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February 2008 Discussion

As had been stated earlier, this discussion page is an evolving process.  Besides responses to the initial question, several questions/comments have been posted in relation to many of the professional development activities that have recently occurred for Montana ABLE.  The goal is to make this page more user friendly.  Therefore, you will see a chart (below) at the top of each of the main postings for the month.  All you need to do is click on the topic you would like to read more about.  Then just scroll up to read the postings in sequential order on that topic. 

Reading Comprehension:  February

Content Reading ESL Websites Family Literacy Discussion List  hosted by Susan McShane Interviews:  ABC News Living in the Shadow Request for Materials  Strategies/Worksheets

Reading and Math

Social Studies





ESL Resource and Strategies






Comprehension Teaching Strategy

Discussion List Highlights




Interview #1

Interview #2

Material Request

Response to Material Request

  1. #1
  2. #2
  3. #3


Reading Comprehension Strategies

  • Cloze Technique
  • Directed Reading-Thinking Activity

More Strategies

  • Signals of Confusion
  • SQ3R


Link to ABC News Living in the Shadows:  Interviews about the struggles of illiteracy

Interview #1 Living in the Shadows: Monica Baxley

Interview #2 Living in the Shadows: Roger Vredenburg


Response to Materials Request #3

Here are some materials that were submitted by teachers  in the Flathead Valley.

Margaret Girkins, Adult Learning Center, Flathead Valley Community College


  • Tell Me More software from Auralog

  • Oxford Picture Dictionary and workbooks

  • Rosetta Stone software

  • That’s Life from New Reader’s Press


  • GED Connections videos/books from KET

  • Critical Reading Series from Contemporary

  • GED Scoreboost from New Reader’s Press

  • PreGED series from Steck Vaughn

  • Ultimate Speed Reader software


More Reading Comprehension Strategies

Two more comprehension strategies have been posted:


Response to Materials Request - #2

Here is a list of some of the ESL material we use in Billings. 

NP =)

New Readers Press (books with tapes or CD’s)

  • Laubach
  • Talk of the Block
  • That’s Life
  • Easy Stories Plus
  • Stories Plus



Response to Request for Materials - #1

For the most part we use Steck Vaughn GED and pre-GED materials for our GED students.  We just purchased TABE Fundamentals for skill development.  For ESL, the instructor is using Grammar in Use Intermediate and Basic Grammar in Use  by Cambridge supplemented with activities off NW LINCS.  We use the following computer software:  GED 21st Century by Steck Vaughn, Access 21st Century by Steck Vaughn, and SkillsTutor.  For higher-level students who need reading skills, we use the Langen series by Townsend Press:  Ten Steps to Building Reading Skills.  For our higher level math students, we like the Number Power series by McGraw Hill.  After that it's a mixed bag of worksheets we've accumulated over the years or lifted from LINCS or other ABE instructors.

Melinda Lynnes, MCC Center for Academic Success


Request for Materials

I would like to know what are the books, workbooks, and accessories most adult education instructors are using to teach not only the ESL population but also the GED and vocational learners. Thank you.

Marie-Anne King, Lewistown


Reading and Math (posting on Assessment Discussion List 9/11/07)

Does the ability to read interfere with success with numeracy?

Try this: Create or select a math worksheet that can be displayed and edited on your computer. Highlight everything. Change the font to "Symbol."  Is it any harder to use now? (Make a decoder by writing the alphabet, numbers, and math symbols in the original font then changing that to "Symbol."  You will see that the numbers and most of the math operators are still the same. Only the letters used to write the WORDS will change.)

Or, an even simpler experiment: Turn a math book upside down, read a chapter, then do all the exercises, writing your answers upside down.

Mary G. Beheler, Tri-State Literacy
Huntington, WV 25701


Reading Comprehension Strategies

Click on the following strategies for ideas for teaching reading comprehension.

Cloze Technique

The instructional cloze is a technique to develop comprehension by deleting target words from a text.  This encourages the student to think about what word would make sense in this sentence as well as the context of the entire story.

Directed Reading-Thinking Activity

A directed reading-thinking lesson is an instructional format for teaching reading that includes three stages:  readiness for reading, active reading comprehension, and reacting to the story.


ESL Resources

1.  On February 12, OPI provided a BEST+ training.  Margaret Bowles shared information about some esl resources.  Click here for a copy of that information.

2.  Following this training, Katya Mandarino-Irish from Great Falls also provided a list of several websites.  Thanks, Katya!  Click here for the list provided by Katya.

3.  Strategy suggested on Family Literacy Discussion List

ESL Reading Suggestion (taken from Family Literacy Discussion List)

What I've done with some success is start with vocabulary, using a multi-modal method by topic with audio CD and a picture dictionary, where students simultaneously hear a word (audio) as they read it and connect it to a picture (visual), then they repeat it (kinesthetic, speech).  We discuss any they don't recognize or understand (comprehension), then they write each word (kinesthetic, writing), to practice its spelling.  We end with another round of listen/see/read/repeat.

The vocabulary basics let us use simple sentences for both comprehension & expression.  Subsequent lessons of the day use the vocabulary words for other work on the same topic, from conversation to grammar.

Nancy Hoover, M.A.Ed.
Mount Wachusett Community College
Gardner, MA


Family Literacy Discussion List Highlights

On the Family Literacy Discussion list, there was an interesting discussion with Susan McShane, author of Applying Research in Reading Instruction for Adults.  Since the discussion has not been archived yet, below are just a few highlights from the discussion.  

