[00:00:05] Kate Winn: Hello to all you travelers out there on the road to evidence-based literacy instruction. I'm Kate Winn, classroom teacher and host of IDA Ontario's podcast Reading Road Trip. Welcome to the show. We are so excited to be bringing you episode six of our second season. Before we get started, we would like to acknowledge that we are recording this podcast from the traditional land of the Mississauga Anishnaabe. We are grateful to live here and thank the generations of First Nations people for their care for and teachings about the earth. We also recognize the contributions of Métis, Inuit, and other Indigenous Peoples in shaping our community and country.
Along with this acknowledgment and in the spirit of truth and reconciliation, we'd like to amplify the work of an Indigenous author, and this week we are sharing the book The Day I Became Number 54 by Lorrie Gallant.
Lorrie Gallant from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, Cayuga Nation Turtle Clan retells the story of Dawn V. Hill's experiences in residential school in this book, the day I became number 54, life was happy and carefree for Dawn and her family. Then she and her siblings went to residential school and everything changed. She was separated from her siblings. Numbers were put on everything and everyone had to line up. Survival was key. This compelling story was written to let everyone know the truth about residential schools. Lorrie Gallant, writer and artist, brings relief images to life through plasticine add this book to your home or classroom library today. And now on with the show.
[00:01:42] Kate Winn: I am so excited to introduce our guests this week. We have not one, not two, but three guests here with us to talk about a very hot topic in education, which is comprehension. And I would like to welcome Dr. Kristin Conradi Smith after seven years of classroom experience followed by graduate school. She has been a professor since 2011 and we are happy to have her here along with Tamara W. Williams with 30 years of classroom and reading specialist experience. She is a clinical instructor of literacy education at William and Mary and we also have Ellen P. Frackleton. She has 16 years of classroom and reading specialist experience. She is currently a reading specialist with Williamsburg James City schools, Virginia and an adjunct professor at William and Mary. And we invited them all here to talk about their fantastic viewpoint article called “No More Strategy of the Week: Considerations for Connecting Comprehension Instruction Back to the Book.” Welcome. Thank you so much for being here with us.
[00:02:47] Dr. Kristin Conradi Smith: Thank you for having us.
[00:02:48] Tammy Williams: Thank you.
[00:02:49] Ellen Frackelton: Yeah, we're excited.
[00:02:51] Kate Winn: Good. We're going to jump right into the questions. So the first thing I want to ask and Kristin, maybe you can start us off here. Can you take us back to the National Reading Panel? Back in 2000, what were their findings regarding comprehension strategies?
[00:03:06] Dr. Kristin Conradi Smith: Great. So the National Reading Panel report found 205 studies that examined how reading comprehension is taught. And they found that there was enough sort of evidence to suggest that certain strategies were really effective and should be taught. And specifically, there were seven strategies that had robust support, and those included asking questions, comprehension monitoring, summarizing, question answering, story mapping, using graphic organizers, and cooperative grouping. They really highlighted the importance of multiple strategy use, that those were more effective than just doing a single strategy at a time.
[00:03:48] Kate Winn: And, Tammy, in the article, three of you write that a lot of us missed the boat in terms of how these findings were actually put into practice. So how. So how did we miss the boat there?
[00:03:59] Tammy Williams: Well, I like to think back to when I was in the classroom, right? And I know that the first way is just even how we taught those strategies, and a lot of them were outside of the text. And so I can remember my own teaching, starting off with teaching a strategy, building this beautiful anchor chart or having a passage and having kids answer questions and really taking two thirds of my instructional time on that strategy outside of the text. So I think we took it away of where it was needed and the modeling that was needed. And then the second way that we sort of missed the boat was, I think, came from just maybe how districts started to incorporate strategy instruction in their pacing. And it was okay. In September, we're going to start with making inferences. We're going to maybe do that for a week, and then the next week we're going to do summarizing. And in our own district, sometimes we didn't even get to nonfiction and using strategy instruction until January. So then again, we were being led by the strategy instead of being led by the book, and it should have been the other way around. So I think those two ways are how we sort of missed the boat with what the National Reading Panel said.
