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Why is Informational Text Reading Comprehension Important?

 Posted by on December 23, 2019  Behind the Scenes of StarrMatica, Content Recommendations, Reading Resources, Uncategorized  Comments Off on Why is Informational Text Reading Comprehension Important?
Dec 232019
 

It sounds like a silly question if you are a teacher.  We know students need to understand what they read, but maybe you haven’t stopped to really think about the question in awhile.  It may seem counterintuitive, but just because your students read fluently doesn’t mean they understand what they read.  This is a dangerous pitfall, because if we hear a student reading fluently, we often assume they are a good reader.

Assessing reading comprehension is further complicated when students who are able to comprehend fiction passages, may not be comprehend informational texts. Literary passages simply do not require the same set of comprehension skills as informational texts.

This issue of comprehending informational texts was identified in 1993 when researchers found “nearly 44 million American adults cannot extract even a single piece of information from a written text if any inference or background knowledge is required” (Levy, 1993). Not much since 1993 has happened to address the issue. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. fourth graders can only read at or below a basic level according to the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) (The Nation’s Report Card, 2015).  Researchers have even identified a “fourth grade slump” they attribute to issues with comprehending informational text (Biancarosa & Snow, 2006; Chall & Jacobs, 2003; Sanacore & Palumbo, 2009).

It is no surprise success in school, career and society depends on a student’s ability to comprehend informational text (Duke 2004).  But did you know, increasing a child’s ability to comprehend informational text also increases overall reading achievement (Duke, 2004)?  Did you know, reading informational texts increases a child’s background knowledge and background knowledge accounts for as much as 33 percent of the variance in student achievement (Marzano, 2000)?  And did you know, a major predictor of overall student achievement is the ability to use comprehension strategies during content area reading (Duke, 2003b; Hall & Sabey, 2007; Vacca et al., 2009)?  These are some of the reasons why the writers of the Common Core recommend increasing the instructional time spent with informational text during elementary school from 10% to 50% (Coleman, 2011).  Is 50% of your reading instructional time spent with informational texts?  Probably not.  I know as a fourth grade teacher, I didn’t meet this goal for a variety of reasons including not enough access to informational texts and the inability of students to independently read the texts I did have in my classroom.

So, what can you do to help your students with informational text comprehension?  Not only does comprehending informational text require a different set of strategies for students than when reading fiction, it also requires a different set of strategies for teachers:

  • Students need to be proactively taught to identify and understand informational text features first and foremost (Bamford & Kristo, 1998).
  • Students benefit from learning multiple comprehension strategies while they are reading (McKeown et al., 2009).
  • The more informational texts a student reads, the better their ability to comprehend text (Brenner & Hiebert, 2010). 
  • Informational texts should be carefully integrated into the curriculum (Strauss, 2010).
  • Informational texts should be matched to the student’s reading level (Lennon, C. & Burdick, H., 2004).

Frustrated with the lack of informational text resources, we decided to come up with a new solution based on research to help teachers with informational text instruction.  StarrMatica Texts: Science Your Way is a library of customizable informational texts written specifically to address the Next Generation Science Standards. StarrMatica Texts: Science Your Way helps teachers access and integrate informational texts into their curriculum during ELA or science instructional time. Unique to our resource, texts can be adjusted to a student’s individual reading level, so all students can read the same text. Corresponding comprehension instructions are taught throughout the text and Common Core-aligned quiz questions are provided as well.

We are excited about StarrMatica Texts: Science Your Way and will keep you updated on our progress through upcoming blogs. Please visit our website or contact us directly to learn more.

Meet Emily Starr

 Posted by on November 26, 2019  Behind the Scenes of StarrMatica  Comments Off on Meet Emily Starr
Nov 262019
 

There is never enough time!  As a fourth-grade teacher, I felt the time squeeze every day in my classroom; not enough time to prepare meaningful lessons, not enough time to teach and not enough time to address individual student needs.  Five years into teaching, I was at the point of thinking, “Enough is enough!”  If you are a teacher, I’m sure you’ve had this feeling at some point.  

Emily Starr

My particular tipping point came one day in 2004.  I was handed a projector and asked to use it in my classroom.  My excitement to use technology quickly turned to dismay as I realized I had been given the equivalent of a DVD player without any DVDs.  I spent hours combing the web for resources and sifting through outdated software to find digital content related to my curriculum.  Finding content for the projector became one more thing on my already impossible to complete “to-do” list. Frustrated with the lack of resources, I began talking to fellow teachers and found they were experiencing the same problem. What I really needed was a library of digital content.  It simply didn’t exist.  And that’s how the idea for StarrMatica was born.

As fate would have it, I received a flyer in the mail from the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) about a class called “Boot Camp for Entrepreneurs:  Everything You Need to Know to Start Your Own Business.”  I took the class and thought, “I can do this.”  So, I began working with Ann Hutchinson from the SBDC on a business plan and within a year, I quit teaching and was working on StarrMatica full-time. 

Fast forward to today.  StarrMatica Learning Systems is a digital content development company specializing in K-5 customizable curriculum solutions. Even though I’m now joined by a team of experienced authors, educators and subject matter experts, I will always be a teacher at heart.  Every StarrMatica product is rooted in a desire to help teachers solve a classroom challenge with less time and effort.  Whether it is an issue with finding time to differentiate instruction, an issue with locating informational text resources for different reading levels or a problem with re-writing old lesson plans to meet the NGSS, I am tireless in search for solutions to help as many teachers as possible with their specific issues.  My focus has always and will always be on how to help teachers do their jobs more easily and effectively.  It is my belief that if you can help teachers teach at their highest levels, you’ll be helping their students learn at their highest levels.

Some of you may be familiar with StarrMatica from my library of digital content.  Others may be hearing about my company for the first time.  Either way, thank you for stopping by the blog and reading part of my story.  Please leave a comment below and let me know a little bit about your story.

You can check out the current projects I’m working on at www.starrmatica.com and stay tuned for next month’s blog where I take a dive into why informational text comprehension is so important.