Center for Teaching and Learning
Focused Inquiry Groups (FIGs) - BSI: Reading Apprenticeship
Reading Apprenticeship - Members - Cindy Hicks
Area of InquiryMy question over the three years of classroom research became more simply stated but remained essentially the same: How will engaging basic skills English students in metacognitive conversations about their reading improve—
• their reading comprehension of college-level texts;
During the 2009-10, I engaged students in RA routines and metacognitive conversation in three basic skills classes and one transfer class. This report focuses on one of the classes, English 102, Reading, “Reasoning, Writing—Accelerated,” which I taught in Spring 2010.
I am focusing on Chabot’s one-semester basic skills English class in part because we are currently considering the fact that students who choose to take our one-semester course do just as well or better in freshman composition as those who choose our two-semester option. I am curious about this finding and interested in how this information should impact our curriculum and scheduling.
I had poor success rates in my 2010 English 102 class—only 40.7% of the students received credit. This is, of course, cause for concern, so I want to use this report to help me figure out what happened. Was the poor pass rate the result of something I can control? I haven’t taught English 102 in years, so perhaps my expectations were off. Were there factors I don’t have control over? Most of the students had never taken an English course at Chabot before and many spoke a language other than English in their homes. Also, I wonder what happens to students who pass English 101A and then fail English 101B versus those who fail English 102. Do they persist in school at the same or different rates?
While my student success rates in English 101A and English 101B, our two-semester basic skills English sequence, are higher—approximately 60-65% of the students receive CR most semesters—when I considered that only successful English 101A students can go on to English 101B and only 60-65% of my English 101B students receive CR and are thus eligible for freshman comp, I figure I’m sending about the same number of 101B students onto English 1A as I am English 102 students. And getting only 40.7% of the students who are working toward English 1A actually eligible in one or two semesters isn’t acceptable to me. If this is a department-wide concern, I hope my English department colleagues and I can address it beginning in Fall 2010.
The texts I used in the class were:
• Texts and Contexts by William S. Robinson (primary text)
As in past years, I relied on the routine of Talking to the Text, especially during the first ¾ of the semester. I introduced Talking to the Text, beginning with the syllabus, which is attached, on Day 1, as follows:
1. I pass out the TA/T4 bookmarks and ask the student to tally as they hear/see me use a strategy.
2. Using the document reader, I model T4 with a section of the text. I try to choose texts and model strategically, depending on where we are in the semester, beginning with comments and questions that show I’m noticing the reading, moving to comments and questions that are deeper as I look for connections to prior knowledge, make predictions, note confusions, and then moving on to comments, questions, and answers that show I am taking control of the reading by reading on to find answers, making connections to prior reading, clarifying confusions, etc.
3. After a brief modeling, I have the students T4 with a section of reading. At first, I used the syllabus, then, prior to each of four writing assignments, I used the first few paragraphs of an article they would be reading, and, finally I talked to the text with a table.
4. After they T4 on their own, students shared their notes with a partner and then with the whole class. The result of the first few class share-outs was a Reading Strategies List, the final version of which is attached.
Students also T4 for peer review of drafts of the first three essays. Again, I modeled T4 with a students’ draft, focusing on the first paragraph. The students T4 individually, then met with their writing partner to review the notes. Finally, students shared comments and questions that came up during their partner shares with the whole class. These questions led to short answers from me or further discussion of the topic from the class.
Students did a variation of T4 with the final essay draft. We developed a rubric, which is attached, and instead of T4, I asked students to read one another’s drafts and decide with their partners where they seemed to fall on the rubric. The first class period we did this, students focused on page 1 of the rubric—organization and development. On the second class day, students focused on page 2 of the rubric—sentences and proofreading.
Students further talked to the text with 2-3 paragraphs of their final library assignment articles, one of which needed to come from a peer-reviewed journal. I did not model the T4 with this assignment and students didn’t share their T4 with one another. They summarized their articles orally and wrote how the articles connected with the full-length text they read independently over the semester (Slave: My True Story, by Mende Nazer with Damien Lewis).
