Neil Schiavo is a Research Associate at Education Development Center, Inc. He has over 10 years experience developing materials to support the professional learning of teachers and administrators around the country. His interest is in implementing and sustaining programs that create sensible ways for teachers to collaborate and learn together to strengthen classroom instruction.
Successful reading comprehension is essential to being college and career ready. But for struggling readers, the ability to make meaning of text is tremendously challenging. Problems begin to surface early in elementary school and continue through the upper grades. Few standards in the Common Core require such a high degree of abstraction and facility with language.
The PowerUp What Works ELA Instructional Strategy Guide for Visualizing offers concrete instructional strategies, linked to technology tools that teachers can use to promote visualization. Additional practical recommendations for visualizing can be found in a recent blog post on Middle Web written by Mike Fisher and Danielle Hardt. Fisher and Hardt recommend using digital microstories. These are short texts, from six words to two sentences, which allow students to practice making inferences and visualization. The blog post offers links to compilations of microstories, which was where I found this one, which gave me chills, on the Mandatory.com website (among others that were less appropriate for elementary students):
“I always thought my cat had a staring problem - she always seemed fixated on my face. Until one day, when I realized that she was always looking just behind me.”
As Fisher and Hardt suggest, microstories provide an engaging, quick assignment. Within the confines of a typical ELA period, students could read and re-read a microstory, create a product to share their inferences and visualizations, discuss, and receive feedback from classmates and teachers.
Fisher and Hardt acknowledge that microstories alone are an insufficient tool for students to develop the depth of the skills that they’ll need. However, these brief bits of compelling text can serve as one strategy in the reading comprehension puzzle that engages a broad range of learners. For a more comprehensive approach to teaching close reading, check out the article by Nancy Bowles, in Educational Leadership, from 2013. Find additional strategies about visualizing within the PowerUp What Works Instructional Strategy Guide for Visualizing.