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The Power of Comprehension Strategy Instruction: Syllabus

Course Developer Bio

Ellin Oliver Keene has been a classroom teacher, staff developer and adjunct professor of reading and writing. For sixteen years she directed staff development initiatives at the Denver-based Public Education & Business Coalition. She served as Deputy Director of the Cornerstone Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania for four years, where she oversaw literacy and professional learning for teachers in high-poverty schools throughout the nation. Currently, she works with schools and districts around the country. She is a Heinemann Professional Development provider and the author of the forthcoming Heinemann title To Understand, in which she explores the nature of comprehension and what’s essential in literacy learning, K-12. Ellin is co-author with Susan Zimmermann of Mosaic of Thought: The Power of Comprehension Strategy Instruction, the best-selling Heinemann text now available in its second edition, upon which this online course is based.

Required Texts

Mosaic of Thought: The Power of Comprehension Strategy Instruction, Second Edition, Ellin Keene and Susan Zimmermann; Heinemann 2007.

Course Description

How can educators teach children ways to think more deeply, engage more fully, question more thoroughly and feel more passionately about the texts they read? In this course, based on the second edition of Ellin Keene's and Susan Zimmermann's Mosaic of Thought, participants will tackle these questions and others about the thought processes behind becoming a highly-skilled, independent reader. Teachers will have the opportunity to engage in the processes and strategies suggested in the book, and to rethink their approach to teaching comprehension. There will also be opportunities to participate in think tank discussions about the strategies and their applications. Ultimately, participants will work with ideas in their classrooms, bringing the stories of the teaching back to their on-line colleagues for problem solving and celebration.

Course Objectives
  • Explore various strategies for deepening reading comprehension including monitoring for meaning, questioning, heightening sensory and emotional images, determining importance , inferring, synthesizing, and making connections.
  • Learn ways to think aloud, allowing students to view and respond to the complex thinking that is involved in the reading process. Teachers will learn how to think aloud, model and demonstrate their own responses to various works of fiction and non-fiction, by making explicit some of the implicit strategies experienced readers use.
  • Explore, create, and apply teaching frameworks that can help students extend what they can understand about texts.
Course Syllabus

The syllabus below suggests the amount of time you might plan to spend on each unit.

Unit 1: Exploring Thought: Making Comprehension Strategy Instruction work in your setting
Timeline: Teachers should plan to complete Unit 1 activities in approximately two weeks.

In this unit, participants will have the opportunity to learn about the 7 cognitive processes that work together in the mind of an experienced reader in order to bring forth a deep understanding of a text. Meta-cognitive exercises will build on teachers’ study of a short piece of literature. By examining and expressing their own thought processes, particularly those related to inference, teachers will become more fully aware of the direction they might take with students.

Focus Themes:

  1. Initial work in using the 7 basic comprehension strategies
  2. Addressing the need for explicit comprehension instruction
  3. Tackling frequently asked questions about comprehension strategy instruction
  4. Attending to how teachers use the comprehension strategies in their own reading.
  5. Understanding comprehension instruction of today’s complex policy environment.

Readings:

  1. Foreword, Chapters 1 and 2, and Appendices A and C. Mosaic of Thought: The Power of Comprehension Strategy Instruction, Keene & Zimmermann. Heinemann, 2007.

Assignment:

  1. Select a child for ongoing observation during course—describe the child in relation to his/her comprehension of text currently—what are his/her strengths and needs?

Online Discussions:

  1. Introductions.
  2. Understanding Texts: how do you come to understand challenging texts?
  3. Challenging Text Experience: Select one of the epigraphs (Appendix C) from the first edition of Mosaic and share how you came to understand it. Comment on your insights and share classroom implications.

Resources:

For additional related information, see the recommended resources online within each unit.

Wrap-Up:

Assess your learning for this unit in this section.

Unit 2: Comprehension Strategy Instruction Up Close: From 1st grade to high school, how teachers can plan for and implement explicit strategy instruction.
Timeline: Participants should plan to complete Unit 2 Focus Themes and Points of Study in approximately three-four weeks’ time.

Taking their own reading processes public, teachers will design and implement units of study that gradually release responsibility from teacher to students over a period of 4 – 6 weeks. Teachers will focus on teaching students to monitor their own comprehension and to make and create schematic connections from a text to their own knowledge base. By doing so, teachers will guide students in deepening their understanding of a broad range of genres. The design of this unit of study will be based on a planning template that can be used for planning units of study on other comprehension strategies.

Focus Themes:

  1. Helping students learn to monitor their comprehension in a wide variety of text types.
  2. Examining comprehension instruction from early childhood through high school.
  3. Comparing two teachers’ approaches to instruction on the same strategy.
  4. Using the gradual release of responsibility model.

Readings:

  1. Chapters 3 and 4. Mosaic of Thought: The Power of Comprehension Strategy Instruction, Keene & Zimmermann. Heinemann, 2007.