[00:05:23] Dr. Kristin Conradi Smith: And could I jump in there? I would just say I believed this lie at the time when I was teaching that if I focus enough on a strategy, it could be mastered, and then I'd be done and I could move on to the next strategy. And I just remember giving my students these sort of worksheets that had a passage and then had five questions, and sort of, I then had these grades where I was like, oh, these kids were all good at finding main idea and we can move on. And that definitely was a part of how I certainly missed the boat with my second and fourth graders back then.
[00:06:00] Kate Winn: Well, I know, I can share anecdotally from my experience. I can remember one year where we had this huge focus on the strategies, and it was a strategy per month. And so we would have our divisional meeting and we'd decide, okay, this month it's predicting. And we had all these picture books, and they had been sorted by which strategy they could best support. So I still come across these books where the back says predicting, or with these little stickers on the back. And we would do kind of like a pretest with the kids to get their baseline, like, where are they in terms of their ability to make predictions? And then we would just not randomly in the sense that they were used because they could provoke predictions, but it didn't matter what the content was. It was all picture books. Any topic would do as long as we thought a kid might be able to make a prediction there. We would do that for the month, and then at the end there was sort of that post test, and how did they do?
[00:06:47] Kate Winn: And it didn't matter, like, this is divisional. So here that's primary is kindergarten through three. So we had two years of kindergarten plus grade 1 2 3…5 years of kids focusing on predicting for the entire month. And then, like you say, that doesn't mean they mastered predicting and they're going to be able to use it forever. So I really have memories of that, and I don't even know if I'd heard of the National Reading Panel or if my principal had even heard of it. I mean, I just know that we had gotten the message that teaching these strategies like that was the way to go. So we did that all year long, and I have a lot of memories of that.
There is some debate as well about the importance of background knowledge for comprehension versus the idea of the instruction and use of comprehension strategies. So a lot of know pushing that idea of the knowledge building and all of that, and maybe not so much the strategies. What have you all learned about this that can help us in our classrooms? And, Ellen, maybe you can start, please.
[00:07:42] Ellen Frackelton: Sure. So I think at this point, there really isn't a debate about the importance of background knowledge when it comes to comprehension. Right. If we know something about a topic, we have a deeper sense of vocabulary. We're able to make stronger connections with that text when we know a lot about that. I'd like to talk about my son. I have a ten-year-old who loves fishing. He's always loved fishing, ever since he was a little guy. And when he was in kindergarten and first grade, he was reading books and he was reading words like sturgeon and walleye, right, because those were words that were in his vocabulary. But if I gave him a book about the desert or the tundra, he would not have done as well with those because he didn't know as much about that.
We also have a great kind of anecdotal story. Tammy and I, we were working together, and this was probably back in 2016, 2017. So it was right when we were beginning to learn about the importance of background knowledge, but we were still very much doing kind of, as you said, that strategy the week type of instruction. And in our state, students who fall within a certain range at the end of the year, those high stakes state testing are able to retake their state test at the end of the year. And I remember going to Rachel and I asked her, I said, how's it looking? Right. How are we looking on these retake kids? Are they going to be able to make it? And she made the comment, it depends on if they know something about the passage. Right. And she's so right. That does make such a big difference for kids if they know something about that topic. But I'm going to let Tammy kind of go on a little bit.
[00:09:24] Tammy Williams: So as Ellen said, when we were first trying know, dive into the literature about this and our understanding of all the research, we actually, at my school, I feel like we let the pendulum swing a little bit too far to just thinking about building knowledge and that that was what was going to carry us through for building comprehension. And so we really didn't do as much with strategy instruction. And I remember at the end of the year, we didn't do as well on the state assessments. And I think, I remember thinking to myself, we might have missed the boat here. And so it wasn't until we built knowledge for…taught knowledge and built knowledge and then also taught strategy instruction and combined the two so that students also had that academic language. So we felt like they needed that as well. So I don't think it's all or one. I think it's a combination of those is what helps really facilitate. At least that's my understanding. And that's how we felt that it really made our students successful.
[00:10:34] Kate Winn: In your article, you quote Hugh Catts when he said that we want to, quote, facilitate the conditions in which comprehension can occur, and you connect that to the importance of being text-centred in this work that we're doing. Kristin, can you explain what you mean by that?
