Useful Instructional Strategies for Literature-Based Instruction
There are many different strategies that research has shown are effective in literature-based
instruction (Cooper, 1993). These include scaffolding of instruction, modeling, cooperative
learning, student choices, self-initiated reading and writing, using different modes of reading,
activation of prior knowledge, and student responses to literature.
Scaffolded instruction is a concept that has grown out of
research on how individuals learn (Collins, Brown, & Newman, 1986; Vygotsky, 1978). This concept
is based on the idea that at the beginning of learning, students need a great deal of support;
gradually, this support is taken away to allow students to try their independence. This is what
Pearson (1985) called the gradual release of responsibility. If students are unable to achieve
independence, the teacher brings back the support system to help students experience success until
they are able to achieve independence (Cooper, 1993).
The concept of support in scaffolded instruction is much broader than the modeling and teaching of
strategies and skills; this is only one part of the scaffolding process. Providing support takes
place in a number of ways - the way in which the selections are organized in a theme, the amount of
prior knowledge activation that is provided, the way in which the literature is read by the students,
and the types of responses students are encouraged to make.
Modeling has been shown to be a vital part of helping students learn the process of constructing
meaning and of helping them learn the various strategies and skills involved in this process (Bandura,
1986). Modeling takes place first through the literature itself (Walmsley & Walp, 1990) and the way
it is organized in thematic units. Modeling of specific strategies and skills is also provided by the
teacher for those students who need it. This is done by using literature that has been read as models
to show the use of strategies and skills (Walmsley & Walp, 1990). These lessons are known as
mini-lessons and they may be formal or informal (Cooper, 1993). Modeling by the teacher is also done
through reading aloud (Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, & Wilkinson, 1985), through demonstrating response
activities and discussions (Martinez & Roser, 1991), and through shared writing (Cooper, 1993). Students
also provide modeling for each other through cooperative learning.
Cooperative learning is also a very effective instructional
strategy that works well in literature-based instruction (Slavin, 1987). Students learn to read, write,
and think by having meaningful engagements with more experienced individuals (Wells, 1990). Many times
these individuals may be their peers.
Having choices in learning to read and write helps students meet their own individual needs (Johnston &
Allington, 1991). By giving students options to choose from in what they read, how they read, and how they
respond to a piece of literature, we allow them to
actively construct their own meanings (Martinez & Roser, 1991).
Independent Reading and Writing
Self-initiated or independent reading and writing are also important instructional strategies to use in
See also Independent Reading and Self-Initiated Writing
Modes of Reading
The term modes of reading refers to the different ways literature may be read -- aloud by the teacher,
shared, guided by the teacher, cooperatively, or independently (Cooper, 1993). By changing the modes of
reading used for different students, we are able to scaffold instruction and provide different levels of
support for students in order to make them successful in reading a piece of
literature (Cooper, 1993; Cullinan, 1992; Tunnell & Jacobs, 1989).
Prior Knowledge Activation
Activating prior knowledge is another instructional strategy that is important in literature-based
instruction (Cooper, 1993). Many different strategies can be used in activating prior knowledge; most of
these strategies help students become independent in activating their own prior knowledge. Research on schema
theory and prior knowledge has clearly shown that students construct meaning by using their prior knowledge
to interact with the text (Anderson & Pearson, 1984). A thematic organization in which themes are
carefully developed with related pieces of literature also supports the activation and development of prior
knowledge; by reading several related selections, students build on their prior knowledge from previous
selections as they read the next selection.
Responses to Literature
Responses to literature are also important to literature-based instruction (Martinez & Roser, 1991).
By encouraging and allowing students to respond to literature, we promote the active construction of meaning.
Go on to Literature-Based Instruction References
Back to Responding to Literature
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