Strategy 3

3. Teachers demonstrate reading comprehension strategies that emphasize the importance of deriving meaning from text.

In grades 4-6, ELLs still require instruction and practice in phonemic awareness, phonemic segmentation, and decoding words. However, most instructional time should include an age-appropriate focus on deriving meaning from text. Effective teachers provide explicit discussion of how to make connections to text.

ELLs' prior knowledge may not always match that required to make sense of particular texts. Effective teachers are on the alert for language and content that may require explanation. They also select books that will build upon culturally diverse students' backgrounds, languages, knowledge, and experiences.

Some ELLs have a primary language that shares cognate or sister words with English. These pairs of English and Spanish words are cognates: observe/observar, anniversary/aniversario, respiración/respiration, and monument/monumento. Some cognates, such as stomach and estómago or azure and azúl, are easily recognized in their written forms than in spoken forms.

Some ELLs routinely recognize cognates and use them as a resource for comprehending English text. Other students are not aware that their knowledge of their home language can be such an asset in reading English. Effective teachers help students capitalize on their home language knowledge to better understand English.

Knowing that cognate recognition can boost reading comprehension, effective teachers discuss cognates with English language learners (ELLs) who speak and read Spanish, Portuguese, French, and other related languages. Teachers have students keep lists of the cognates they encounter. Teachers access and provide cognate lists, such as the one found in The ESL Teacher's Book of Lists (Kress, 2002), for their own and students' reference. As teachers preview reading materials to look for words and concepts that may require preteaching, they also scan for cognates that can serve as resources for students from certain language backgrounds.

ELLs and their teachers need to be wary, however, of false cognates. These are words that resemble each other but do not share meaning,such as embarrassed and the Spanish embarazada (which means pregnant); or actual (real or genuine in English) and actuál (current or contemporary in Spanish).

To make the hidden cognitive processes of reading and writing more accessible to ELLs, effective teachers orally narrate their own comprehension strategies.

Teachers say things like:

I know that the book Bud Not Buddy (Curtis, 2000) takes place in the United States around the year 1930.

I know that during the 1930s the U.S. had a lot of economic troubles. There weren't enough jobs. The banks even ran out of money. It was called the Depression.

When I think about what I know about the setting, it gives me some ideas about the story. I'm thinking that the people in the story might have money problems and that they might not have jobs or money or enough to eat.

In addition, graphic organizers are excellent devices for scaffolding ELLs' reading comprehension and developing their ability to monitor their own comprehension. Graphic organizers such as story maps and cause-and-effect charts visually represent categories of information necessary for comprehension. Attempting to fill in a story map can help ELLs articulate their understanding of the story and identify gaps in comprehension.

Teachers model how to fill in a chart about a story by saying things like:

Who are the main characters?
Where and when does the story take place?
What is the problem?
Is there a solution?
Does the problem get fixed?

To help understand the facts in an expository text, teachers might say things like:

We're going to read about three different vitamin deficiencies.

These are diseases that people can get when they don't get enough of certain vitamins in their food. For example, people can get a disease called scurvy if they lack certain vitamins. That's the cause: not enough vitamin C. A lack of vitamin C causes scurvy. The symptoms of scurvy are the effects. The symptoms of scurvy are bleeding gums and loose teeth.

As you read, I want you to look in the book for information to fill in a chart about diseases, their causes, and their effects. I found this information about scurvy on page 102 of our health book. Open your health books to page 102 and look for the same information I found to put in my chart. Let's look at the example:

    What information goes in the left-hand column
    under "disease"?
    What information goes in the middle column
    under "cause"?
    What information goes in the right-hand column
    under "effects"?