[00:10:50] Dr. Kristin Conradi Smith: Sure. So first of all, we really appreciate he was in a video, I think, sponsored by PaTTAN, and he also wrote an article, and both of those are just super accessible to teachers. So we really appreciate that and how he explained comprehension. But what we meant when we were using that quote is we really want to see a shift from comprehension as this masterable skill to text. So instead of a teacher thinking about a unit in front of them and kind of saying, I'm going to make sure my students are really good at inferring, we want to instead convey the idea that a teacher instead thinks about a unit and goes, I know my students are going to love Peter Brown's book Wild Robot, and if we're going to read that book, they're going to have tons of opportunities to comprehend, to infer, to learn new vocab. And so when we use that Hugh Catts quote, we're really talking about what are then the conditions the teacher needs to set up in the classroom using Wild Robot so that students can be successful with that book. And so from my understanding of research, from what's out there, then as teachers, we really have to take a hard look at Wild Robot. We have to read the book first to really sort of know what's in it. And then we have to think about kind of what do we have to do on the front end, what do we have to do to sort of set up the purpose for reading it, what students really are going to need to know to be successful, and then what kind of direct instruction and modeling is going to be necessary to ensure that students are successful. And finally, really, we want to provide meaningful opportunities for discussion and for writing. And so that's what we're talking about, sort of that kind of natural setting where comprehension is a focus, but really we're focusing on the text, and comprehension happens because we're focusing on it and.
[00:12:40] Kate Winn: We are going to talk more about choosing and using those texts. But before we do, I have another question. So we're talking about comprehension, but where balanced literacy proponents may have tended to prioritize meaning over decoding when it comes to instruction, you make a special mention in your article about that important word level reading piece playing a role, too. So, Ellen, could you just talk about how that fits in before we move on?
[00:13:06] Ellen Frackelton: Yeah, of course. So we wanted to bring this in because without being able to decode, students aren't going to be able to comprehend. So when we think about automaticity, we think about kind of the fast, effortless and correct word recognition when students are reading. And my understanding of the research around this is that students who have automaticity and whose that word recognition is unconscious. Students don't need to think about it while they're reading. They have more kind of working memory space available to focus on building meaning of that text. So the majority of kids we know this are going to need instruction and explicit instruction with word recognition and decoding. So we wanted to add this in because we really wanted to make it clear that if you have students who need explicit instruction and decoding, they need to receive that instruction and all kids will benefit from this.
We also really love the Anita Archer quote. I'm sure you're familiar with it, the one about how there's no comprehension strategy powerful enough to compensate for not being able to read the words within a text. So that's really, we wanted to kind of make sure that we acknowledge that in our article about comprehension, the role that word recognition plays in that.
[00:14:26] Dr. Kristin Conradi Smith: And at the same time, what we're not saying is that comprehension instruction waits until after students…comprehension instruction can happen at the exact same time, and certainly with rich read aloud and everything else.
[00:14:39] Ellen Frackelton: Yeah, it's really not one or the other. It's both right. At the same time, starting in kindergarten.
[00:14:48] Kate Winn: Perfect. Can you tell us a bit about the mental model that readers ideally create when they're reading and then how different comprehension strategies can support this and what that looks like in the classroom? The idea that this is something that we build. Kristin, can I get you to start?
[00:15:04] Dr. Kristin Conradi Smith: Sure, I'll start off. And then, Tammy, I'd love you to jump in.
When we think about mental models, I think it's first helpful to remember that reading is an active process. Of course, it involves the text that's being read, but it involves also the reader and what they're bringing to the text and also the context around reading specifically. Like, why are we reading that book? What discipline are we in all of that? And something that helped us tremendously was a little clip from a Reading Rockets video from over two decades ago where Sharon Walpole talked about construction integration model, and she said that comprehension is really not about finding the right answer, but instead it's about building meaning. So when we think about those mental models, it's really what's being built as we read. And so again, we're moving from there is an answer to instead sort of what are we bringing to the text, and then how are we building meaning from the text? And so again, it's helpful to think about it as this very active process and not as a product of reading. It's not something that we just sort of have at the end, and it's sort of the evidence that I read, but instead this ongoing thing that as I read I'm sort of thinking about what I'm reading and I'm revising as I go or rereading to sort of shift it. But it really is this active, intentional process.
[00:16:29] Tammy Williams: And I think I'll take off where you left off, Kristin.
