Become a Mentor

Become a mentor and mean something to somebody who needs you!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


READING FOR UNDERSTANDING by Ruth Schoenbach et al. is the text which describes a course called Academic Literacy which encompasses reading apprenticeships and a professional development support network.

The course is based on connecting the known (what is in your head) to the new (what is there waiting for discovery in the world of text). It encourages students to make predictions based on partial information and understanding. Participants learn how to make their thinking public to others so that other participants can learn to benefit from each other’s difficulties and insights. The results are the discovery of the agonies and ecstasies of being a committed reader, the process of engagement, introspection, reflection, metacognition (thinking about thinking) and public sharing of cognitive secrets. All these reading skills parallel writing processes as well.

  • Mentors will hold updates monthly with El Centro professional staff.
  • Mentors and staff will have updates every 3 months regarding implementation and evaluation methods of our own adapting and testing.

What follows are excerpts and summations of chapters in the book READING FOR UNDERSTANDING, the basic text for this mentorship program.

Assessment of the Curriculum
• Assessment: Buy The Degrees of Reading Power (DRP) test from Touchstone Applied Science Associates p. 187 and use Chapter 6 to answer the question, “Do students who have been in a course designed to engage them in problem solving to comprehend text perform better at a well known comprehension task as a result of the course?”
• Include pre- and post- course survey on page 188.
• Test-averse participants need to be urged to take these tests seriously PLEASE.

Chapter 1. Rethinking the Problem: Crisis and Opportunity

We all know academic texts can be utterly boring. However, armed with appropriate strategies and mental habits, students can make their own decisions about what texts they will or won’t work through – decisions based on the goals and not on their reading ability.

In the words of one ninth grader who took the actual course in Academic Literacy: “What I can really do what I didn’t do before was think about what the book is saying and try to reflect and give some thought to what is going on in the book instead of closing it and not thinking anything when I read it.” Our goal is for our participants to be able to say the same.

Chapter 2. The Reading Apprenticeship Framework
Reading is not just a basic skill.

Reading is a complex process. Think for a moment about the last thing you read. An El Centro del Barrio bulletin? A newspaper analysis of education in California? A report on water quality in your neighborhood? If you could recapture your mental processing you would notice that you read with reference to a particular WORLD of knowledge and experience related to the text…which you are familiar with already, before reading the material.

Learning is a social-cognitive interactive process with participation of the student and others in the same group: parents, siblings, teachers, peers. In this environment are a variety of cognitive apprenticeships in which the mental activities characteristic of certain kinds of cognitive tasks such as computation, written composition, interpreting texts, and the like are internalized and appropriated by learners through social support of various kinds. Learning to read is yet another task that requires a cognitive apprenticeship. Compare it to learning to ride a bike: the proficient other is there to support the beginner and calls attention to often overlooked or hidden strategies. From the beginning, reading apprentices must be engaged in the whole process of problem solving to make sense of written texts, even if they are initially unable to carry out on their own all the individual strategies and subtasks that go into successful reading. The hidden, cognitive dimensions must be drawn out and made visible to the learner. For adolescents, being show what goes on behind the curtain of expert reading is especially powerful in helping them gain adult mastery.

Reading is problem solving.

Fluent reading is not the same as decoding.

Reading is situationally bound. An experienced reader of dessert cookbooks may not understand a political science article and vice versa. Reading is influenced by experiences of the reader.

Good readers are:
• Mentally engaged
• Motivated to read and learn
• Socially active around reading tasks
• Strategic in monitoring the interactive processes that assist comprehension:
  • Setting goals that shape their reading processes,
  • Monitoring their emerging understanding of a text, and
  • Coordinating a variety of comprehension strategies to control the reading process


Participants can be taught by a transmission approach to teaching in which students are shown strategies, asked to practice them, and then expected to be able to use them on their own. Orchestration of this interactive teaching and learning is what we call a reading apprenticeship approach to developing strategic readers.

The center of the above is an ongoing conversation in which mentor and participant think about and discuss their personal relationships to reading, the social environment and resources of the classroom or learning center, their cognitive activity, and the kinds of knowledge needed to make sense of the texty. This is metacognitive conversation and it goes on internally as both read invidudually and consider their own mental processes and externally as they talk about their reading processes, strategies, knowledge resources and motivations and their interactions with and affective responses to texts.

• Metacogition is thinking about thinking.
• Metcognition is key to deep learning and flexible use of knowledge and skills.
• Metacognition takes place through small group conversations, written private reflections and logs, personal letters to the teacher or even to characters in books. These lead students to knowing their own minds.

Developing a sense of safety is fundamental to the activity of investigating reading. Discuss what makes it safe or unsafe for students to ask questions or show their confusion in class.

Building interest in reading:
Sharing books on topics that appeal is one way to build interest in reading. What was exciting, fun, interesting or important.

Engaging students in asking questions about reading and literacy and its relationship to political, economic, and cultural power is another way to build interest in reading:
• Who reads, what do they read, why they read, how reading affects their lives
• Who does not read, how does not reading affect their lives.
• Read and talk about historical disengranchisement through lack of literacy of particular groups of people in society.
• Talk about the relationship between literacy and power of various kinds including economic, political and cultural power.

Sharing reading processes, problems and solutions:
• Talk about what is confusing in texts
• Share how teachers and students deal with comprehension problems as they come up in class texts
• Participate in small group problem solving discussions to make sense of difficult texts.
• Notice others’ ways of reading, of thinking aloud about difficult texts, of different reading strategies.
• Try the strategies out: skimming, scanning, read through ambiguity and confusion, read ahead to see if confusion clears up, review the big picture to check comprehension. Chunk groups of text, break chunks down to smaller segments, identify or clarify pronoun references and other textual connections.


