Ariel Sacks, an 8th grade language arts teacher in New York City, argues that the best way to help students who can decode text but struggle with comprehension is not to focus on particular tricks or strategies but to give them time with good stories:
Many students have been cut off from stories in their reading for a long time (often focusing instead on strategies), so they don't associate the sensation of experiencing a good story with the act of reading. ... The answer is to give them stories—lots of them. Help them reconnect reading with the feeling of following a good plot. Give them stories in a variety of forms, from the oral telling of folk tales, to reading picture books and longer stories aloud, to films, to graphic novels, to shorter and longer novels. I always begin with folk tales and include picture books in my curriculum, no matter the age of my students, to help them reconnect the oral form with the written forms of storytelling.
Sacks, an occasional contributor to Education Week Teacher, has just published a book expanding on this philosophy called Whole Novels for the Whole Class: A Student-Centered Approach. Middleweb has an excerpt. An early germ of the idea was published by Teacher.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.