So when we think about that, when we started to really make that shift in our thinking that it was from product to process, then we started to think about, well, how could we design routines in our classroom? And again, Sharon Walpole really kind of, you know, her curriculum. Bookworms helped us with this because she has great lessons in there that have some of these routines built in. But really it was setting up instructional routines before, during and after reading. And so we really started to look at, well, what did we do before reading in order to help students kind of construct meaning? And those things like setting a “pay attention to statement”, getting them ready to focus on what they were reading or even alerting them to what the organizational practices of the author were like. What was the text structure, helping them know what to anticipate. So we started to develop these routines in our classroom with our teachers and getting them in the process of setting up before reading and then during reading. Since it's such an active process, we as teachers had to sort of take on that idea of I'm going to model and I'm going to use a think-aloud to show them. So again, we go back to our earlier question, right? It's like how do we go wrong? Well, we did a lot of the strategy work outside of the text. Now we are bringing it back in the text and stopping, and actually, Ellen always likes to say pull the curtain back on our thinking using “I language.”
And this goes back to even what Kristin said with the National Reading Panel. We would model how to infer, how do you take what the text says and apply your background knowledge to come up and build that mental model? How do you stop and summarize to be sure that you are retaining the gist of the story? Or what do you do when meaning clunks and you've got to sort of monitor your meaning. So all of those things, we then built in those routines of think alouds during reading. So those are some of the instructional practices that we did that really helped us shift from what we learned from the research to actual what we did in the classroom.
[00:18:54] Dr. Kristin Conradi Smith: And what makes me so happy about what you're saying there, Tammy, is the shift there is you're still teaching comprehension strategies, but you're not picking the book that best fits that strategy and instead going, hey, in this particular part of this book, students are going to need to remember how to infer and I'm going to model that here. Do you know what I mean?
[00:19:14] Tammy Williams: It's a great shift, 100%. And it really also one of the things we noticed as teachers, we needed to be metacognitive. Like, we also needed to be thinking about, oh, I'm reading this. What strategy am I employing here? In order to kind of make sense of this, make sense of the text and then really model that for our students and then using the gradual release, give them opportunities to try it out on their own. So again, having places where they can stop and chat and do the summarizing or places where they can turn and talk. So again, we just really started to take this idea that comprehension is an active process. And then we created or utilized routines in our classroom that exhibited that.
[00:20:02] Ellen Frackelton: If I can just add on real quick, I think this also strengthened our instruction over the course of the year because before when we were following these pacing guides where, like you said, you did a month on predicting and then check, I taught predicting and it doesn't matter that it was in October. And I have the whole rest of the year to read and discuss text with kids. Now, by doing it this way, we are teaching everything across the entire grade or across the entire year that we're with our students now. So it's not a check and we're done. It's a constant recursive process of bringing back the strategies as needed, just like we do when we're proficient readers ourselves.
[00:20:48] Tammy Williams: And I'll just add on one more anecdote because it's so fun. And when you start to do this in the classroom, this is what gets me really excited, is the students. Then they say, oh, my teacher's using that. I can try that too. And I remember I had a little boy and I followed him all the way from kindergarten to fifth grade. And we're sitting there reading The One and Only Bob after because they had read The One and Only Ivan. And he sits there and he know, Ms. Williams, I have to infer here. And it's like, oh, that's when, you know, they've taken it on. They know that there's a strategic thing that they need to stop and do in order to build that. And he was doing it all on his own. And it was like, yes.
Those moments in teaching you’re like, yes.
