Frontloading: Taking a Sneak Peak

‘Frontloading’ lays a foundation for comprehension

“There’s a bear in a plain brown wrapper doing flip-flops on 78, taking pictures and passing out green stamps.”

Does the above sentence make sense to you? What does it seem to be about? How confident are you of your interpretation? Is there anything difficult about this text? Do you understand all of the vocabulary?

What if I provided a hint for your comprehension: CB (Citizen Band) radios? Now what sense can you make of that sentence? Many of you will immediately recognize that the sentence is CB lingo, used by truckers and other travelers, and popularized in the 1970s by a series of “Smoky and the Bandit” movies featuring Burt Reynolds.

You could fairly confidently translate that passage into: “There’s a state patrol officer in an unmarked car going back and forth across the median on highway 78, using radar and passing out speeding tickets.”

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Inferences: Learning How to Make Them

Inferences:  Learning How to Make Them

…. It seemed that the pitch had barely left the southpaw’s hand when the ballpark resounded with a loud thwack. Morgan dropped his head in dejection as Ramirez began to trot the bases ….

What just happened here? Some readers will respond that the above passage is obviously a familiar baseball scenario – a misguided pitch that has been hit into a home run. But how do we know this? How can we tell that the passage is about baseball and that the event that has just transpired is the belting of a home run?

This short two-sentence passage is deceptively complex for readers. The author implies a number of things without directly stating them. In addition to picking up clues that refer to baseball, a reader must also figure out the identities of the pitcher and the batter. Finally, the reader must recognize the hint about how the pitcher felt about serving up the home run.

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Question the Author

Textbooks can sometimes skew information

“Position the factory applied nailing fin/drip cap upright for installation. Ensure drip cap lip hangs over the head jamb extrusion.”

The do-it-yourself nightmare! You are poised to undertake a project, and the enthusiasm you have kindled begins to fizzle as you are confronted with the inevitable set of incomprehensible directions and obscure illustrations. Who writes this stuff anyway?

Who indeed? Imagine for a moment the “author” who wrote the above guidelines for installing a window. Who does this writer think will be reading these instructions? What does the writer think this reader will already know? What expectations does the writer apparently have about the reader’s contribution to making sense of this document? What could the writer have done to make this writing more accessible? Is it any wonder that after a bout of increasingly irritated muttering, many people toss the directions aside and try to “wing it” through their project?

Teaching/Learning Activities:

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Reading Comprehension Strategies for GED Students

Comprehensive Reading is a very important skill for all students but it’s very challenging for GED candidates who didn’t attend school for some time. BestGEDClasses.org is a website that offers online classes and prepares students for the GED test. They identified six key reading strategies that help students develop their comprehension abilities.

Here we’ll take a closer look at these six strategies, and each one is a great help for students. These 6 strategies are:

    • Questioning
    • Visualizing
    • Inferring
    • Making Connections
    • Determining Importance
    • Synthesizing

All these strategies are important for comprehension, and they are representing the active mindsets that children need to assume if they want to become effective learners and readers. The steps required to teach these strategies are involving clear instruction.

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School Issues

We will also include several articles on experiences with local school districts and how attitudes can affect the education of a child with a disability. Here is an example.

Matthew began attending an Early Intervention class provided by our county board of MRDD when he was only eight weeks old.  He attended these classes for the next four years and made steady progress.  At age five, he was transitioned into the multi-handicapped unit in our school district.  This is a segregated special education class and the primary focus is teaching Reading and Life Skills.

By the time he was seven, I was concerned that Matthew hadn’t even begun to learn how to read or write.  During our annual IEP meeting I suggested that he begin learning academic skills such as reading and writing.

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Question Dissection: Breaking It Down

Teacher with a group of high school students in the classroom:

“Discuss three ways Roosevelt’s New Deal changed the role of the federal government in America.”

“Should George have taken Lenny’s life at the end of the book? Justify your answer by citing specific material from Of Mice and Men.”

“Identify the various stages of the water cycle and describe what happens at each of these stages.”

The dreaded essay question! That looming empty space on the test page, waiting malevolently for evidence that you can actually talk about what you have learned.

Some students will take a quick glance at what the question seems to be about, and then quickly and incoherently unload whatever stray facts come to mind. Others will ponder painfully, start, stop, and start again.

Activities that help them analyze questions and understand how to approach writing essay answers will give them a better handle on succeeding on these test items.

See also this video:

Teaching/Learning Activities

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Question-Answer Relationships (QAR) Strategy

My students are getting ready for the Regents exams. We are using the official website and also some new resources that help us add diversity to our teaching.  “I can’t find the answer to this question!” The irritated tone of voice signals a growing frustration from one of our students struggling to complete an assignment. Indeed, from a student viewpoint, finding answers to questions seems to occupy the lion’s share of what education is about. Regents are not the simplest exams and there are not so many diverse sources so we take everything what possible to make Regents prep more complete.

Recently I started to use a new website that uses a concept of microlearning and it helps me to explain to my Regents students many things, like the content of the TASC exam. For example, understanding how questions work is a critical component of learning. Many students are unaware of the different levels of thinking that questions may elicit. As a result they follow a “literal” approach of seeking direct statements from the text to answer questions, and feel betrayed or even give up when this strategy does not work.

Other students pay only cursory attention to their reading, instead relying almost solely on what they already know to get their answers, regardless of what the text might say. For them, answering questions becomes an exercise in “common sense” rather than a thoughtful consideration of new information encountered in print.

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