Strategies are methods we use to make sense of the world. When we learn, we develop methods that allow us to process, comprehend, and retain information. Further, we use strategies when trying to correct or monitor ourselves, or when planning for what to do next.
Researchers and clinicians talk about three general strategy categories:
- Goal-directed strategies that facilitate our ability to find meaning in texts, and direct us toward purpose.
- Monitoring and repair strategies that function like a system of checks and balances and involve tools such as going back and re-checking our work and listening as we read aloud.
- Packaging strategies that utilize skills such as planning and reviewing to pull the various pieces of knowledge together.1
While listeners and readers will employ a multitude of variations within these categories, this article will focus on identifying five goal-directed strategies.
Goal-directed learning is a way of approaching information retention oriented toward attaining a particular goal or, in this case, five goals:
- Activating prior knowledge
- Analyzing the text
- Capturing new knowledge
- Paraphrasing the text
- Summarizing key text points
To explore these strategies, we will look at them through the lens of a real-life illustration. In the following example, a group of sixth-graders with language learning disabilities (LLD) engage in a language intervention with a clinician who employs the five goal-directed strategies.2
The 5 Strategies in Practice
As part of the ongoing work to improve their spoken and written language skills, this group of students is tasked with reading and analyzing an article from the sports section of a local newspaper. The students are well-versed and very interested in sports, particularly basketball. Topic familiarity and interest are essential to fostering engagement when working with LLD students.
Strategy No. 1
The clinician guides the group to ACTIVATE PRIOR KNOWLEDGE by asking them to think about what the headline of the article means, and how the headline can help them figure out what the author is trying to convey to their readers.
Strategy No. 2
The article headline reads: “Jazz Helps Lakers Become Mellow in Victory.” Using a structured outline provided by the clinician, the students ANALYZE THE TEXT and brainstorm about possible interpretations. The questions posed in the outline should be specific to how students can use the headline to comprehend the rest of the article, using reading prompts like “What I already know from reading the headline…” and “What I have to find out from the text….”
Strategy No. 3
Next, the clinician uses Ogle’s K-W-L model:3
- What I know (K)
- What I need to know (W)
- What I learned (L)
This approach CAPTURES NEW KNOWLEDGE and helps the students to become more strategic and organized. The clinician writes the words and phrases suggested by the students in different columns of known and unknown facts.
|Unknown/What to Know
|The Lakers won.
|What does “mellow” mean here?
|The Jazz was the other team.
|Scores/plays/other game stats
After the clinician reads the article aloud and the group checks their lists for accuracy and completeness, a third column—What I Learned—is added. Here, the students are guided to reflect upon what they “got out of” the text: What confused them? What did they have to think about? What surprised them? and so forth.
Strategy No. 4
The knowledge gleaned from the preceding exercises prepares the students to PARAPHRASE THE TEXT in their own words. Paraphrasing assists with comprehension and relies on foundational linguistic ability, including lexical knowledge (vocabulary) and syntactic skill.
Strategy No. 5
Lastly, the students will SUMMARIZE THE KEY POINTS of the piece in a write-up for their classmates who haven’t yet read the article. They will do so by referencing the text structure and the main idea, which may be accompanied by appropriate visual maps/graphic organizers with clinician guidance to represent the targeted structure. In this exercise, the write-up becomes a “problem-solution” piece because the Lakers were having problems with motivation and attitude, thus the author’s intention for the headline was one of frustration due to the poor level of the Lakers’ play.
The implementation of these strategies may fluctuate a bit depending on the students’ needs and the clinician’s discretion. However, the takeaway remains the same: Goal-directed strategies have been demonstrated to be effective in helping students think critically, and as a result, enhance the quality of students’ learning and comprehension. To familiarize yourself with goal-directed strategies, as well as monitoring and repair strategies, I offer a three-part series of literacy-based intervention courses with tools and techniques you can begin using right away.
Ehren, B. J. (2005). Looking for evidence-based practice in reading comprehension instruction. Topics in Language Disorders, 25(4), 310–321. See also Wallach, G. P., & Ocampo, A. (2017). Comprehending comprehension: selected possibilities for clinical practice within a multidimensional model. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 48(2), 98–103.
Wallach G. P. (2014). Improving clinical practice: a school-age and school-based perspective. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 45(2), 127–136.
- Ogle, D. M. (1986). K-W-L: A teaching model that develops active reading of expository text. The Reading Teacher, 39(6), 564–570. https://doi.org/10.1598/rt.39.6.11