[00:21:36] Kate Winn: And not because this month is about inferring, but because this text at this point lends itself to that or requires me to do that. Well, I love how you all are affirming to me. I feel like, okay, I'm on the right track here. And even how you mentioned earlier with the decoding piece and the comprehension piece, like working in tandem because I teach kindergarten and so, I mean, certainly they're independently reading the dog is on the log and that sort of thing. But in terms of the more rich text that allow for more comprehension work, it's the read alouds where it's happening. And so certainly the picture books and certainly text sets that go along with science and social studies that we're doing, I also do at snack time, I always have a chapter book on the go where it's a chapter book read aloud. And I do a lot of that think aloud stuff like where you're stopping, where you're questioning or where you're monitoring your own conference. Like, wait a second, that doesn't make sense. Or, okay, just a second. So first they got this and then they got that and then they did. Okay, that piece, like the summarizing piece and even sometimes to stop and get the kids - okay, who wants to make a prediction here? Thumbs up if you predict that he's going to win it or whatever, and then when there's something worth visualizing where you stop and say, okay, if we close your eyes, we're going to make a picture in our heads right now of this as opposed to this month, we're going to visualize the heck out of every single text that we read. So just trying to model some of that stuff. So in kindergarten, I'm quite sure they all know what it means now to make a prediction, even though I didn't spend a month on that specifically. And hopefully they'll continue to use predicting as appropriate and their other teachers throughout their educational careers will keep bringing that up again as appropriate with the text. So I love everything you're talking about in that article. You share two really important considerations when we're moving away from that decontextualized strategy instruction. And the first one you call hitting the books. And that is about the text selection. So how can we be most effective with this? Ellen, what are your thoughts there?
[00:23:31] Ellen Frackelton: Yeah, so I'm sure you follow and read along with Tim Shanahan's blog post.
Earlier this month he had a blog post and there was a quote that I just loved from it, and it's reading comprehension should be taught with texts that are worth reading, texts from which we want students to gain knowledge. So what I really love about this quote is it kind of puts text as the focus in teaching comprehension. Again, the text we use in our classrooms matter, right. It makes a difference for our kids what type of books and what type of reading that they use. Right.
And I think we keep talking about Wild Robot, but my fourth graders that I work with, they just finished Wild Robot before winter break, and they absolutely loved it. And as Kristin said, it really provided these amazing, rich teaching opportunities and connections across content. So by choosing a text that is rich like that, it gives you opportunities to make those connections across additional text. So, in addition to Wild Robot, my students also read nonfiction texts about ecosystems and robotics and animal adaptations. And we created these text sets that students read, and they were able to then make these deeper connections and thinking between texts. And what I read in this text helps me understand Wild Robot while teaching those comprehension strategies in both fiction and in nonfiction. Because, as Tammy was saying, when we were doing this earlier, before, we knew what we know now, right. Sometimes we didn't teach nonfiction and fiction simultaneously at the same time. So creating these text sets really has made a difference for our students in supporting teachers, kind of setting students up for success on the novel or anchor text. Right, whichever one you're kind of building up to.
[00:25:31] Tammy Williams: And I'll just jump in because I know, Kate, you were talking about in kindergarten. So we even started to utilize text, this idea of the text sets, even in our primary grades, where the teacher took on the burden of the reading through a read aloud, but we would utilize text sets to help us also teach our social studies and science. And so when Ellen was at my school, and even now at her school, we started to lead off our literacy collaborative planning with social studies and science standards, actually. And then we said, well, we want to teach this. What books could we then utilize to help teach that? And then we again let the book lead us in what strategy best fits. And also, because all of those ideas were connected, we usually started with nonfiction to build the knowledge, build the vocabulary. By the end of the set, we introduced some fictional text where students then could apply that knowledge. So it really helped. Again, as Ellen said, deepen their vocabulary. They could see vocabulary across different sets, have multiple opportunities to utilize it, and then deepen their knowledge, all the while teaching those strategies that were indicative for each text. So that was a big shift, and we felt like that was something that just was phenomenal. And not to mention, the kids were so excited about that.
[00:27:06] Dr. Kristin Conradi Smith: And can we talk about just the benefits of, like, if we're reading texts that all sort of cohere around the same topic. Kids are then going to encounter vocabulary across text, and that's going to solidify vocabulary knowledge. It's also going to just build more knowledge in general. And then I do a lot of research in motivation and engagement. And finally, you're going to have kids who come home, and when a parent says, what did you do today? They were unlikely to say. We inferred today right, back in 2012, if that was our focus. But instead, if we're doing this topic on butterflies and we're using all these different texts, kids are going to go and learn more about butterflies. Let me tell you more. Right. So there's just so much more to celebrate when the text is the center rather than the strategy.
[00:27:54] Tammy Williams: And I will say one thing, Kristin, like, that was always something that Ellen and know we did. The yes again is just that unintended consequence of the motivation. It's like they are just so excited to say, oh, I read this book, and, oh, there's a sequel. Like you were saying, Ellen, even with the Wild Robot, like, some kids, they want to read the next one and the next one. And so, yeah, it makes me excited to think about how when texts are at the center, the kids’ motivation and their knowledge just grows.
