The collective components of text factors inform the remaining aspects of comprehension, required for students to competently construct meaning. Graesser and McNamara (2011) track these features into five levels of discourse essential in understanding all genres of text, including narratives.
Level 1 - Surface Code
The surface code of a text refers to the text at a word level. It encompasses the range of knowledges needed to decode and encode text, such as graphemes, phonemes, morphemes and tense. It requires an understanding of traditional and functional grammar, relating to the parts of speech (noun, verb, adjective, etc.). Another important influence not often considered is the impact of dialect. For example, honor (American English) versus honour (Standard Australian English).
Level 2 - Textbase
The textbase is composed of the functional role of words (functional grammar) in diverse ways, specifically relating to the construction of meaning and the connective use of words. Clauses that are written with these connections in mind are easier to read, relating ideas and events between clauses more efficiently.
Level 3 - Situation Model
Situation model comprises a host of features that relate to the situation of the text (in time and space). It includes how participants are denoted, the mental representations of the text, and how knowledge is presented as new or assumed. Possibly the most important aspect of this level, although, is the inferences required by the text to bridge elaborate ideas. Known also as local coherence, this describes the construction of the text in such a way as to allow the reader to make logical inferences between sentences. Consider the following sentences:
- The girl jumped over the puddle. She did not want to get his feet wet.
- The girl jumped over the puddle. It is unpleasant to get your feet wet.
- The girl jumped over the puddle. Aeroplanes seldom leave on time.
Example 1. is cohesive through the use of a personal pronoun, indicating that the second sentence is about the girl. Example 2. is cohesive when a bridging inference is made to assume that the second sentence relates to the reason the girl jumped over the puddle. Meanwhile, example 3. is not locally coherent as no logical inference can be made to connect the content of the two sentences.
Level 4 - Genre and Rhetorical Structure
Genre and rhetorical structure are more commonly known as the text factors of genre, text structure, theme and sentence structure (e.g. command, question). As the focus of this comprehension analysis is through the lens of the narrative genre, assumptions could be made about the structure of the text. Although, modern texts are becoming increasingly complex, with genres embedded within genres now common in many junior fiction texts. These require students to have an understanding of the embedded genre, deciphering that content, before relating it back to the narrative as a whole and interpreting it’s importance in influencing comprehension and furthering the story. These sub-genres form an extensive list that includes, but is not limited to procedures, letters, recipes and diary entries. Subsequently, an already complex process, becomes ever more complicated. The identification of text themes or story morals is another process that relates to an in-depth understanding of the text. Again, this is make more difficult to decipher through the continually changing nature of the narrative text. At this level, the notion of global coherence becomes paramount in building an accurate representation of the text. Similar to local coherence, where local is concerned with the connections between sentences, global assesses the coherence throughout an entire piece of text. Consider the following passage:
The girl jumped over the puddle. There were some frogs in the puddle. Frogs are often used as characters in fairy tales. Fairy tales are narratives. This entry is about narratives.
The above example shows local coherence, in that, each sentence can be logically connected to the previous sentence. Though, at a global level, coherence breaks down, leaving the reader with a disordered and chaotic understanding of the text.
Level 5 - Pragmatic Communication
Pragmatic communication refers to the way that a piece of text is written. Throughout a piece of writing an author displays a ‘voice’. It is through this that goals and attitudes are displayed based on how the text is written. Difficulties may arise when students are unfamiliar with the ‘voice’ (style of writing) of a text. This could be because students don’t understand a humorous tone of writing, or have no prior experience with sarcastic tones of writing.
(Graesser and McNamara, 2011)
Students should be taught to act strategically with agency. When readers investigate their own reading processes, they become more efficient at monitoring their reading and accessing comprehension strategies, inline with individual goals (Harvey and Goudvis, 2013).
