Reading Strategies...But First, Comprehension!
Did you know that 98% accuracy is the standard measure of success for independent reading comprehension?! Ninety-eight percent! I was astonished by this when I first read it.
Richard Allington (What Really Matters in Response to Intervention) points out, "when the struggling readers read routinely from texts that they could read at the historical 'independent' reading level (98 to 99 percent accuracy), they made the greatest reading gains (Allington, 46).
What does this mean for us?
Think of 3 levels of reading experience:
- Independent level...comprehension possible without help from an expert other...so NO MORE than ONE NEW WORD in every 100 running words (Allington, 46 quoting Betts).
- Instructional level...comprehension possible with help from an expert other...a maximum of ONE NEW WORD in 20-50 running words (Allington, 47 quoting Betts).
- Frustration level...comprehension is ONLY possible with extensive help from an expert other. Students encounter so many unknown words (foreign names, subject-specific terms, words they've heard but never seen...) that they can not construct meaning. Syntax...both sentence structure and length can also contribute to frustration.
Students need opportunities to read at both their independent and their instructional levels. When teachers take a complex text and boil it down to its essential information, they are doing all the cognitive work of reading for their students. While this is an efficient use of time and allows for content area coverage, it does NOT provide students with opportunities for growth as readers and comprehension-makers, or develop strategies for reading success in the long term. It also deprives students of the opportunity to develop some work ethic and resiliency.