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Strategies for essay questions

Remember the adventures that lived and breathed between the pages of a really good book when, as a young reader, you slipped away undiscovered into your own magical world? It is no surprise that many of us who loved such adventures grew up to become today’s English teachers and writers. The surprise strategies for essay questions when we discover how many of our own students are struggling readers.

But surprise need not lead to a permanent state of frustration. By scaffolding reading instruction with various strategies, you will improve the reading abilities of most students, and you will begin to hear struggling readers say things like “I remember every part of that story! The key is to apply reading strategies persistently and imaginatively. Speaking of imagination, let me ask you to indulge for a moment in a bit of guided imagery.

Picture a beautiful, majestic cathedral soaring upward. Then visualize restoration experts at work on that architectural wonder, identifying the problems that need correcting and building a scaffold next to the structure so that they can interact with it at different heights. In a similar way, English teachers build a scaffold for struggling readers so that they can interact safely and securely with the text. Theoretically speaking, if the daily reading curriculum uses research-proven methods, students should develop skills for comprehending the text. But you may be wondering which strategies are the most beneficial.

Reading activities can be divided into three categories, depending on when they take place: pre-reading, reading, and post-reading. Collecting and defining vocabulary terms from the text will assist students in understanding words that otherwise may interrupt their reading. It will also help them increase their vocabulary in a meaningful, relevant way. Students can record the terms in a notebook or on flash cards. Another strategy involves having students preview comprehension questions so that they can focus on answering those questions as they read. Teachers can guide students’ interaction with the text by asking questions about literary elements, having students present oral summaries of the plot, or asking them to collect details or write observations on post-it notes. If students have previewed comprehension questions, they can answer these questions as they read.

Cooperative learning is a strategy that maximizes student engagement, reduces class tensions, and promotes student learning. Typically, students work in groups of four. If you plan to use cooperative learning frequently in classes, consider arranging your classroom to facilitate learning in small groups. Each group uses a plot diagram to locate and summarize a stage of plot development. Groups conference briefly with the teacher to ensure their answers are correct. Students reassemble into new groups comprising one “expert” from each of the previous groups. These new groups pool their expertise to fill out every stage of the plot diagram.