops knowledge notes relevant to his/her comprehension of the passage

    To do this, the teacher:

    1. Reads/ previews the whole passage with comprehension and focuses on what he/she already knows about the topic (including headings, subheadings, text pictures, illustrations, and graphics).
    2. Generates notes about how his/her own prior knowledge might be useful in introducing the topic to students or how teacher prior knowledge could be changed into questions that would help access learner’s relevant prior knowledge
    3. Relates his/her own prior knowledge to the student prior curricular knowledge that is
      a) Knowledge that may have been taught to the students
      b) Knowledge that the students may have gained from previous reading
      c) Knowledge that the students may have from actual world experiences
    4. Examines text pictures, illustrations and graphics as examples of relevant student prior knowledge or as examples that will help students think about what it is they will be learning
    5. Does a brief summary of concept relationships in each paragraph and if possible links them to next paragraph. (It is NOT the vocabulary word!)
  2. Teacher generates knowledge-focused questions for guiding student reading comprehension. To begin with the teacher
    1. Reviews his/her notes and transforms them into knowledge-focused questions that would guide students reading comprehension
    2. Connects them to specific places within the selection to assist in student comprehension

Step 2: Using the Science IDEAS Reading Comprehension Routine with Students

  1. Before reading the passage

    Before reading the passage together as a group, the teacher should:

    1. Select one or two students to read the first couple of sentences aloud in the first paragraph and check for fluency (if slow, then repeat until firm in pronunciation) (If need be, have the entire group read first paragraph out loud and speed up if necessary.)
    2. Select different students to read the title and subtitle and suggest what they will be reading about.
    3. Guide students to think about how the text graphics and illustrations are related to title and subtitles just identified; then have a class discussion
    4. Ask questions (from step 2 above) that enable students to access other relevant prior knowledge
    5. Ask students to identify the concepts they have been learning that will relate to the new reading
  2. First formal reading of the passage, the teacher:
    1. Guides discussion of ideas in each sentence, connecting ideas from one sentence to the next (think about having students paraphrase what has just been read or combine ideas across several sentences) Note: Sometimes a string of simple sentences make comprehension difficult.
    2. Asks students to say what the paragraph is about, highlighting the fact that they are now summarizing by identifying the most important idea and supporting detail
    3. Continues with the same strategy until the passage has been completely read and discussed
    4. Uses the questions developed during teacher preparation phase to further guide discussion of what is being read The teacher continues the same procedure for the next several paragraphs, discussing sentences line by line, connecting sentences together, and relating sentences to relevant prior knowledge.
    5. Guides students, as a review, to relate in a cumulative fashion what has been read
      a. to what has been previously read in a passage
      b. to other relevant prior knowledge
    6. Selects a students to summarize the passage
  3. Second and Subsequent Re-Readings of the Passages

    On re-reading, the teacher:

    1. selects different students to read
    2. asks students to think about what they are reading along with their prior knowledge and what they remember from the prior reading of the passage
    3. has students paraphrase or explain what they have just read about (explain what that means so I can understand it…)
    4. has students summarize the passage

    Once student comprehension is “firm,” the routine moves into the 2nd phase

    Note: Teacher questions should fall in one of the following categories:

    1. questions about prior knowledge
    2. questions regarding students understanding of what is being read (e.g. “explain what you just read to me so I can understand it…”) 3
    3. questions about what has been previously read (on a cumulative basis) 4. questions about subsequent sections of the passage (after initial reading)
  4. Constructing Propositional Concept Maps
    1. Teacher model/guides re-reading passages for a third time, using the previous reading as prior knowledge
    2. Teachers guide students in identifying the key nouns and noun phrases (science concepts) and places each term (or term cluster) on an individual postit note. Teachers model how to have students continue to do this until they have selected all the terms that they will organize.
    3. Teachers guides a whole class discussion in order to create a concept map
    4. Teacher follow concept mapping guidelines established by the Science IDEAS Project
    5. Teacher guides student writing from the concept map
    6. Teacher eventually allows students to work into groups to construct their own concept maps and present to class.