[00:28:28] Kate Winn: Well, we did a unit on animals this fall, and I got a Christmas card from one of my students that the parent had scribed. And one of the lines in it was, thank you for teaching me that animals need food, shelter and water. And I just thought, you remember that part from the read alouds that we did?
[00:28:44] Kate Winn: That's so great, right? So, yes. I mean, he didn't say, thank you for teaching me features of nonfiction. It was the information, the motivational piece, which is great. So we talked about sort of the text selection piece. And then the second consideration you refer to as getting a lay of the land. And so that is about sizing up those chosen texts. So as classroom teachers, what can we do there to be most helpful for instructing our students? We've got text selected. Then what?
[00:29:13] Dr. Kristin Conradi Smith: Great question.
So, great question. And again, we're pivoting from going, which books help me teach, predicting to what are good books out there? High-quality books that are going to be of interest to my students.
But now teachers do have to do some work in order to really understand the text. And it sort of nods back to what Tammy mentioned before about teachers kind of taking a step back and going like, what am I doing to make sense of text? Teachers have to be able to size up a text. So they've selected a book, and now they have to, first of all read it, right? Like, we've all potentially been guilty of sometimes reading a book aloud to students that we just grabbed off of a shelf. So first we have to read it ahead of time before we use it with students, but then we have to be able to sort of think through the text and consider what could present some challenges for my students or what are some opportunities for instruction. And so I've written a couple of articles about this that I can share links and show links that really get into the entire process for teachers. But I think when we think about sizing up a text, we first want to look at how is it organized? Is this text structure one that's familiar to my students, or is this one different? Does this suddenly employ flashbacks? And a student might not be familiar with what to do if there are flashbacks? Or is this organized in a structure that isn't your traditional narrative structure? That, again, might present some challenges. So definitely looking at that text structure, definitely looking at vocabulary. And I would say research shows teachers tend to go for that first when they're sizing up a text. They go, this word, this word, this word. My kids don't know that, right? But we, of course, need to look at vocab, and we have to think about which are the words worth teaching, which are the words that I could really quickly tell my students what they are and which are the words that they'll kind of figure out as they read. So vocab is going to be one. An author's use of language in general, beyond just vocabulary, is going to be important to look at. Is there figurative language, idiomatic language? Those are things to consider. And then, of course, background knowledge considerations. And so, as I think about using this text with my given students, are there considerations for any of my students that I have to either remind them that we've already learned this and just remind them before they read, hey, this is taking place around this holiday. You already know about this holiday, but let me remind you quickly, or do I need to sort of actually build knowledge? Like I go, my students do not know what it's like to live in a desert, so I'm going to have to really quickly sort of build that knowledge. And so sizing up a text is really about a, reading at first, but then b, thinking about how the text is organized, what the author did to sort of tell the story or convey the information. And what do I, as a teacher, need to do to sort of ensure that my students will be successful with.
[00:32:01] Kate Winn: It, despite the importance of everything that we've talked about so far today. You also mentioned in the article that sometimes really well-meaning teachers can spend too much time off text. And, I mean, I'm someone who loves efficiency. So I'm really curious to get your advice. What would you say is best practice in terms of how many vocabulary words should we be pulling out? Or how many times should we stop while reading, like doing a read aloud or while everybody's reading their books together to pull out some strategy work, that sort of thing? What's sort of best practice there? Ellen?
[00:32:35] Ellen Frackelton: So this is one of my favourite stories. I met Kristin when I was a master's student. Kristin was my professor, and I invited her out to my kindergarten classroom, and I specifically asked her for feedback on kind of this balance of how much time is there for teacher talk versus time for students engaging with text. And for kindergarten, she threw me a bone and gave me, like, a broad definition to include letters, sounds and that bit as well. But Kristin, she literally sat with a stopwatch, right? And every time my students were engaged with text, she would start the stopwatch, and then she would stop it when it was kind of me doing the Charlie Brown teacher for them. And when she showed me the stopwatch and the time at the end of the lesson, it really kind of shocked me. I thought that…I didn't realize how much time I was taking away from the students by just kind of talking at them and talking about things instead of giving them that opportunity to really be engaging with the text. So it forced some hard reflection, especially when I started thinking about kind of that time build up over the course of a week and then over the month and then over a semester. So it really forced me to be reflective on my teacher talk in the language that I was using with kids. My advice that I always give any teacher, if you're wondering about this, it's tape yourself. Right? Tape yourself teaching because you can't hide on the camera, right. And it's uncomfortable. Nobody likes seeing themselves on a video, right.
