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March 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:  March

Material Request Content Areas Research Strategies/Worksheets Websites

Call for Book Titles

Response to Request


Reading for a Purpose

Math and Comprehension


Research Articles

  • How Should We Teach Comprehension

  • How Should Adult ESL Reading Instruction Differ from ABE Reading Instruction

What Does It Feel Like to Have a Reading Problem

Reading Comprehension Strategies


Reading Comprehension Websites I

  • Adolescent Literacy (Grades 4-12)

  • Awesome Stories

  • Nonfiction Passages

Reading Comprehension Websites II

  • Skillswise

  • Thinkfinity


Response to Book Title Request

OMG!  As I began thinking about Cathy Smyers’ request regarding book titles, I once again realized that sometimes I get so caught up with teaching skills that I forget my long-range goal of getting people to enjoy reading.  So I started looking for some booklists that others have recommended.  Of course, that led me on a great trip all over the net.  Was it fruitless?  Never!  I was reminded about some other resources out there that I need to share with all of you.  I have listed those resources first and then provided some links for book titles.  This is so exciting!  NP =)

Reading websites 

Skillswise by BBC

The UK always has some great resources that we can use.  One of the exceptional ones is the BBC site Skillswise at . You can have a student access this site for instruction in the following areas:

  • Fact and Opinion

  • Types of Text

  • Scanning

  • Summarizing (Summarising)

  • Your Stories

  • Skimming

That is not the only thing!  You can also access the homepage at for many other lessons in grammar, spelling, listening, writing, vocabulary, and math!  Check it out!

Thinkfinity by the Verizon Foundation

As I was looking on the NIFL website, I was reminded about .  I had not been there for a while and found the website to provide some great instructional tools for students on Recognizing Supporting Details and Recognizing the Main Idea.  What’s really great is that it is auditory!

Check them out:

You can find many more skills by going to the homepage at and keying in reading (or whatever you want) in the Search!!!

If you find other resources, please share them with your colleagues at MT LINCS.


Emergent readers I

Emergent readers II

General readers

 American Library Association:  ALA

The Notable Books Council of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), has compiled its year 2008 list of outstanding books for the general reader. These titles have been selected for their significant contribution to the expansion of knowledge and for the pleasure they can provide to adult readers. This is "The List for America's Readers:"

Young adult readers

YALSA, the fastest-growing division of the American Library Association, named the recipients of the 2008 Alex Awards, ten adult books with specific teen appeal. The awards, sponsored by Booklist, were announced at the 2008 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia, January 11-16.


Pre/During/Post Reading Strategies

Click here to check out the Resource page for some new strategies.


Reading for a Purpose

Many of the students who enroll in adult education classes have difficulty reading, for one reason or another. When you are struggling to read a piece of text, especially text that is part of a test, it is hard to find it enjoyable. The intention in reading test text is not necessarily to learn something that has value to you (or is particularly interesting to you), but to gain enough information to answer questions successfully.

Learners may not think about the various purposes for reading. Their purposes for reading for enjoyment and reading the text on a test are different. Tests are designed to assess certain areas, such as silent reading comprehension, and are constructed to assess certain skills. Presenting graphic information, consumer materials, and reference materials to assess student’s abilities to read and understand these materials probably doesn’t result in the presentation of “interesting” passages. Reading an isolated portion of a play or two stanzas from a multi-stanza poem to answer a question about character traits may leave much lacking in the enjoyment of the play or the poem.

That test passages are seen as boring also might have to do with the background knowledge learners bring to the task. If students cannot relate what they are reading to anything in their experience—when a piece of text has no relevance to students’ lives and experiences—they might very well consider it boring.

Students’ comments about test passages may reflect the importance of building reading skills and teaching background knowledge and comprehension monitoring strategies (i.e., question answering (which includes analyzing questions) and question generating). Introducing reading passages that relate to students’ lives and interests can help build an interest in reading. Introducing test taking strategies might increase interest in different kinds of test passages (and reduce nervousness at test time). Asking students to create their own assessment of a specific reading skill based on a text passage may give them an appreciation for the construction of a test ...

Gail J. Price,Multimedia Specialist

National Center for Family Literacy


Low-level Reading Comprehension Material

I see this is a discussion list to promote the exchange of ideas, resources, and experience regarding literacy, and would like to share that a new independent reading (fiction) series is now out for struggling, emergent and ESL older adolescent and adult readers. These books are for adults and older adolescents, yet are written on a first-grade reading level. The Lexile level is below 200, yet these books are not babyish, boring or condescending … You can find the new adult series entitled JUNKYARD DAN at  .