Group Instruction

…  One of the things we’ve found we really have to hit hard is the need for explicit instruction. Most often in adult education settings, that’s not done, and it can be hard to manage in a multi-level group, especially when people are also studying math and writing, etc. The researchers I worked with in writing the book suggested that a teacher could introduce a strategy to the whole group and then have them practice with different materials at their own reading levels. I agree it’s a good idea, but I think it’s easier said than done in some classrooms and programs.  Susan McShane

... Teachers most often assign reading practice activities and ask questions, but don’t necessarily teach comprehension and question-answering strategies.  Susan McShane

Reader Inconsistencies

I do think that it makes sense to begin with one of the comprehension-monitoring strategies. That’s what it’s all about for many of our readers—paying attention to the meaning, so they notice when it’s confusing or when they don’t understand the use of a word for instance. I think some readers focus on “getting to the end of the page” instead of understanding or learning. That may be why they don’t notice when it doesn’t make sense. There’s research to show that some students don’t notice inconsistencies in text they are reading. That means maybe their attention has wandered, or maybe they just are not aware of what active reading for meaning is all about. For them, reading is what they’ve been doing for years, and that’s running their eyes over the text, identifying the words, or getting to the end of the page. Teaching one or two specific monitoring strategies may be a great way to get started on improving comprehension with this kind of reader.

Susan McShane


Comprehension Instruction:  What Makes Sense Now, What Might Make Sense Soon by Michael Pressley

Peer Tutoring Relationships

Roscoe, R.D. & Chi, M.T.H. (2007). Understanding tutor learning: Knowledge-building and knowledge-telling in peer tutors’ explanations and questions.  Review of Educational Research, 77 (4), 534-574.



Another strategy that fits with these suggestions for paraphrasing/summarizing is About - Point. Read a paragraph. In one to two words answer the question, What is this about? (topic). In one to two sentences answer the question, What is the point (main idea).  Example. What is it about? Answer: Dogs. What is the point? Answer: All dogs go to heaven.

Jeri Levesque, Ed.D., Evaluator, LIFT, St. Louis, MO

Language Experience

That's another good idea. An oldie but a goodie--and as you say, it encourages spoken language and may elicit good information about her knowledge and interests. Of course, the tutor has to also do some direct teaching, but there's no reason not to try Language Experience.

For more information about Language Experience, click here.


... Most of our students are ESOL and they require lots of repetition and individualized instruction because of the diverse reading abilities.  I completely support “modeling” and think it is necessary for any student to understand the thought process behind answering questions, coming to conclusions, making predictions, etc. 

Moctezuma, Yvette T.

Reciprocal Teaching

Reciprocal Teaching is one of the “Multiple Strategies” approaches that the National Reading Panel found to have research support. The strategies used may be two or more of the following: question generating, summarizing of main ideas, clarifying word meanings or difficult text, and predicting what will come next. I think you could probably just do an internet search to get more specific information about it.

Susan McShane


Adults, as well as children, sometimes need to practice visualizing events as they read.  Those pictures are additional keys to memory and comprehension.

I sometimes suggest that readers use a large index card as a bookmark where they can jot down characters, events, paragraph summaries, etc with page numbers as a reference.  This is a good aid to--again--memory and comprehension.

For those where fluency issues undermined comprehension, shadow reading (also called neurological impress) can be helpful.  The instructor actually reads the passage aloud with the student at the same time.  They should keep the pace quick enough to keep meaning in tact, but slow enough for the reader to read along.  Students could also do this oral read along with audio texts--which may keep them more focused on the text rather than just listening.

Dana Newingham,Special Education Consultant, Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation, Oakland City University and Indiana Wesleyan University

Visualizing is another good idea, and writing on the cards would seem to be a variation on the coding/marking text approach to comprehension monitoring. It gets around the need to write in the book, which is a problem in most programs because the students don’t own the books. 

Susan McShane

Teacher Cognizance

Help them to be aware of what good reading is like.

I’ve also suggested that teachers may need to become more conscious of their own strategies, which they probably use automatically and have done so for years. In workshops, I’ve given teachers very difficult texts and told them to pretend they must understand and remember the material and then make notes about what they do as they read. I think doing this might help them to be more aware of their own strategies and then able to model those strategies for adult learners—perhaps by thinking aloud. (Thinking aloud is a teacher strategy mentioned in another posting earlier this week.)

... Teachers most often assign reading practice activities and ask questions, but don’t necessarily teach comprehension and question-answering strategies.

Susan McShane



Comprehension Strategies (taken from 2008 NIFL Family Literacy Discussion List)

Since there are so many possibilities in the broad category of comprehension monitoring ... it’s probably best to start with something that makes sense to the learner and isn’t  too complicated.

One possibility is restating—that is putting what they’ve read into their own words. You can explain that it’s a good way to stay focused on the meaning and to “test” their understanding.  Ask them to stop after the first section or paragraph (or even the first couple of sentences) and try to put what the writer said in their own words. If they can’t do it, that’s a clue that they may need to re-read and think about it more carefully.

Another possibility is a variation on the “coding text” strategy. The book includes an example that has several different kinds of marks to indicate questions, mark important facts, and make other responses to the text. You might start with something much simpler that introduces the idea of marking the text. Maybe they could just underline any words they don’t understand or put a check mark by any important or interesting facts or bits of information. If they begin with just one or maybe two kinds of “codes”, it may be less intimidating.

Starting with one of these simple approaches also makes it easier for you/the teacher to demonstrate and model the strategy.

Susan McShane