It's an uncomfortable thing to do, but it really forces you to kind of see what the current state of your classroom is, as Jim Knight likes to kind of call it.
So that's always my advice is tape yourself. It forces you to reflect, and it really helps you to get better, kind of as going to like how many vocabulary words, how many stopping points. It's really kind of trial and error. Where Tammy and I have kind of settled with working with our teachers is it's either explicitly teaching one or two vocabulary words before reading. And as Kristin was mentioning, it takes time to figure out which one or two words deserves that amount of time, instructional time, in your lesson, because there's some words you can really quickly give them a kid friendly definition to and keep going. But for certain words, depending on the passage and if they're key to the comprehension, they do deserve to kind of have a little bit more time in your instructional routine.
We typically do, like, one think aloud for kids and maybe two or three stopping points where kids can either a quick turn and talk to be able to make sure to kind of use that gradual release model to then apply some of those comprehension strategies that you're modeling through your think aloud. So that's kind of where we've settled on things. But of course, it depends on the text and it depends on your students as one.
[00:35:57] Dr. Kristin Conradi Smith: My colleague Gail Levette at UVA has this phrase. She loves to say that don't let your warm-up be longer than the workout. Right. And so when she and I have been working with teachers, we see so much well-intentioned sort of setup prior to the text. Like, I've got this vocab, I've got this background knowledge. I have this cool thing, right? But at the end of the day, then, when we have the opportunity to watch those teachers, that pre warm up winds up being longer than the kids are actually engaging with the text. And so that's something we're always mindful of. And another is, all of us believe in the importance of explicit instruction of I do. We do. You do.
[00:36:35] Dr. Kristin Conradi Smith: Heidi Ann Mesmer, who's at Virginia Tech, a couple of years ago, she said, it should be, I do. We do. You do. You do. You do. You do. You do. Right. Like, we need students to have a lot of opportunity for practice that's guided by us, that we have facilitated those conditions in which that practice can occur. But when we're talking too much, there's so much danger that we can kind of invite where students can get distracted and things can sort of go off text, too much. We're all very mindful of that.
[00:37:09] Kate Winn: That's great. And it's funny, Ellen, you mentioned the idea of recording yourself, because as much media as I do and all the different things I do, I'm fine being recorded. I cannot stand listening back to myself. So that would be an area of growth for me to attempt to try that. It's funny, even with podcast episodes, if I need to go back and find something, I'll just text my lovely co-producer Una Malcolm. And I'll say, oh, did they mention the name of that article that we can…and at first I think she was thinking, why don't you go back and listen? But I don't want to listen to myself. So that is something I will try to see if I need to.
[00:37:42] Ellen Frackelton: It's uncomfortable, for sure!
[00:37:45] Kate Winn: So, okay. This has been fabulous. I loved your article. Is there anything that we haven't mentioned yet that any of you want educators to know about helping to support their students reading comprehension? Please feel free to just throw in anything.
[00:38:02] Tammy Williams: I'll start.
And I think we said it already, but it's important that we don't wait. Right. Like that this can be started in kindergarten with robust read aloud and it can happen in tandem with foundational skills. And so I think that's something that has been very important to Kristin and Ellen and I as we work with teachers, is that this doesn't have to wait till third grade or fourth grade. It's too late if you wait then. So start modeling, start having the conditions, facilitating the conditions to build that knowledge. And lots of talking. Lots of talking.
Comprehension is active and you just can't do it without that oral language component. So I would say that those two things are really important.
[00:38:51] Ellen Frackelton: I'll kind of chime in as far as if you're a teacher who wants to give this a try. Right. I would say try to find someone who's willing to jump with you. Right.
