• In Other Words

Adding Attention to Evidence through Teacher Modeling

by Douglas Fisher
August 25, 2011
The Common Core State Standards are facilitating a lot of conversations about what students should know and be able to do. One of the more interesting aspects of these standards, for me, is the focus on providing evidence from the texts students read.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about how to teach students to justify their responses. As I reflect on this, I have to admit that I have accepted a lot of student responses that do not provide justification and evidence. I know that the student is right, or I know where the student is coming from in terms of the response, so I allow the conversation to continue. I'm not saying that is always bad, but I am thinking about how I might push students thinking deeper and deeper into the text so that they learn to read closely.

Of course, not all texts require a deep reading, but some do. And I wonder if my students have develop the skills necessary to read texts closely that need that type of reading.

This has got me thinking about modeling again. Effective teachers model their comprehension as well as word solving strategies, their use of text structures to follow the author, and analyze the text features provided in the text. These are all well documented approaches for reading, and ones that comprise the modeling behaviors of many teachers.

I am thinking about my own modeling and how I can incorporate greater attention to justification and evidence as I read and think aloud. I know that is part of the category of comprehension, but I'm now thinking that it deserve more attention. I wonder if adding more attention to evidence, through teacher modeling, will help students integrate this habit into their own practices. I know this has worked with word solving, for example, as students learn to look inside words (using morphology and word arts) and outside of words (using context clues and other resources), so it make sense that this would help with justification and evidence.

I've also been thinking about the relative lack of attention to text features in most teacher modeling events. A close read of an informational text would require that teachers notice things like figures, diagrams, charts, illustrations, captions, italicized words, and so on. Attending to those text features may allow students to think more deeply about what they are reading and gain a better understanding of the text and what they can do with the information contained within the text.

I'm not suggesting that teacher modeling is the answer to everything, but I am thinking that we should try to model the things we expect from students. As such, we should probably pay increased attention to justification we use to frame our answers and the evidence we would provide in a discussion about what we were reading. In doing so, we might be able to prepare students for the collaborative work they need to do to move deeply into the text as they discuss their readings with others.

Douglas Fisher, Ph.D., is Professor of Language and Literacy Education in the Department of Teacher Education at San Diego State University and a classroom teacher at Health Sciences High & Middle College. He is a member of the California Reading Hall of Fame and is the recipient of an International Reading Association Celebrate Literacy Award, the Farmer award for excellence in writing from the National Council of Teachers of English, as well as a Christa McAuliffe award for excellence in teacher education. He has published numerous articles on improving student achievement as well as books such as In a Reading State of Mind: Brain Research, Teacher Modeling, and Comprehension Instruction (with Nancy Frey and Diane Lapp).

© 2011 Douglas Fisher. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.

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