Content reading is an essential element to any successful class, especially so with high school biology. With the detailed material, difficult concepts and unfamiliar words, students struggle with reading comprehension in the sciences. The challenges to their existing schema and reading skills places a definite need for pre-reading strategies that give students an opportunity for success in biology-based reading assignments. I will take this opportunity to illustrate how three different reading strategies may serve to improve reading comprehension for a lesson introducing the students to different subgroups of plants.
As background for this discussion, students by this point already have instruction in basic biological concepts, as well as the fundamental characteristics of plants. This lesson will serve to explore the variety within the plant kingdom, highlighting different phyla and classes of plant classification. In moving through this material, the student will encounter an array of terms and concepts that they have no experience with, emphasizing the need for appropriate and extensive use of pre-reading strategies. The pre-reading strategies I will use to assist the student with the text are the Anticipation Guide strategy, graphic organizers and K-W-L. I will show how all three of these strategies may be employed to assist students in understanding content represented by the selection below:
Whether they are acorns, pine nuts, dandelion seeds, or kernels of corn, seeds can be found everywhere. Seeds are so common, in fact, that their importance may be overlooked. Over millions of years, plants with a single trait-the ability to form seeds-became the most dominant group of photosynthetic organisms on land.
Seed plants are divided into two groups: gymnosperms and angiosperms. Gymnosperms bear their seeds directly on the surfaces of cones, whereas angiosperms, which are also called flowering plants, bear their seeds within a layer of tissue that protects the seed. Gymnosperms include the conifers, such as pines and spruces, as well as palmlike plants called cycads, ancient ginkgoes, and the very weird gnetophytes. Angiosperms include grasses, flowering trees and shrubs, and all wildflowers and cultivated species of flowers. The angiosperms are discussed in Section 22-5. This section begins by exploring some of the reasons that seed plants became so successful (Miller and Levine, 2004).
Anticipation Guide Strategy
This strategy is based around the model of high ability readers, who anticipate the content and main ideas of a passage before reading. Unfortunately, struggling readers often don’t take advantage of these strategies before beginning a passage. The concept of an Anticipation Guide is to simulate that pre-reading skill for all students. This strategy may be represented as an array of statements with which the student may chose to agree or disagree, possibly providing rationale. Each statement should both prompt student thinking and prime the student’s expectations for the impending reading (Ladewig, N.D.).
Sample statements might be:
• Classifying plants into groups is an important field of studying.
• Most plants I see around me reproduce with flowers.
• All plants are fundamentally the same in structure.
• Plant groupings are influenced by their evolutionary history.
Graphic organizers are thinking and reading organizational tools that allow students to visualize concepts in a simple and straightforward way. There are a great number of different types of graphic organizers. Some emphasize story elements, summary, timelines, conflicts or vocabulary, and that only touches the surface. There are graphic organizers available for virtually every purpose and more are continually being developed. The most straightforward and commonly used of them take the form of basic flowcharts or webs (TeacherVision, 2009). Below is an example of a graphic organizer that could be used to help students in discussion of this content area:
K-W-L is a pre-reading strategy created by Donna Ogle in 1986 which helps the student engage prior knowledge, consider intentions behind the reading assignment and summarize the results of their reading. K-W-L stands for know, want and learn, respectively. Together these three categories help the student break down readings in an application focused way. The strategy makes use of a three column chart, with columns headed as “What I KNOW”, “What I WANT to know” and “What I LEARNED”. The student fills in the first two columns, reads the selection and finishes off the chart. An example is shown below (Michael, 1998).
What I KNOW
What I WANT to know
What I LEARNED
– Some plants make flowers
– Some plants make cones instead
– Some plants grow tall, but other don’t
– (And so on)
– Why do some plants make flowers and some make cones?
– Why are some plants able to grow tall and others no?
– (And so on)
– Plants that make flowers for reproduction are called angiosperms and are evolutionarily more recent than other groups of plants
– (And so on)
This investigation of pre-reading strategies has been very useful to me. I am excited about using these three techniques during my impending unit on plants. Today, in our introduction to plant classification, the students skimmed diagrams and charts in the chapter they were about to read and used that information to fill in a graphic organizer as a pre-reading assignment. Later in the unit, I plan to put the K-W-L chart to use before our reading assignment about angiosperms and gymnosperms. I will follow that by using an Anticipation Guide before a reading assignment about plant growth patterns and responses to the environment. The use of pre-reading assignments provides additional opportunities for students to attain the full value from their reading exercises and serves to advance their educational growth. References
Ladewig, B. Anticipation Guide Strategy. Retrieved March 26, 2009, from Greece Central School District Web site: http://www.greece.k12.ny.us/instruction/ela/6-12/reading/Reading%20Strategies/ anticipation%20guide.htm
Michael, S. (1998). KWL – A Reading Comprehension Strategy . Retrieved March 27, 2009, from The Educator’s Reference Desk Web site: http://www.eduref.org/cgi-bin/printlessons.cgi/Virtual/Lessons/Language_Arts/Reading/RDG0016.html
Miller, K., & Levine, J. (2004). Biology.Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Teachervision, (2009). Printable Graphic Organizers for Teachers. Retrieved March 26, 2009, from TeacherVision Web site: http://www.teachervision.fen.com/graphic-organizers/printable/6293.html