Routines beyond T4 included adding norms, attached, to the syllabus’s policies on day one of class. The class also developed rubrics for evaluating summaries, which we did initially in class. (I put the short summaries the students had written first independently and then revised in groups on the document reader and the class discussed where the summaries fell on the rubric and why.) For two readings, students developed questions for various articles, which I then categorized according to where the answers might be found (“right there,” “pulling it together,” “author and me,” “beyond the text”), and projected the categorized questions from the computer onto the overhead. Students then answered the questions, as a class. Students read golden lines aloud rom their independent reading on two occasions and from the golden lines, we generated topics and themes being addressed in the reading. Students wrote three summaries of their independent reading text: one each for Part One, Part Two, and Parts Three and Four. (The summary assignment is attached.) For the reading on Health Care, I asked students to ask questions and write a metacognitive log as homework, which they then shared with partners and with the whole class. (See the attached Vignette for details on this.)
I regularly brought in articles from The New York Times related to the reading we were currently working on and read them to the class. The class then discussed for a few minutes what the article said, what they thought about the article, and how the article seemed connected to what we were working on in class. This exercise usually served as a warm-up to class.
Before assigning any reading, I engaged students in a “pre-reading” activity. For example, before the first assignment that involved reading two articles on male/female communication, I had the class get into same-gender groups to discuss what what they talked about with their friends of the same gender and how much they talked to friend of the same gender. Then, the men shared their responses with the whole class, followed by the women who did likewise. After the lively class discussion, I pointed out that the students already knew much of the information raised in each of the two articles.
Artifacts that I collected for analysis included:
• The student intake questionnaire.
• One CERA from one of the readings related to essays, plus one from articles students found to summarize.2
I began this English 102 class with 32 students after the No-Grade-of-Record drop date. Five of the 32 withdrew from the class, four before mid-term. An additional three students stopped attending after the final W date in April, and ended the semester with a No Pass. Twenty-seven is the official enrollment limit of the class, and I assigned 27 grades at the end of the semester, 11 Pass and 16 No Pass, including NP for the three who had stopped attending after the W deadline.
In other words, 15.6% of the original 32 students withdrew; of the 27, or 84.4%, of the students who stayed in the class, 40.7% passed and 59.3% did not pass.
Most of the students in the class, 58%, were in their second semester at Chabot, though 24% said they had been at Chabot for more than 3 semesters. I would guess the average age of the class to be around 24, with the youngest students being 18 and the oldest in her early 60’s. (This older student had to leave class one day because she was having a heart attack, but she was back the next class period after having spent the weekend in the hospital.)
Nearly 74% of the students said they were working toward transfer with the remaining students indicating they were working toward an associate degree. To transfer from Chabot or to get an associate degree, students must pass English 1A and one additional transfer English class, so it is important that students are able to become eligible for and likely to succeed in English 1A in as timely a way possible.
Fifteen of the students, a little over half, spoke a language other than English as their first language and as their home language when they were growing up. The languages represented were: Farsi (3 students); Tagalog (2 students); Kapumpangan (1 student); Punjabi and Hindi (2 students); Punjabi (3 students); Japanese (1 student); Chinese (1 student); Vietnamese (2 students).
Despite the variety of home languages, only five students had been in the United States for fewer than five years. Five others had lived in the United States for 8-10 years and the remainder of the students had lived in the United States all their lives. All the students attended at least two years of high school in the U.S.; most attended U.S. schools at least for middle and high school.
Prior to the first CERA and the first two peer reviewed CERAs, I handed out several paragraphs of text and modeled talking to the text, then had the students T4 and complete the CERA survey.
Only five students noted they didn’t have a favorite book; two of those who did have a favorite book identified the Bible. Twenty-one students said they had read more than one book in the past twelve months, but only 14 could identify a favorite author (and two of the 14 identified William Shakespeare as their favorite author). Of the students who passed this English 102 class, nine could identify a favorite author and two could not.
For over 70% of the students, English 102 was the first reading and composition class they had taken at Chabot. Of the remaining 30%, some had taken English 102 in a prior semester and not passed it. Others had taken English 101A and passed, but decided to take English 102 instead of English 101B, probably because they could not find a section of English 101B that fit with their schedule or that they could get into.
