Strategies That Work to Build Understanding

Strategies That Work – Teaching Comprehension for Understanding, Engagement, and Building Knowledge, Grades K-8
By Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis
(Stenhouse Publishers, 2017 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Kathee Lamberies

I selected Strategies That Work because I teach 6th grade English, and I’m always looking for new ideas to help students with comprehension. I also search for suggestions regarding engagement in reading, due to the increasing reliance on digital media. This book offered both!

As stated on the back of the book, “The new edition is organized around three sections:

Part I: The Foundation of Meaning includes:

  • up-to-date research and new thinking in the field of comprehension;
  • current trends in content literacy; close strategic reading, listening, and viewing; text complexity and critical thinking; and
  • twenty-first century reading, especially digital literacy and its implications for practice.

Part II: Strategy Lessons includes a chapter on comprehension practices and thirty new strategy lessons that:

  • focus on monitoring, connecting, questioning, inferring, visualizing, determining importance, and synthesizing as tools for understanding;
  • build knowledge across the curriculum; and
  • integrate comprehension and technology.

Part III: Comprehension Across the Curriculum includes chapters on

  • content literacy: reading, writing, and research in science and social studies; and
  • researcher’s workshop: inquiry across the curriculum.

As I read this book, I found myself earmarking pages to be sure to come back to, copy, or make as a poster (the comprehension continuum, inferring umbrella, etc.). Some strategies were ones that I have used, or am currently using, but I appreciated the abundance of ideas as they were all relevant to current teaching practices.

The authors pointed out that “the jury is still out” on digital text versus paper text. This concerned me, as all our testing is done digitally. I agreed with the research in the book that stated “…when students read in paper text, they are more engaged and attentive.…” Interesting, but concerning, for those of us who test on computers!

A rich, resource-filled book

This text was full of strategy lessons, real student examples, children’s resources, and professional resources. I appreciated how Harvey and Goudvis gave examples from Kindergarten through 8th grade, as well as for diverse learners. The authors suggested discussion prompts, questions to ask for different strategies, and reasons to use various strategies.

Each chapter ends with a section titled “Teaching with the End in Mind: Assessing What We’ve Taught.” In this section, Harvey and Goudvis offer advice on what evidence teachers should look for based on the lessons in the chapter, and include suggestions for differentiation.

Strategies That Work is a book that’s easy to read and use, with valuable information for any K-8 teacher, new or veteran. If you have not ever read books by these excellent authors, you will be happy when you do, and if you are familiar with them, you will be glad you have another resource!

I will be keeping this book on my shelf for easy reference as well as recommending it to colleagues!

Kathee Lamberies is in her 15th year of teaching. Currently she teaches 6th grade English and Social Studies. She taught 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th in prior years. Kathee earned a Bachelor’s and a Master’s from Michigan’s Grand Valley State University.



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