Taken from AAACE-NLA Discussion List 


Reading Comprehension Websites

Adolescent Literacy (Grades 4-12):

WETA, Washington, DC, the third largest producing station for PBS, has launched, a new site for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12. is a source for adolescent literacy material for parents, practitioners, and all people who want students to be better readers and writers. The site includes articles, information for the classroom, tips for parents, book recommendations, author interviews, a blog, and a free monthly e-newsletter called Word Up! The site includes a section on English language learners and a section en Español.

Taken from NIFL's Learning Disabilities Discussion List

Awesome Stories

Go to

Nonfiction Passages (Taken from NIFL Technology Discussion List)

At the Takoma Park Maryland Library … there are many immigrant
families who desperately want to learn English.  i've been taking some donated computers to some of these families, but a computer on its own doesn't do much good.

I've assembled some children's stories and nonfiction reading passages
(that I wrote) that these families can read. On my macintosh computer I created some Quicktime files of a robotic voice reading these writings aloud -- with each sentence highlighted as its being read. The robotic voice is fairly high quality. It sounds close to a human voice.

You can see a sample quicktime here

and download the entire archive as a zip file from the internet archive
at   (The entire archive is about 140 megabytes and expands to about 350 megabytes.)

These quicktime files are creative commons files that may freely be
distributed on CD-ROM, Flash drives, etc.

Phil Shapiro, public geek, Takoma Park Maryland Library


Teaching Comprehension in Math

The question of should we teach comprehension affects math instructors also.  When teaching how to solve word problems, we ideally base instruction on situational story problems. 

The success rate with problems presented in familiar situations: at work, 98.2%, in context, 73.7%, and without context, 36.8% (Schliemann and Magalhaes).  Additionally, research states verbal stories promote learning, debunking the common misperception that story problems are harder for students than bare equations (How People Learn:  Brain, Mind, Experience and School, National Research Council, 1998).  In fact, verbal problems are often solvable without using the equation. 

In the classroom, teach the context of the problem.  Relate the problem to what the student knows.  Draw pictures or bar models to assist the visual understanding.  Classify the types of problems (change, combine, equalize, compare) so the students see the “big picture” or context of what is being asked.  Ask the student if the problem is action or static.  Avoid key words because the student still may not understand the context of the problem. 

Kathie Daviau
Billings Adult Education Center


Call for Book Titles

We keep a "general book cart" with a variety of reads to encourage recreational reading in our students.  The book cart has a selection of paperback mysteries, fantasy, westerns, romance, some classics, a few children's titles, plus more.  We get them at the Book Exchange, a bookstore that specializes in recycling paperbacks here in Missoula.  Our students are on an honor system to return the book or donate one in its place. (We don't keep real close track here)  Every other year (give or take), we replenish the supply.  How about a call for book titles that our students have enjoyed reading?

Cathy Smyers, Missoula

So, folks, what are some of the books your students are reading?  Do you have any book titles that you recommend they read?


KWL Reading Strategy

The KWL strategy is a great way to get students more actively involved in reading comprehension. 

  • KNOW:  It can activate students' prior knowledge by asking them (and acknowledging) what they already know about a subject. 

  • WANT:  Plus KWL encourages the students to set goals by having them write down what they may want to know about the subject. 

  • LEARN:  Finally, KWL encourages students to assess what they have learned from their reading.

Click here for a sample of a KWL chart.


Difficulties with Reading - Experience It Yourself

... was reminded this time about a site I came upon one day when I was looking for information to help me better relate to my 9 yr old who struggles with learning. I have not seen the original TV program, but the web site below references to amazing hot links which simulate what a dyslexic goes through. Other pages have similar frustrating activities designed to help parents and teachers experience what their kids go through if they have a short circuit in reading decoding or retention skills, math number and spatial issues, writing cognition and graph-motor issues, as well as ADHD barriers to learning.

These really brought the issues home for me far more powerfully than just text. 

Click here to check out the website:

Valerie Otto, Career Transitions, Bozeman


Pre-reading Strategy

Attached is a handout I know it gave out the Route to Reading Workshop (2005), but some might have missed out.  It's part of the pre-reading strategies which are so critical to initiating comprehension.  It's a dual copy, meaning I copy on colored paper and cut in half, so a student can keep it handy in a folder or book.

Click here for a copy of the Pre-reading Strategy.

Cathy Smyers, Missoula


Research Articles

How Should We Teach Comprehension by Nancy Padak

Here is a short article on teaching comprehension.  Research indicates the "summarizing and making inferences are the most important reading comprehension strategies for adult literacy outcomes."  Go to and scroll to page 6 -7.

How Should Adult ESL Reading Instruction Differ from ABE Reading Instruction?

This document discusses "issues specific to ELL and offers suggestions for teaching vocabulary; alphabetics and word analysis; fluency; and comprehension."  Go to .

Above suggestions taken from January 2008 Nevada Connections


Comprehension Strategy

Another comprehension strategy has been posted.


This is a great strategy to get a student to become more active during reading.