It's a scary thing to kind of move away from. Again, I taught predictions, check. I taught summarizing. Check. Right. It's kind of a leap of faith to kind of begin to make this shift of, I'm going to do the strategy based off of the text. It can be uncomfortable. So my advice is find some colleagues, find some friends that you can kind of work together and collaborate with and kind of share that load of planning and instructional moves and practices and just try things out together with someone that you can trust.
Tammy and I were very fortunate with our literacy team that we had over at Claire Bird Baker together, and it was a safe place to try stuff out. Right. And we were able to kind of explore. So that's my advice.
[00:39:57] Dr. Kristin Conradi Smith: And I guess I would just say embrace the complexity. Comprehension isn't the same as teaching letter knowledge. Right. We don't get to just go, there's 26 and there's 44 sounds and I just need to do this and then check. Comprehension is invisible and it's dependent on what the reader brings. It's dependent on sort of what the text says. There's so many things that make it more challenging in some ways than decoding, but it's also the reason why we want our kids to become proficient readers, because the sort of joy you get out of making sense of text. And so embrace the complexity and find good books. Talk to librarians, read books yourselves. And I guess that's what I would say.
[00:40:44] Kate Winn: Well, and now I want to read Wild Robot after you talking about it in your article and talking about it in this podcast episode. So there's a new book for me to try. The last thing I want to say about your article is there was a line I loved, and you were talking about a different article you had read, but you said this article really disrupted much of our thinking at the time. And I just kind of want to end on that note because I feel like a lot of us have done things and then we've had to learn and relearn and change the way we've been doing things. And so I really appreciate the way you have modeled that. I mean, in the piece that you wrote, but also here on the podcast, just the idea that maybe there were ways that we had gone wrong, right? Or even when we took National Reading Panel and we kind of went way too far one way with things. And so I think it's just really important for educators out there to get this message that nobody has always done all of this perfectly. Nobody's doing it perfectly now, certainly not me. But that we can be disrupted and it can be uncomfortable, but that it's growth and it's good for us and it's good for our students and that it's okay to feel disrupted, to feel that discomfort, because I know I certainly did when I started reading about things and realizing, oh, I shouldn't have them guess at the words, what? What is going on here?
And I've come a long way since then, but some of us are now just kind of delving into the comprehension side of it. So I so appreciate the work that you did with your article. I appreciate you being here. Dr. Kristin Conradi Smith, Tamara Williams, Ellen Frackelton, thank you so much for being here for this episode of Reading Road Trip.
[00:42:13] Dr. Kristin Conradi Smith: Thank you.
[00:42:14] Ellen Frackelton: Thanks. It was great.
[00:42:15] Dr. Kristin Conradi Smith: Thank you.
[00:42:16] Tammy Williams: Thanks for having us.
[00:42:18] Kate Winn: Show notes for this episode with all the links and information you need can be found at podcast.idaontario.com. And you have been listening to season two, episode six with Dr. Kristin Conradi Smith, Tamara Williams and Ellen Frackelton. Now it's time for that typical end-of-the-podcast call to action if you enjoyed this episode of Reading Road Trip, we'd love it if you could rate and or review it in your podcast app, as just a click or two can be extremely helpful to a growing podcast. And of course, we welcome any social media love you feel inspired to spread as well. Feel free to tag IDA Ontario and me. My handle is this mom loves on Twitter or X and Facebook, and Kate this mom loves on Instagram.
If you're new to the show, be sure to go back and check out the ten episodes of season one as well, with our fabulous guests Lyn Stone, Sonia Cabell, Holly Lane, Lindsay Kemeny, Jan Hasbrouck, Renata Archie, Daryl Michel, Carolyn Strom, and Diana Burchell, and the finale where Una and I invited listeners to ask us anything.
Make sure you're following the Reading Road Trip podcast in your app and watch for new episodes dropping every Monday. We couldn't bring Reading Road Trip to you without the behind the scenes support from Katelyn Hanna, Brittany Haynes, and Melinda Jones at IDA Ontario. If you're enjoying Reading Road Trip, please consider making a donation to IDA Ontario, a volunteer-run charity that depends on donations, to do our work supporting educators and families. I'm Kate Winn and along with my co-producer, Una Malcolm. We hope this episode of Reading Road Trip has made your path to evidence-based literacy instruction just a little bit clearer and a lot more fun.
[00:43:58] Kate Winn: Join us next time when we bring another fabulous guest along for the ride on Reading Road Trip.