Reading/Writing Development in Three Students: Josephine; Sabina; LeMeshia
Josephine, a recent graduate of Mt. Eden High School in Hayward, CA, has lived in California her whole life. This is her first year at Chabot. She had taken no other English classes prior to English 102, and was taking 8 academic units (speech and math) in addition to English 102 this semester. Josephine works about 25 hours a week. She indicated that she has had the most trouble in school with speaking out in class, keeping focused, and asking the teacher for help, all attributes I noticed this semester. Her favorite book as of now is Dear John by Nicholas Sparks, which she identifies as the first book she was ever interested in.
According to Josephine’s reading survey, learning to read was easy for her. At the beginning of the term, she noted that she reads silently, has trouble remembering what she reads, tries to understand what she reads, and rereads sections she doesn’t understand. At the end of the semester, Josephine added that she now reads aloud to herself in a quiet voice and she tries to concentrate on the reading. She thinks people read to escape reality and to learn about the past. To be a good reader, Josephine believes one must know the meaning of most of the words, understand what they read, know when they are having trouble understanding, and use strategies to improve their reading. In short, Josephine was ready to learn and practice some of the RA routines.
Josephine did not identify herself as a good reader, either at the beginning or end of the term. Instead, she wrote she is a good reader if she is interested in the book. Even so, she expects to keep reading after college, especially books by Nicholas Sparks.
By the end of the term, Josephine had added video game books and magazines, comic books, and song lyrics to the things she reads outside of school. She continues to read letters or e-mail, magazines, and web pages.
At the beginning of the term, she noted she reads things outside of school “not often” and school assignments “sometimes,” and these answers remained the same at the end of the semester. She had read two books, not for school, during the 12 months prior to the beginning of the spring semester. By the end of the semester, Josephine added that she chooses book to read that have interesting titles, to her earlier answers of looking for the author, reading the book cover or first few pages, or finding a book she has heard about.
On her first CERA, using a page from an article in Texts and Contexts on men’s and women’s communication, I ranked Josephine on the rubric I developed (attached) from that developed by West Ed as follows:
• Metacognition: Basic
Some of Josephine’s responses to the CERA survey didn’t directly answer the question. For example: Under “What did you do that helped you to understand the reading?” Josephine wrote, “ How I can relate to the piece helped me understand better.” In response to “ What kinds of things were happening in your mind as you read this?” she wrote, “It was interesting when the piece mentioned “cattiness.”
On her last CERA, on a few paragraphs in an article she had chosen from the library, her rankings were:
• Metacognition: Internalizing
Her response to “What did you do that helped you understand the reading?” Josephine wrote, “I annotated and used the dictionary for words I didn’t understand.” In response to “ What kinds of things were happening in your mind as you read this?” she indicated she was visualizing, noting “I couldn’t imagine what this women went through. It was gruesome.”
Josephine, as quiet as she was, clearly progressed as a reader and a writer from the beginning of the term until the end. She also progressed in her writing of academic prose.
Josephine’s T4 to her peer’s writing developed over the course of the semester, though she did not note the additional strategies she was applying at the end of the semester on her CERA. Both at the beginning of the semester and at the end, she wrote that she reread when she didn’t understand something. However, by the end of the semester, she was asking much more pointed questions of her peers, such as “What is the one type of French health care” and “Why are HMO’s known for massive fraud?” At the beginning of the semester, her comments were more broad, such as, “I don’t understand where this is coming from.” She also tended to be more focused on surface features of the writing at the beginning of the semester than at the end.
By the end of the semester, Josephine’s writing reflected that she was paying attention to the peer review comments she received from her peers as well as those she gave. Her last essay was well organized and adequately developed, including plenty of information from the text to support her conclusions.
Josephine received a high pass in the class.
According to her intake questionnaire, Sabina was in her second semester at Chabot; her first had been in summer of 2009, so she had skipped the fall term. Her goal is to get an associate degree in Administration of Justice. Sabina moved to the United States from China when she was in the sixth grade. She attended American High School in Fremont for three years, but graduated from Vista Alternative High School, which is home schooling. Sabina told me that she wanted to do well in college because she had done poorly in high school because she didn’t think school mattered back then.
Sabina’s first language is Cantonese and Cantonese is spoken in her home. She has never studied English as a Second Language, and English 102 is the first English course she has taken at Chabot. She worked 20-25 hours per week during the spring semester and English 102 was her only class.
Areas of difficulty for Sabina in school were time management, speaking out in class, and taking tests. She indicated having no favorite book and said she doesn’t read newspapers or magazines.