Personal dimension of reading comes though metacognitive conversation (internal and external).

Developing reader identity
  • Write and talk about previous reading experiences.
  • Write and talk about reading habits, likes and dislikes.
  • Write and talk about reasons for reading.
  • Set and periodically check on goals for personal reading development.

Developing metacognition

  • Notice what is happening in your mind in a variety of everyday situations.
  • Identify various thinking processes you engage in in a variety of everyday situations.
  • Notice where your attention is when you read.
  • Identify all the different processes going on while you read.
  • Choose what thinking activities to engage in; direct and control your reading processes accordingly.
Developing reader fluency and stamina
  • Demonstrate that all readers, including teachers, are developing readers and that everyone has room to grow during a lifetime of reading.
  • Identify the role effort plays in the growth of reading comprehension over time; notice that effort p;ays off in becoming a stronger reader.
  • Notice and celebrate progress as a developing reader; increase patience with yourself as a learner.
  • Persist in reading even when somewhat confused or bored with a text.
  • Build stamina for reading longer texts and for longer periods of time.
Developing reader confidence and range
  •  Bring the huge variety of different kinds of texts students read in their daily lives into the classroom.
  • Investigate how students approach and make sense of these different kinds of texts.
  • Connect the competencies students demonstrate in approaching these texts to the resources students will need to approach unfamiliar texts.
  • Have students read, with support, short pieces representing a wide range of unfamiliar types of texts.
  • Draw attention to what students do understand when reading unfamiliar texts.
To feel in charge is important, as shown in their choice of clothes, music, free time. If you can convince the adolescent that the hard work of improving reading is an avenue toward increased individual autonomy and control as well as toward an expanded repertoire of future life options, half the battle is won.

• Getting the big picture
• Breaking it down
• Monitoring comprehension:
  • Check to see whether comprehension is occurring.
  • Test understanding by summarizing or paraphrasing trhe text or self-questioning.
  • Decide whether to clarify any confusion at this time.

 • Using problem-solving strategies to assist and restore comprehension:

  • Question texts, authors, and yourself about the text.
  • Talk to the text through marginal annotations.
  • Visualize what is described in the text.
  • Make meaningful connections between the text and other knowledge, experiences, or texts.
  • Reread sections of the text to clear up confusions.
  • Summarize, retell, or paraphrase texts or parts of texts.
  • Represent concepts and content of texts in praphic form.
  • Represent concepts an content of texts through metaphors and analogies.
  • Organize and keep track of ideas in a text through graphic organizers, outlines, response logs, and notes.

• Setting reading purposes and adjusting reading processes:

  • Set goals or purposes for your reading whenever you approach a text.
  • Read the same text for different purposes.
  • Notice how reading purposes affect reading processes.
  • Vary reading processes depending on purposes for reading. 


• Mobilizing and building knowledge structures (schemata) **
• Developing content or topic knowledge:
  • Brainstorm and share knowledge or information about the topic.
  • Identify conflicting knowledge or information about the topic.
  • Imagine yourself in situations similar to those that will be encountered in the text.
  • Explore conceptual vocabulary that will be encountered.
  • Take positions on a topic before reading about it, perhaps by writing essays on the topic before reading.
  • Evaluate the fit between your prior knowledge or conception of a topic and the ideas in the text.
• Developing knowledge and use of text structures:

  • Identify the ways particular texts are structured.
  • Notice patterns in structure across texts of similar kind.
  • Identify particular kinds of language used in particular kinds of texts.
  • Create word families associated with particular ideas or subject areas.
  • Use text organization and structure to assist in comprehension of particular texts.
  • Preview a text to build a schema for it; notice structural markers such as headings, subheadings, and illustrations.
  • Notice that particular words or phrases signal that the text is heading in a particular direction.
  • Use signal words and phrases to aid comprehension and to predict the direction particular texts will take next.
• Developing discipline- and discourse-specific knowledge.

  • Identify the possible purposes that the authors of particular texts may have had in creating these texts.
  • Identify the possible audiences particular texts seem to be addressing.
  • Identifhy the functions particular texts serve in particular circumstances.
  • Explore the large questions, puroses, and habits of mind that characterize specific academy disciplines.
  • Inquire into the ways texts function in particular disciplines.
  • Identitfy the paritcual ways of using language associated with particular academic disciplines.


**Schemata is plural for worlds of knowledge and associations as they are read, triggered by particular ideas, words or situations. Schemata for particular networks of knowledge and information are activated as individuals read and add to their existing schemata as they encounter new information. In addition, their existing schemata influence the ways they approach and make sense of texts. Schemata, stores of knowledge about texts and about the world, are organized a networks of associations which can be triggered by a single word. For example, the word BALL may call up images of baseball diamonds, backstops, and bases as well as the pitchers, batters, catchers, umps, fielders and even sports commentators who take part in the game. Innings, errors, random statistics about particular players and even the smells and sounds of baseball stadiums may quickly and automatically come to mind as such images and ideas flood into consciousness. The same word, BALL, may for another reader call up a competing schema: Images of fancy gowns, corsages, tuxedos, limousine rides, and the blushing self-consciousness of a first prom. Proficient readers know they must relinquish any schema that proves inappropriate as they encounter further information from the text, but less experienced readers will often hold onto inappropriate images that block meaningful connections with the text.

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