- Is the Comprehension Toolkit research based?
- Can I use the Toolkit in my reading workshop?
- How have teachers integrated the Toolkit into their reading workshop?
- Can I use the Toolkit with a balanced literacy/ guided reading program?
- How have teachers integrated the Toolkit into their balanced literacy program?
- Can I use the Toolkit with a basal reading program?
- How have teachers integrated the Toolkit into their basal reading program?
- Can you use the Toolkit to teach science and social studies?
- Can I use the Toolkit for summer school instruction?
Is the Comprehension Toolkit research based? The pedagogy and curriculum of the Comprehension Toolkit are grounded in research-based principles. For an overview of the key principles that underpin the Toolkit lessons click here.Back to Top
Can I use the Toolkit in my reading workshop? The essential components of comprehension instruction fit seamlessly into a reading workshop model. In the Toolkit, we model, thinking out loud as we read to kids and showing them how we think through and respond to text. Next, we guide them to think about text with us as we read and respond to it together. Once kids have a thorough understanding of the task, we send them off to read and respond on their own, with a partner, or in small groups. During independent or collaborative practice, we move around the room conferring with kids in order to provide individualized and differentiated instruction. Instruction is tailored to meet the needs of each and every child. At the end of the workshop, we come back together as a group to share learning and to build a community of learners through conversation and discussions about reading.
The only difference we can see between PTK instruction and the reading workshop model is that when we introduce comprehension strategies and practices for the first time, our lessons take longer than standard minilessons. Our lessons are more like "maxilessons" than minilessons, and for good reason. We spend more instructional time modeling and guiding so that we can explicitly teach the reading and thinking strategies. We typically model our own thinking and guide kids through a good portion of text so that they have a clear idea of what to do. Then kids try this out themselves when they are ready. But we don't do Toolkit lessons just once. We teach them multiple times in different texts. Subsequent lessons to review and practice thinking strategies can be much shorter, more in the realm of minilessons.
We've found the Toolkit lessons especially useful in a reading workshop model because the reading and thinking strategies are cumulative. Kids build a repertoire of these that they apply across many texts and genres. Kids use any and all of the strategies during independent practice. Kids internalize the comprehension strategies as tools they can use to understand whatever they read independently as well as books and articles they discuss in literature circles, inquiry groups, etc. Most importantly, kids come up with a myriad of creative ways to write, think, talk, and draw about their reading.Back to Top
How have teachers integrated the Toolkit into their reading workshop? In one kindergarten we know well, the kids spend several weeks at the beginning of the year "marinating" in nonfiction of all varieties, the classroom awash in nonfiction. The teacher conducts minilessons in nonfiction literacy, modeling her thinking and then sending kids off to practice on their own. Tubs of nonfiction books cover the tables. Post-its, pencils, and markers are readily available for kids to draw something they learned or mark a spot where they wondered with a question mark as the teacher moves around the room conferring with them. Each day at the culmination of the workshop, kids share out at the circle.
Every week or so, the teacher introduces a Primary Toolkit strategy in a longer launch lesson and then reviews that same strategy in her minilessons over subsequent days. For instance, kids spend two full weeks learning about different features, making a class Feature/Purpose book, noticing features in books, and beginning to use features as they draw information they are learning. As the kids are introduced to the idea of noticing new learning, they continue using features in their responses. Toolkit instruction in this classroom is about writing as much as reading, so in the workshop each day, kids talk, draw, and write, using invented spellings and their growing knowledge of sound/symbol correspondence to record their new learning. Most important, the kids keep using the strategies they have already practiced on a daily basis during reading workshopBack to Top
Can I use the Toolkit with a balanced literacy or guided reading program? The Toolkit addresses comprehension instruction within the balanced literacy model. There are countless programs addressing phonics and phonemic awareness, fluency, and other important elements of literacy instruction. We've focused our curriculum on comprehension-to make sure that instruction in this all-important aspect of reading is explicit, robust, and thoughtful.
Within a balanced literacy framework, the modeling and guided practice portions of Toolkit lessons are a good fit with instructional read-alouds and shared reading. Kids are up close, and we use large-format text such as big books and posters like the TFK posters as we read to and with the children. As we move into the guided practice portion of the lesson, kids often have clipboards so that after we talk and respond together, they write their own responses to leave tracks of their thinking. While they are still up close where we can carefully observe them, we check to see that they are ready to try the task in small groups or on their own.
The Toolkit fits like a glove with guided reading practices. Toolkit comprehension lessons are perfect for teachers to use as they meet with small guided reading groups. Typically, the guided reading lesson reinforces and reviews a strategy we have taught in a whole-group lesson previously. The small, flexible, needs-based guided reading group provides an opportunity for teachers to design explicit instruction to meet kids' shared learning needs. As kids read in multiple copies of the same text, we use the Lesson Guide to provide instruction. The Lesson Guide supplies the lesson moves and language that can be applied to any text and works seamlessly with leveled guided reading books. The small guided reading group is ideal for assessing how kids use and apply comprehension strategies as they read, giving teachers a good idea of what to teach next.