On her reading survey at the beginning of the term, Sabina remembered that learning to read was easy for her. For question 2, “What do you usually do when you read, Sabina checked all the boxes EXCEPT I try to read with expression; I try to get the reading over with as fast as I can; I try to read smoothly, I ask myself questions about what I’m reading; I put what I’m reading into my own words. At the end of the semester, Sabina reasserted that she looks over what she is going to read first to get an idea of what it is about, a strategy that I modeled over the course of the semester.
Sabina thinks people read because they want to learn or they are interested in the reading, or they have to read something because “it’s mandatory.” To be a good reader, Sabina noted both at the beginning and at the end of the semester that people must read aloud well, read with expression, pronounce all the words correctly, enjoy reading, concentrate on the reading. At the beginning of the term, she had also checked that good readers read a lot and use strategies to improve their understanding.
From the beginning to the end of the semester, Sabina moved from “It depends” in response to question 6, “Do you think you are a good reader?’ to “No.” At first she felt she was a good reader when she was interested in what she was reading. At the end of the semester, she felt she was not a good reader because she couldn’t remember what she had just read in order to summarize it.” From this, I conjectured that Sabina still has some mistaken ideas about what good readers of academic prose do. Her summaries of our independent reading text were fine, however.
At the end of the semester, Sabina noted that she read “nothing” outside of school. At the beginning she had noted she read newspapers, video game books or magazines, letters or e-mail, web pages, and computer manuals. She said, however, she read frequently for school. By the end of the semester, Sabina had read one book during the past twelve months, the book we read for class. She also noted that she more frequently talked with others about what she was reading by the end of the semester and sometimes borrowed books from family members or friends. From this, I concluded that Sabina “got into” the independent reading text and the controversial issues we were reading about and discussing in class. She wanted to talk about them, which was a big step forward in her identifying as a reader.
In short, while Sabina did not self-report that she had incorporated some of the strategies for reading that I had hoped she might, such a questioning and summarizing, she does appear to have had her interest piqued by the book the class read independently so that now she talked with others about what she was reading, representing some growth in the personal and social dimensions.
Sabina’s rankings on the first CERA the class did were as follows:
• Metacognition: Beginning
On the last CERA, Sabina’s rankings were:
• Metacognition: Developing. Sabina noted that she needed to look up the definitions of some words to understand the passage she was responding to. She also came to see me in my office to talk with me about the readings she had chosen from the library to summarize.
Sabina ended up with a low pass in the class. While she still needs to let go of some unproductive hypotheses about academic reading and writing, after looking again at her work, I think Sabina began to see herself as a potentially successful college student; she developed confidence as a student, which she needed to do. She tended to ask the instructor or another person before putting in a lot of time to figure it out on her own. However, at this point in her development, this tendency to ask may be appropriate and serving her well. She missed out on some foundational reading in K-12 because, as noted above, she didn’t think it was important. As a result, she is often confronted with reading that is way beyond her “zone of proximal development” and, at these moments, she seems to have a hard time understanding enough to begin building toward comprehension, so seeking help is a good strategy, though she’ll need to make adjustments as her ability to read academic prose develops.
Sabina tended to “overwrite,” as in “The health care system in the U.S. is in need for reformation.” She seemed to be trying to gather as much information on a topic as possible, some from reading, but also some from talking with others, such as her boss. She ended up trying to incorporate a variety of views into her essays, but she wasn’t always able to connect diverse perspectives to a thesis. This was especially apparent with the health care essay, in which she tried to bring in information from conservative Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan, but she completely misread what he was asserting.
In short, Sabina is developing as a college student; right now she is trying to apply rules and make her writing “sound” the way she thinks college writing should sound. At the same time, however, she has read and enjoyed a book, struggled with reading a difficult article she chose and adequately summarized it, and begun to speak out in class when she needs clarification, has a question, or needs support. So, while I could have wished for greater growth in the knowledge and cognitive dimensions for Sabina, I’m very pleased with her progress in the personal and social dimensions. She is a good example, I think, of a student who will benefit when more instructors across the disciplines embed RA into their classes, since she needs more exposure to college reading, and more guided practice to build her repertoire of strategies appropriate to the discourse at hand.