The Fix-Up Strategy is an involved meta-cognitive process focused on the monitoring of comprehension, to repair understandings when comprehension breaks down. It promotes autonomy and self-regulation of the reading practice. It is a complex approach to developing comprehension, incorporating strategies within strategies, also known as sub-strategies. Each fix-up sub-strategy should be taught separately to ensure mastery.
Monitoring and Repairing
- Preempted sections for whole class modelling and practice
- class Text
- Graphic organiser
- Fix- Up Strategy Anchor chart
- Gradual Release of Responsibility Model
STEP 1. Class Discussion - Why am I monitoring my reading ?
Discuss the strategy, what it means and the benefits of its use. Engage in authentic conversations about the job of a monitor. For example, a monitor keeps track of something to make sure nothing goes wrong. If something does go wrong, they identify it and fix it. Readers that self monitor listen to their inner voice and analyze what they are reading for meaning T: "When I read, I am a monitor. I monitor my reading by ensuring that I understand what I read. If I get stuck and don’t understand, I stop to fix my comprehension. When I do this, I am ‘self-monitoring'."
STEP 2. Explicitly model
Teacher should acquaint themselves with a text prior to modelling by preempting sections to be used. The teacher should use a Think-Aloud Strategy to demonstrate how to monitor for meaning and resolve breaks in understanding. This indicates to students what to do and when to do it. The teacher should make comments about the following areas: "Before I read, what do I already know...", "I don’t know what that word mean…", "I'm unsure of what that sentence means...", " This paragraph doesn’t make any sense…", "I’ve totally lost concentration…". They continue on from each area, identifying sub-strategies of the Fix-Up Strategy, to be used to repair comprehension.
STEP 3. Guided Practice
Teacher supplies copies of a text to be read. As a class brainstorm, what the text may be about. The teacher should encourage students to analyse their purpose for reading, how they may self-monitor their comprehension in addition to learning content. The teacher should provide a read aloud of the entirety of the text and begin modelling a ‘Think-Aloud for an unknown word or phrase. They work with the students through the Fix-up sub strategies to identify a solution.
STEP 4. Independent Practice
Students can work independently or in partnerships on a leveled text, referring to the strategy anchor chart for confirmation to self-monitor their comprehension. Students can alternate reading the text aloud to each other, mimicking a think aloud to fix-up a difficult word or sentence. As a class the teacher and students can reflect and discuss breakdowns and how these were overcome.
STEP 5. Repeated Reading
Incorporate the Fix-up Strategy with in a repeated reading activity. Students can read independent or instructional leveled texts to practice using multiple sub- strategies for comprehension whilst simultaneously building fluency to assist comprehension.
The fix-up strategy: a mock lesson in comprehension
Everybody loves graphic organisers!
"Graphic organisers are excellent visual tools for scaffolding and extending thinking for all learners."
(Gargiulo and Metcalf, 2017, p. 360)
By including graphic organisers, not only are we reaching students who learn better through different avenues (like visual or kinaesthetic learners), but we are making our lessons and content more engaging by doing something that they may not have done before. Students can be provided with an alternative means in which to order their thoughts and draw conclusions from the information within the text.
Graphic organisers can be as pretty or as plain as you like. What counts is the strategy it is facilitating. Make sure students know how to use the tool and how they are expected to respond for each part. Such a strategy could also be developed into an interactive classroom activity, getting students more involved and invested in their predictions. For example, a simple betting system. Students place their bets before reading (you could create a prediction wall). As students' predictions come true they could earn rewards or points towards a classroom reward system.
See below for further resources and ways to incorporate predicting graphic organisers into lessons.
On first glance, inferencing can seem very similar to predicting. Students need to be explicitly taught the difference. That inferencing occurs throughout the reading and viewing of texts, based on clues provided in the text that link up to the readers' background knowledge. For example, consider the following sentence:
"Charlie went surfing on Saturday."
Immediately, anyone with any sort of exposure to the concept of surfing will assume that Charlie went to the beach on Saturday. Although, not specifically stated, we know from our past experiences with the topic that surfing is a beach activity.
See below for further information about inferencing and how to teach it.