Teaching reading, a task that has more than ever become the job of every instructor, is one the Mexico High School teachers have embraced. For Paula Isgrig, who teaches basic math classes, teaching reading involves the use of defined strategies. Isgrig also co-teaches with other members of her department for some classes.
"For secondary-level students in grades 9-12, the social and economic consequence of not reading well can be cumulative and profound: the failure to attain a high school diploma, a barrier to higher education, underemployment or unemployment, and difficulty in managing personal and family life," Gina Gilman, Curriculum Facilitator for the district, said. "These effects within and beyond the classroom walls show that by the secondary grades educators can no longer defer solutions to future development or instruction."
Isgrig hopes the vision of increasing reading comprehension levels of students also will increase the number of students who score well on the end-of-course tests and the ACT.
For her math classes, Isgrig begins with anticipation guides, which help students activate their prior knowledge and experience about the ideas they will be reading. Then, she increases the students' comprehension by using strategies such as word walls, matching terms and definitions, and using "Fix-Up Strategies," which students use to try to figure out the answer before they ask the teacher.
"We use word walls to help the students use the power of visualization as part of a long-term memory of the terms," Isgrig said. "We compile a list of essential words, concepts and formulas that are critical for students to know in our content area."
The "Fix-Up Strategies" provide steps the students work through when they are struggling with reading material. The students are urged to reread the problem, figure out the unknown words, look at the sentence structure, make a mental image and attempt to define their purpose for the reading assignment. Then, they formulate questions and predictions about the material, think about connections they already have, look at pictures, illustrations, charts and graphs, and read the author's notes.
All of these comprehension strategies help teachers monitor and track student progress. The strategies also help with tracking of student progress and goal setting.
"We must learn how to equip readers with tools that will enable them to develop skills necessary to become confident readers," Gilman said. "The restructuring and development of comprehension strategies across the curriculum at MHS is allowing this development to occur."