According to her student intake, LeMeshia, an Oakland High School graduate whose major is accounting, has been at Chabot for three years and hopes to transfer to a four-year school. Her native language is English, and she has lived in California all her life. This semester marked her second attempt to pass English 102. She noted that she did not pass in 2008 because “work got in the way.” She also noted that she hates English. In the past, writing and test-taking have caused her the most difficulty in school.
In addition to English 102, LeMeshia was enrolled in a five-unit, transfer-level math class, Statistics. She worked 40 hours a week during the spring semester and is a single parent with two children, the oldest of whom is 7.
LeMeshia indicated she had a favorite book, The Coldest Winter Ever, which she described as an attention grabber that she couldn’t put down, and she regularly reads the Oakland Tribune.
On her reading survey, LeMeisha noted that learning to read was hard for her. Like Sabina, LeMeshia checked nearly everything in response to “What do you usually do when you read: I read silently; I read aloud to myself in a quiet voice; I try to pronounce all the words correctly; I try to figure out the meaning of words I don’t know; I look up words I don’t know in the dictionary; I have trouble remembering what I read; I try to understand what I read; I try to concentrate on the reading; I picture what is happening in the reading; I read a section again if I didn’t understand it at first; I think about things I know that connect to the reading. Significantly, LeMeshia did not check that she asks herself questions about what she is reading or tries to put what she has read into her own words.
LeMeshia reads a lot, mostly schoolbooks and the newspaper. She did not indicate she has a favorite author. She thinks people read “to keep from watching TV and to help the time in a doctor’s office or other appointments go by fast.” To be a good reader, she thinks people need to read with expression, know the meaning of most of the words, enjoy reading, read a lot, read different kinds of books, understand what they read, know when they are having trouble understanding, and use strategies to improve their understanding. These were her responses at the beginning and at the end of the term.
At the beginning of the semester, LeMeshia responded to “Do you think you are a good reader?” with “It depends” on whether she is able to picture the reading. At the end of the semester, she responded to this question with “Yes,” and added that she expects to read more fiction as well as educational books when she graduates from college. She sometimes reads outside of school, focusing on newspapers, short stories, novels, and religious books. She reads at home for school assignments every day. The number of books she had read in the past 12 months went down from 6 to 2, both for school, from the beginning of the term to the end, which I took as a sign of her busy schedule, though I don’t know she was less busy in the fall semester.
LeMeshia chooses books by reading a few pages, looking for books she has heard about, or asking a family member or friend. She sometimes talks with people about books she is reading and occasionally borrows books from family or friends.
LeMeshia summed up her relationship with reading: “I would love to read more but with school, kids, and work, there is [sic] not enough hours in a day.”
On her first CERA, LeMeshia’s rankings were as follows:
• Metacognition: Basic
LeMeshia did not turn in the final CERA, nor did she come to class for the final exam. Her third peer review CERA indicated some progress, however. She accurately summarized her partner’s argument and noted that she was able to understand the essay, which considered the French and the U.S. health care systems and recommended one or the other, by picturing what she would want to see in a health care system and then looking to see if the writer had mentioned those things in the French health care system. She felt the writer had not included enough information about the U.S. system in his draft, so she wasn’t fully convinced that the French system was the best.
LeMeshia expected to pass the class, and I was hopeful, but she didn’t take the final or write the third summary, nor did she contact me to tell me why so that we might have considered arranging an INC. Since her essay grades were borderline, not doing these last assignments unfortunately led to her not passing English 102.
I agree with LeMeshia’s analysis of her reading—she is capable, but too busy and distracted. I noticed she did not move beyond personal connections in her T4, and her questions sometimes were written right next to the section of the text that answered the question. I had the feeling that in her earlier English 102 class, she had been instructed and encouraged to mark up the text; she was marking up the text when talking to it, but her notes seemed memorized and not particularly relevant to the text at hand: “this could be biased”; “this I don’t agree with.”
I also agree with LeMeshia’s evaluation of her writing. On her intake, she wrote: “I real [sic] need help with writing even when its [sic] time to help my 7 yr old with her writing homework I get crazy because I cant [sic] pull my thoughts together I need help to form my words and thoughts.” In addition to some usage and syntax errors that seem to come because LeMeshia’s still transitioning from oral to written language, LeMeshia’s writing tended to have lots of contradictions and unclearly connected ideas and information. I could not tell if LeMeshia has a learning skills issue or if she is overwhelmed by her busy life.