Assignment:

  1. Select strategy for a new unit of study: schema or monitoring comprehension. Read about how Debbie's and Kathy's approached to teaching schema differed.
  2. Review the Gradual Release of Responsibility planning template; pg. 76, figure 4.1 and create a unit of study for the strategy you've chosen.
  3. Work with a school or on-line colleague who is teaching the same strategy. Compare notes on successful implementation strategies and problem solve your way through the unit together.
  4. Collect observations on chosen child. How is he or she responding to explicit strategy instruction? What do your observations suggest for other students?

Online Discussions:

  1. Share your unit of study based on the gradual release model.
  2. Throughout the strategy study, report and reflect on classroom experiences and changes you’ll make when you next teach the strategy.
  3. Classroom Environment: in what ways is your classroom environment conducive to long-term strategy study? How accessible are a wide range of texts? Are there designated spaces set aside for the large group to gather for think alouds? Are there places set up for students to work in pairs, trios and/or small groups as they begin to use the strategy independently.

Resources:

For additional related information, see the recommended resources online within each unit.

Wrap-Up:

Assess your learning for this unit in this section.

Unit 3: Deepening Reading Comprehension: Examining Three Powerful Strategies
Timeline: Participants should plan to complete Unit 3 Focus Themes and Points of Study in approximately six - seven weeks' time.

Using the previous unit's work as a starting point, participants will further explore ways in which they can strengthen their students' engagement with and understanding of texts. Teachers will experience and learn about ways to support students' questioning, sensory and emotional images, agility in determining importance in texts.

Focus Themes:

  1. Generating questions and a new way to conceptualize Reader's Workshop
  2. Inferring and an up close look at thinking aloud, selecting texts for strategy study and conferring
  3. Evoking images, more on the Reader’s Workshop and helping children to make their thinking public.

Readings:

  1. Chapters 5, 6, and 7, Mosaic of Thought: The Power of Comprehension Strategy Instruction, Keene & Zimmermann. Heinemann, 2007.

Assignment:

  1. Choose to continue teaching first strategy or select a new one; use the gradual release of responsibility model to continue work on the strategy from unit 2 or repeat the planning process for new strategy.
  2. Explore the chosen strategy in your own reading using epigraphs from the beginning of Chapters 5, 6 and 7 or any of the epigraphs from the first edition of Mosaic of Thought, found in Appendix C.
  3. Share Early Phase or Middle Phase plans describing approx 10 days of teaching plans; post plan in the forum.
  4. Begin class chart with observations of different applications of strategy to varying genres.
  5. Collect observations on chosen child. Review your initial profile of this child—in what ways are his/her approaches to comprehension changing?

Online Discussions:

  1. Strategy Discussion I: how can you give opportunities for students to explore strategy in greater depth?
  2. Discussion II: how is a strategy used differently according to genre? What does this look like
  3. Early Phase or Middle Phase Plans: post your own; review others.

Resources:

For additional related information, see the recommended resources online within each unit.

Wrap-Up:

Assess your learning for this unit in this section.

Unit 4: Refining Comprehension Instruction
Timeline: Participants should plan to complete Unit 4 study in approximately 3 weeks.

In this unit, participants will center their study on ways to make a lasting impact on the reading lives of their students. Teachers will explore various reading skills assessment techniques, Participants will also consider and create a comprehensive approach to reading comprehension instruction and will explore ways to structure teaching to offer students the support they need in developing the skills necessary to live richly literate lives.

Focus Themes:

  1. Determining Importance and non-fiction strategy use
  2. Synthesis and strategy applications in Social Studies
  3. The big picture: putting comprehension instruction in perspective

Readings:

  1. Chapter 8, 9, the Epilogue, and Appendix B. Mosaic of Thought: The Power of Comprehension Strategy Instruction, Keene & Zimmermann. Heinemann, 2007.

Assignment:

  1. Continue instruction on strategy from unit 2 or 3
  2. Select the next strategy and work through the planning phase.
  3. Using the thinking strategies rubric (Appendix B), discuss with students what constitutes high quality application of the strategy you’re studying.
  4. Collect observations on chosen child. Post a discussion you have had with this child related to the thinking strategies rubric. How do you and the child rank his/her application of the strategy on the rubric? Why?
  5. Develop a curriculum map for on-going comprehension instruction. What comprehension strategy(ies) will you teach each quarter and how will you pair strategy instruction with other pressing objectives in your Language Arts program. What genres will you pair with which strategies? What units of study in writing will you pursue simultaneously?

Online Discussions:

  1. Focus on Comprehension: share your plan for on-going instruction
  2. How do we weave it all together? Share your ideas for balancing comprehension strategy study, word study and writing objectives.

Resources:

For additional related information, see the recommended resources online within each unit.

Wrap-Up:

Assess your learning for this unit in this section. Complete online, end-of-course survey.

General Policies

Courtesy Code and "Netiquette"

We expect you to use rules of common courtesy in your responses. People enjoy feedback. You may offer constructive suggestions as well as positive comments. The learning process will depend on the participation of all of us because we learn from each other. So, critique and suggestions are valued but should be provided in a sensitive way.

Technical Problems and Registration Questions

If you have any registration questions or technical difficulties during the course, contact us by phone 800.225.5800 ext. 1328 or email techsupport@heinemann.com.

Copyright© 2007 Heinemann, a member of the Reed Elsevier plc group. All rights reserved.