The Missouri Reader Vol. 40, Issue 3 - Page 46



This program emphasizes not only the importance of reading, but also helps develop a lifelong love of the written word. - Dr. Betty Porter Walls

The Read and Feed Program at Johnson Wabash Elementary School was the type of school day we'd love to experience each and every day when children smile at the sight of books and adults say, "Finally, a reader is born." More than fifteen hundred (1,500) trade books were given to the students. Thank you for a renewal of spirit and confirmation that teaching is indeed a noble profession. Ferguson-Florissant was a fantastic host for the Read and Feed Program and I believe we all did good work!—Dr. Betty Porter Walls

Two popular approaches in reading today are skill-centered instruction and strategy-based instruction. Skill-centered instruction focuses on teaching skills that should be automatic when reading such as main idea, fact and opinion, cause and effect, sequencing, compare and contrast, and a few others (Hillocks & Ludlow, 1984). These skills are taught early on in reading instruction so readers can involuntarily do them while reading to improve their comprehension of an overall piece of text. Strategy-based instruction focuses on teaching readers to be strategic while reading. Strategies such as making connections to schema, questioning, visualizing, inferring, determining the importance, summarizing, and synthesizing are tools that help a reader think about and understand what the text is really emphasizing (Harvey & Goudvis, 2000). These strategies can be used to help readers when they have trouble with comprehension. The purpose of this article is to provide teachers with information of how to use skill-centered and strategy-based instruction to build reading comprehension.

The terms skill and strategy have been used in education for several years. “Sometimes skills and strategies are used as synonyms, and sometimes they are used to describe complementary relations or a notion of developmental progressions” (Afflerbach, Pearson, & Paris, 2008, p. 364). Afflerbach et al. (2008) researched the history and usage of both the terms through educators, national organizations, and educational references to find a distinguishable difference between them for clarification. They found that skill has been used in education since 1925, but strategy has been used only since the 1990s. According to Afflerbach et al., (2008), a skill is habitual and done automatically without thought process. Afflerbach et al., stated a strategy was a “deliberate control, goal-directed awareness in reading” (p. 368).

“Learning to read is a foundation for literacy and a gateway to education. Because it is an important objective for elementary education, the methods and materials used to teach students to read are continuously reevaluated” (Paris & Wixson, 1986, p. 91). The rationale for which this article was written for is to model approaches in reading instruction that will build good readers. Educators need methods that work to influence reading ability and achievement.

In both of the reading methods, it is important that scaffolding for students is implemented. An excellent scaffolding strategy is the I, We, Partner, You Do technique. Teachers always start out by modeling for students; this is known as the I Do portion of the strategy. Teachers need to think aloud and talk about their thought process multiple times for students to follow along. This allows students to observe the skill or strategy in action the correct way. Once the teacher has modeled several times, the scaffolding moves into the We Do phase. At this point, the class assumes some of the responsibility by practicing with the teacher. The teacher and the whole class practice together thinking aloud and discussing their thought process. Once the teacher has given sufficient opportunity to practice with the students, he/she will start to slowly withdraw themselves from the modeling process. Next, the Partner phase begins. Students work in partners to continue practicing their new focus. The teacher must monitor students as they continue to think aloud and discuss their thought process, so guided instruction can be provided for extra support to those who need it. With new focuses that are more rigorous, this scaffolding can be done within small groups before maturing into partners. As the final portion of scaffolding takes place, the teacher withdraws themselves completely. This allows the student to work independently to practice the new focus. However, if individuals prove to need more guided instruction, the teacher can supply small group or one-on-one support. For example, a teacher giving instruction on cause and effect will need to teach what a cause and what an effect is for the students to understand the concept of the skill, cause and effect. A cause is what made or why something happened, and an effect is what happened because of something. Examples practiced in isolation such as simply identifying the cause and effect of scenarios will help students learn the concept of cause and effect. Then the teacher can move forward in rigor and identify cause and effect relationships within a text to build overall comprehension in reading. Another example is the teacher should provide instruction on making connections to schema by modeling the strategy within multiple read alouds. By scaffolding instruction of the strategy, the reader is able to use it successfully to aide in comprehension.

“Reading is thinking” (Harvey & Goudvis, 2000, p. 5). According to Harvey and Goudvis (2000), reading comprehension is the most important part of reading. That is why it is essential to find out the best approaches to producing good readers. “It is believed that if we understand what strategies good readers use, weaker readers can be taught to approach reading like stronger readers do” (Johnson, 2005, p. 766).


Afflerbach, P., Pearson, P., & Paris, S. (2008). Clarifying differences between reading skills andreading strategies. The Reading Teacher, 61(5), 364-373. doi:10.1598/RT.61.5.1

Harvey, S., & Goudvis, A. (2000). Strategies that work. Markham, Ontario: Pembroke Publishers Limited.

Hillocks Jr., G., & Ludlow, L. (1984). A taxonomy of skills in reading and interpreting fiction.American Educational Research Journal, 21(1), 7-24.

Johnson, J. (2005). What makes a “good” reader? Asking students to define “good” readers. The Reading Teacher, 58(8), 766-770.

Paris, S., & Wixson, K. (1986). Instructional approaches to reading comprehension. Review of Research in Education, 13, 91-128.

Christin Rawlin is an elementary teacher in Neosho, Missouri. She has recently completed her Masters Degree in Literacy at Missouri State University.

Using Skill-Centered and Strategy- Based Reading Instruction to Build Comprehension

By:Christin Dumas