Like many Chabot students, LeMeshia does need help with her writing and reading, but she also needs time to focus and practice. I’m not certain repeating English 102 for the third time will be beneficial to her; if I could persuade her to take the learning skills assessment class or the two-semester basic skills English sequence, I would, but she feels the pressure of needing to finish school, so my guess is she will retake the English Placement Test to see if she can place into English 1A. She is running in place.
Conclusions: How Did Embedding the Metacognitive Conversation Relate to Students’ Reading/Writing Development?
In a sentence, embedding the metacognitive conversation into the English 102 class DID contribute to students’ reading/writing development, more or less depending on the individual student’s specific circumstances. Students with solid high school backgrounds who are mature and enter the class with some basic “studenting” skills, such as rarely missing class and consistently doing the homework, benefitted the most, but even those whose high school experiences were not strong or who were still transitioning to college improved their reading and writing. Most of the students in the class fell into one of these two groups and ended the semester at least aware of their reading and often taking control of their reading. These students, like Josephine and Sabina, progressed in metacognition, repertoire of strategies, use of text form, structure, and schema, and comprehension. The students seemed to develop their reader identities and their ability to work with others to figure out the reading and “tighten up” their writing. Most students left the class with a better sense of text structure than they had when they came in and many said they had increased their world knowledge and thought about current events more.
Students who were new to college and less mature, as well as those like LeMeshia, who are overworked, worried about money and financial aid, and trying to multi-task so that they end up missing classes and have trouble focusing when they are in class, did not experience as much progress, though even LeMeshia was able to notice that she visualized when she was reading successfully. Also, many of these students were better able to consider their peers’ notes on their rough drafts, especially as their peers were better at talking to the text on their essay drafts.
As noted above, with more exposure to RA and guided practice, I am confident the students will continue to develop their ability to read complex college texts, which is why I am eager to see more instructors embed RA into their classrooms.
As in prior semesters, the students stayed in the class; 25 out of an original 32 students were active to the end, and I assigned 27 grades. The 40.7% pass rate of the class was disappointing, and, as I mentioned in footnote 1, this is something I want to discuss with my colleagues. (It seems to me there are several possible explanations. For example, I noticed that I tended to give lower rankings to the SLO “Student can respond to a topic, demonstrate critical thinking, and use text to support ideas” than my colleagues did. I wonder if we are integrating reading into our classes in similar or different ways.)
What I Need to Continue Working On:
I very much need to spend more time planning and preparing RA routines so that students don’t feel I’m springing new things on them. I’m good with routinely working in Talking to the Text, but this is the first semester I introduced rubrics and metacognitive logs into my basic skills English classes. Before I use them again, I need to plan when they will be most appropriately introduced. I anticipate the metacognitive logs will be very useful when students have longer reading assignments
I want to also spend a bit more time working with the students on their (mostly) independent reading, especially on summarizing the text. Next semester, I think I will try asking the students to write why each chapter has the title it has. I’m opting to not have students keep a metacognitive or reading log with this text because one of my goals with the summaries is to have the students writing sentences and paragraphs.
I still am working on helping the students question and categorize questions—or having them categorize questions—more routinely. We’ll probably work with questions in their metacognitive logs next semester.
I continue to be frustrated that students aren’t expanding their repertoire of strategies as much as I would hope. I think I need to focus more on how I’m modeling T4 and Think Alouds and bring in the Reading Strategies List more regularly throughout the semester rather than mostly at the beginning through mid-term.
I need to chunk texts for the students at the beginning of the semester and not expect anyone will have time to T4 with an entire lengthy reading assignment. I need to support the students with annotating and keeping reading logs for longer texts.
I want to consider bringing in some of the fluency work that I’ve recently learned about.
This particular class needed me to be more “strict” about their getting their work done and in on time; certainly at the beginning of the semester, they needed me to help them focus. Like all students, they also needed faster feedback. I have to decide which assignments I will respond to—I clearly am not succeeding at responding to as many as I do—and then I need to shorten the turn-around time of getting assignments that I have responded to back to them. Once again, I remind myself that students learn from collaborating with peers as well as from me. I need to trust the process. I’m better at this than I was three years ago, but not as good as I’ll be a year from now.
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