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Reading Rescue: Preventing the COVID-19 Slide With Lessons for Comprehension and Fluency at Home

By Lori Oczkus
 | Apr 16, 2020

Lori Oczkus teaching
As we adjust to life in the world of remote learning, families and educators are continuing to refine at-home instructional reading routines—especially for students who experience difficulties with reading comprehension. Whether students read fluently or haltingly, they may find it challenging to summarize, answer questions, figure out unknown vocabulary, and unlock deeper meaning.

How can we ensure that our students progress in their reading achievement instead of falling behind during the COVID-19 pandemic? What strategies can we incorporate into distance learning and at home to accelerate student literacy? Here I suggest new, engaging, and practical ways to use reciprocal teaching, or what I call the Fab Four, to improve literacy achievement.

Reading rescue: The Fab Four for success

The Fab Four are proven comprehension strategies that are easily adapted to home and distance learning for quick results. When researcher John Hattie ranked 138 teaching strategies according to their impact, reciprocal teaching landed at number nine, roughly yielding two years’ growth in one year.

The Fab Four are essential strategies good readers employ to understand texts: predict, question, clarify, and summarize. These strategies work with any text at any grade level to boost comprehension. Students exhibit confidence and engagement after just a few lessons.

When reciprocal teaching is used two to three times per week to discuss texts, some students improve six months to a year in a few months. In the classroom, the teacher guides students in discussions using the four strategies. Students may discuss in teams and eventually take on roles for each of these strategies: predictor, clarifier, questioner, and summarizer.

Close reading with the Fab Four at home

Good readers often reread challenging texts to gain better understanding. This “close reading” calls for students to reread for different purposes. The Fab Four strategies provide an ideal framework for rereading texts to develop better comprehension and fluency.

In the links at the end of this post, you will find lesson plans developed for parents and caregivers to use as they read and discuss informational texts and poetry at home with their children. Parents and caregivers should take turns with their child and be sure to make these experiences enjoyable rather than turn the Fab Four into a test. The result is an engaging exchange that promotes both improved comprehension and fluency. The poetry lesson includes suggestions for rereading for enjoyment and a performance for family members and friends.

Sample Fab Four Lesson

Predict

Discuss the title, author, visuals, and headings. Skim the text. Take turns.

“My prediction is that I think we will learn ________because_____.”


Read Together

Choose for the child or let the child choose how to read: silently, echo read, read-aloud, or in unison.


Reread to Clarify

Take turns finding words to clarify.

 “A tricky or interesting word or phrase to clarify is_____ . We can figure it out by _______.”

Answers might include sounding it out, finding smaller parts, reading on, rereading, or thinking about a synonym.


Reread to Question

Take turns asking questions.

 “My question is _____.” “I wonder______________.”


Reread to Summarize

Take turns summarizing.

“This was about__________.” “I learned__________________.” “My favorite part was__________.”

 

Adapting The Fab Four for families/distance learning

As part of your class reading instruction, try Fab Four lessons twice a week during Zoom, See-Saw, or another online meeting platform. Have students respond to reading using the Fab Four strategies as a discussion guide. Rather than calling on individual students, encourage a group discussion where multiple students give input to one another. Encourage sharing with a partner or team before the entire class discusses the text. Students may also mark texts with sticky notes or colored pencils. This practice through these remote learning platforms will allow students to benefit from sessions with peers as well as their families. You can model turn-taking with families and caregivers by having them participating in a digital meeting as well.

Teacher Created Materials

Here are a couple seven-minute Fab Four lessons available for free on the Teacher Created Materials YouTube channel.

We’ve also created a letter that educators can share with families and caregivers. This provides a quick FAQ about the Fab Four strategies and a pair of bookmarks you can use to practice these strategies with the provided text.

Lori Oczkus is a literacy coach, author, and popular speaker across the United States. She has extensive experience as a bilingual elementary teacher, intervention specialist working with struggling readers, staff developer, and literacy coach. Lori is the author of the book Reciprocal Teaching at Work 3rd ed. (ASCD/ILA, 2018; foreword by John Hattie, Ph.D.).

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