Learning Strategies

Since “No Child Left Behind…Strategies entered everyday practice in classrooms” where students maintain “deliberate control, goal-directedness, and awareness” of what they are reading (Afflerbach, Pearson, & Paris, 367).  The message: reading is work and explicitly learned strategies help us read/work more deliberately.

My message to my students is very different: reading is fun.  You should not notice how you are reading except when something’s wrong and you don’t love what you read. When you find books you love, you will naturally predict, draw conclusions, evaluate characters, etc.  No need to put the book down to fill out a diagram when you’re lost in a good book.  No need to chop up text to “turn and talk.”

Krashen’s “Din in the Head” Hypothesis states that students acquire best when so engrossed in a message, they are not aware of the language (Krashen, 1983). Getting lost in a book is not only more pleasant, it allows implicit acquisition of “the strategies …that we do anyway, that we are “wired to do” (Krashen & Brown 2007, 4).

Only occasionally can learning strategies help students who can’t seem to get lost in a reading “flow.”  Even so, strategies are not skills to build but rather ways to deal with obstacles to compelling, comprehensible input: 1. What do I do when I don’t understand? (Brown, 2006) or 2. What do I do when I can’t find a good book?

1. What do I do when I don’t understand?

Stephen Krashen and Clara Lee Brown write that explicitly-taught strategies are effective only if they “make input more comprehensible, e.g. narrow reading, obtaining background knowledge” or “help content learning” (2007, 4).   However, “study skills” or skills that would have developed naturally (ex. predicting or drawing conclusions) “…should not be taught” (Krashen & Brown 2007, 4).

 

2. What do I do when I can’t find a good book? 

A_child_reading_a_book_by_Pratham_Books_-_Flickr_-_Pratham_Books

Janet Allen notes her students did not feel genuine “wonder” using a K-W-L.  They truly engaged with the text only if I did something to build background and create an emotional connection to the topic” (13).  Give students strategies that help them seek out and build interest in books: talking about books with friends, putting down boring books or skipping difficult passages, reading in a series, or asking a librarian for a read-alike.

Once students have found the perfectly compelling, perfectly comprehensible text that activates “Din in the Head” do not pull out a diagram.

 


Afflerbach, P. Pearson, D., & Paris, S. (February 2008). Clarifying Differences Between Reading Skills and Reading Strategies. The Reading Teacher, 61 (5), 364–373. Available at: http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/88049/RT.61.5.1.pdf?sequence=1

Allen, J., & Landaker, C. (2005). Reading history: a practical guide to improving literacy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Allington, R. & Gallagher, K. (2009).  Readicide : how schools are killing reading and what you can do about it.  Stenhouse Publishers: Portland, ME.

Brown, C. (2006). ESL Methods. Lecture, University of Tennessee.

Krashen, S. & Brown, C. L. (2007). What is Academic Language Proficiency? Singapore Tertiary English Teachers Society (STETS) Language & Communication Review: 6(1), 1-4 Available at: http://www.sdkrashen.com/content/articles/krashen_brown_alp.pdf

Krashen, S. D. (1983). The Din in the Head, Input, and the Language Acquisition Device. Foreign Language Annals, 16(1), 41-44. doi:10.1111/j.1944-9720.1983.tb01422.x

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Claire Walter

I am an ESL teacher and I promote differentiated, compassionate instruction and assessment for English Language Learners.

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