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. 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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Is Interdisciplinary Curriculum Important to Students?


Project Accelerate is a consortium of New York State school districts, organizations and BOCES that collaborate to write, develop and promote online staff development courses.  Come learn the challenges and successes of online learning as well as beginning steps toward developing your own.  Participants will also have the opportunity to use a program called Dreamweaver (a product of Macromedia) to begin designing an online learning experience.


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Math Keys: Making Math Make Sense

Tactics help kids understand math language

“An angle is the union of two rays that have the same endpoint. The sides of angles are the two rays; the vertex is the common endpoint of the rays. Angles may be formed by segments, as in polygons, but the sides of the angle are still considered to be rays.”

Um . . . let’s see here. You get an angle when two rays (straight lines) come together and touch. The parts of the angle are the sides (the rays) and the vertex (point where they touch). Figures like polygons (a square for example) have angles because lines (segments) touch here too. I know that segments and rays are both straight lines, but why does the author say that segments (lines with beginnings and ends) are the same as rays (lines which keep on going)?

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Reading Comprehension Strategy 2: Questioning

Who? What? Where? When? Why? Asking questions is a normal procedure for finding out about the world, and proficient readers carry a questioning attitude into their reading.

The strategy of questioning involves an almost constant generation of questions that a reader raises internally while engaged in understanding a text. Some questions target important information; these questions help a reader to identify significant details, to follow the elements of a plot in a story, to get the facts.

Other questions help a reader take stock of the reading process; they monitor comprehension.
– Did this passage make sense to me?
– What should I be on the lookout for in this next passage?
And some questions are directed toward the writer of a text.
– What does this author seem to think is most important?
– Why is the author telling me this now?

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Reading Comprehension Strategy 1: Making Connections

“What are you already knowing about it?” This is usually the most fundamental initial issue when it comes to reading comprehension, and though it is only natural to draw upon background and earlier knowledge as they read, more experienced readers are well aware of making connections like these. They understand that they will be better able to relate what’s new in texts to the things they have already experienced, or already know.

Children who are in the process of learning how to read effectively, and also struggling readers, often are moving straight through texts, not taking a step back to see if the words in a text make any sense in relation to their knowledge or background, or to see if they maybe can use their earlier experience or knowledge for understanding confusing or challenging material.

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New York Association of Reading Lovers

NY Association of Reading Lovers’ mission is to promote excellence in reading, teaching and learning throughout New York State; provide leadership in staff development; build a community of staff developers; advocate for innovation and experimentation; and influence policy and legislation which support our objectives.

Last year’s conference was located in the beautiful Southern Tier at Holiday Valley Resort in Ellicottville.  The surroundings are ideal to relax and immerse you in the learning opportunities offered.

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