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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Strategies - How Important in the 21st Century?

This week I have been reflecting on the correlation between the strategies we use on text and those we use in life. I began by  thinking about the information processing theory of reading.

I visualize the brain as you see it in this picture.  I envision the strategies we teach as the bridge between the raw information (on the left) and the comprehension (on the right).  I am sure this is not anatomically correct, but this is my image for this process.

In the reading of text, the brain bounces among the sources of information - semantic, letter/sound, and structure - trying to comprehend the squiggles on the page.  More specifically, the brain samples among these sources, predicts, and either confirms or rethinks (corrects) the prediction.

The strategies we teach, are based on language.

This is based on the research of Vygotzky.  Along with his understanding of the zone of proximal development and the zone of actual development, in other words automaticity. As teachers, I think we often overlook the importance of this simple process and what it implies.  The language we use for strategies needs to be stated in terms students can apply in many contexts.  Opportunities to practice these strategies must be available to the student on a regular basis.  

Thinking about the strategies we use in text, we can transfer them to life and to other mediums.  For example, sampling and predicting.

As readers we take a look at the book - front, cover - sample the first line and predict what will come next. 

When rising first thing in the morning, we look outside, check the thermometer (if you live in Maine) and predict what to wear in order to keep warm that day.

As we move forward into the 21st century, I encourage all educators to rethink the importance of meta-cognition as we prepare our students for the barrage of information and life experiences they will face in this new century. 

The American Association of Librarians published the following standards in Standards for the 21st Century Learner in Action.  
Let's think outside of the box and prioritize what our students need to know.  Keep a journal for a day and write down what strategies you use.  It might be a good place to start.

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