Often children who are not meeting with the teacher during guided reading time work collaboratively or independently, usually in centers. As part of center work, we have set up tables with books, Post-its, writing paper, markers, etc., so that kids can use the strategies and response options we have introduced in Toolkit lessons. This all-important independent practice focuses kids mainly on reading, with short responses that reinforce the strategy that has been taught. Kids might mark a Post-it with an L and record new learning, draw a picture to demonstrate thinking, or ask a question to clarify confusion. The emphasis is on authentic response that contributes to learning rather than responses that simply keep kids busy while the teacher is working with small groups. Kids need to stay busy, but they need to be busy with meaningful work.Back to Top
How have teachers integrated the Toolkit into their balanced literacy program?
One school uses the Toolkit in their balanced literacy program. After teaching all of the kids the lessons in the Monitor Comprehension Strategy Book, the teachers teach Toolkit lessons in small, needs-based guided reading groups. The school is steeped in comprehension strategy instruction, so some second-graders, for instance, already have a strong foundation in making connections and questioning in nonfiction text. So the teacher begins Toolkit instruction for them with the Infer & Visualize strategy book. Other guided reading groups may be working on activating and connecting to background knowledge or asking questions, depending on their needs.
In another class team of first-grade teachers work together to plan out Toolkit instruction over the first months of the school year. Kids are already familiar with nonfiction as a genre, so the teachers introduce one Toolkit lesson at the beginning of each week. The launch lesson is completed in one longer block, and after the teacher models, the kids spend much of the first day in guided practice with partners in the meeting area. In this way, the teachers observe everyone as they confer with kids, making sure kids understand the strategy and are ready to try it on their own. Teachers note those kids who need additional small-group practice so they can review the lesson in small, flexible needs-based guided reading groups on subsequent days.
The following day, after a brief minilesson to review the strategy, kids disperse to centers to practice the strategy with nonfiction books at their respective levels. At each center, teachers place an example of responses based on lessons taught previously—a sample Postit marked with a ? or an L, or phrases that kids might use in their written response, such as "I wonder . . . " or "I learned." Centers are set up so that kids can be as independent as possible while the teachers pull small groups for instruction. Small-group guided reading lessons include review of strategies already introduced at the beginning of the week. Lessons are adapted to the needs of different groups, so that instruction is differentiated.
At the end of the guided reading session, each class comes together to share their learning—in this way the teachers can make a quick assessment of what kids accomplish independently in the centers.Back to Top
Can I use the Toolkit with a basal reading program? Most basal programs have plenty of leeway for integrating Toolkit comprehension instruction with the selections in the anthology. First of all, anthologies are great sources of additional text for kids. So feel free to use whatever Toolkit lesson fits best with selections in the anthology. Also, some users of basal programs have told us that their anthologies lack enough nonfiction to provide kids with solid practice in informational text reading. So integrating the Toolkit and its texts with a program provides much-needed, engaging nonfiction for kids.
One thing we have noticed about the comprehension element of many basal reading programs is that although strategies such as asking questions and drawing inferences are mentioned throughout the Teacher's Guide, the basal does not explain how to teach comprehension explicitly. We have yet to see a basal program with robust, indepth comprehension instruction at its core. Good news! You can't get much more explicit or robust than the Toolkit for comprehension instruction. The Toolkit gives you both the teaching language and teaching moves to teach a variety of comprehension strategies. So we recommend using the Toolkit comprehension lessons to ramp up basal lessons. The Lesson Guides in the six Strategy Books provide an explicit way to teach Toolkit comprehension lessons with a basal text.Back to Top
How have teachers integrated the Toolkit into their basal reading program? In one district, teachers use their whole ninety-minute literacy block every Friday to teach a full Toolkit strategy lesson. Then, on the following Monday through Thursday, kids practice the featured comprehension strategy in selections from the basal. They also do the skill sections of the basal program. When Friday comes around, another ninety-minute Toolkit lesson immerses kids in thinking and sets the pace for the following week. This plan evolved because the district recognized that the comprehension instruction in the basal program was too limited to grow powerful readers who use comprehension strategies to understand what they read. Back to Top
Can you use the Toolkit to teach science and social studies? Many schools and teachers use the Toolkit across the curriculum, expanding into science and social studies. Often teachers using highly scripted reading programs simply make the content areas the home of strong comprehension instruction, using the nonfiction topics and materials these potentially fascinating subjects offer kids. Download a chapter from the Teacher's Guide on this topic.
In one second-grade classroom, Toolkit strategies are introduced as an integral part of science and social studies instruction. As the teachers plan the required weather curriculum study, they incorporate Toolkit instruction, which they continue to use in subsequent social studies and science units throughout the year. To build background knowledge, kids read and respond to a variety of nonfiction, including books, charts, videos, maps, newspaper articles, and online sources. Kids notice new information and ask questions as they read and view all these different sources. They write and draw what they are learning, using features such as close-ups, labels, and captions.
Toolkit lessons focusing on both note-taking and summarizing and synthesizing information provide ways for kids to organize the information they are learning and create books, poems, posters, and other projects to share knowledge. In this way, reading, writing, and thinking strategies become a means to an end-investigating new topics as kids learn about the real world.
Can I use the Toolkit for summer school instruction?
Because the Toolkit is an intensive course of study designed to help students access and learn from nonfiction texts it is an ideal summer school resource for students who need additional support in learning fundamental comprehension strategies. For a summer school literacy guide that will help you plan a summer school curriculum and assess student progress click here.Back to Top