This ASCD Study Guide is designed to enhance your understanding and application of the information contained in
Teaching the Brain to Read: Strategies for Improving Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension, an ASCD book written by Judy Willis and published in August 2008. The book summarizes the past two decades of brain research on the teaching of reading and the most neuro-logical classroom strategies for improving student fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and motivation.
After a brief overview of the research pertaining to reading, Dr. Willis devotes subsequent chapters to strategies to captivate and hold students' attention, techniques that reduce the stresses that block information from entering the neural processing centers of the brain, and suggestions about how to maximize the positive emotional climate that maximize learning to read fluently and with comprehension. Each chapter includes multiple sidebars with for readers who are interested in learning more about the neuroscientific and cognitive research related to reading including the recent breakthroughs in neuroimaging.
You can use the study guide before, during, or after you have read the book. You can consider questions raised in this study guide on your own or along with colleagues who have read the book. As you consider the topics outlined in the study guide you will find ways to implement the suggested strategies in your own classroom.
Chapter 1: From Syllable to Synapse: Prereading Through Decoding
- How is learning to speak different from learning to read?
- What are the qualities of brain-learning research that help you decide if the research claims are valid?
- What is the possible role of mirror neurons in the development of reading skills?
- What is the current evidence about reading pathways in the brain, their development, and implications for reading difficulties reflected in the function of these three proposed neural reading systems? What could this information mean for future early intervention and more individualization of the best reading program for each student?
- What strategies and activities suggested for improving phonemic awareness might you use?
Chapter 2: Patterning Strategies
- Why is patterning important in the development of reading skills and what strategies might you use to build patterning skills in young children?
- Which of the strategies for correlating phonemes with the brain's patterning systems can you apply to your students? What changes might you make to suit the students in your school or class with special needs or particular learning strengths or deficiencies?
- Which activities do you find potentially useful to help your students build memory storage categories and improve their word identification?
- How can you use prediction, emotional connections, and prior knowledge activation to build word recognition and fluency?
Chapter 3: Fluency Building From The Brain to the Book
- How can you adapt the strategies for building fluency to suit the students in your school or classroom?
- What is the benefit of modeling fluency? Which of strategies suggested appeal to you? How would you use these strategies with the students you teach?
- How can you identify students' learning strengths and select strategies best suited to their particular strengths?
Chapter 4: Eliminating Barriers on the Road to Fluency
- How does the automatic and reflexive pathway to the brain prime the brain to think or alert the brain to quick reflex action?
- How does stress influence which sensory information is admitted to the brain?
- What has neuroscience and reading research suggested to counter critics who suggest that concern for students' emotional state is not important to the final results and should be ignored as merely "feel good education"? What have your experiences been about student comfort and reading success and progress?
- When you use strategies that have been successful for you time and time again, what is happening in your students' brains that make these strategies so effective?
- What other techniques you read about can you add to your teaching to increase transfer of sensory input through the RAS and amygdala into higher cognition and memory to build student fluency?
- What emotional environments and activities can increase students' dopamine response to strengthen their resilience and perseverance as they learn to read?
- How have you used reading across the curriculum and in thematic units to build reading fluency in students, and what else would you like to try?
Chapter 5: Vocabulary Building and Keeping
- Do you recognize a vocabulary gap in some of your students? What have you found helpful in bridging the gap, and what strategies from this chapter will you incorporate in the future?
- What are the three "R's" of vocabulary building and when might you use these strategies to engage your students and help them build their vocabularies?
- How can you use students' learning strengths and select vocabulary building strategies best suited to their strengths?
- As noted in the previous chapter, patterning and category placement are neuro-logical. What ideas will you now employ to connect vocabulary building to these brain-friendly forms of knowledge presentation?
Chapter 6: Guiding the Brain for Successful Reading Comprehension
- What strategies can you use to motivate students to persevere when reading for comprehension is frustrating?
- How can you use prediction to bolster reading comprehension?
- What experiences have you had using graphic organizers in reading comprehension and which new graphic organizers will you now try?
- What have you read in this chapter about memory that can improve your strategic teaching of reading comprehension skills?
- The goal of reading instruction should be to help students achieve reading competency beyond test taking and rote memory skills. How can you participate in or follow the progress of continued collaboration among educators, cognitive psychologists, and neuroscientists to strive to help all students develop their reading skills so they can access the rich world of reading?
Teaching the Brain to Read: Strategies for Improving Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension
was written by Judy Willis. This 170-page, 6" x 9" book (Stock # 107073; ISBN-13: 978-1-4166-0688-8) is available from ASCD for $18.95 (ASCD member) or $23.95 (nonmember). Copyright © 2008 by ASCD. To order a copy, call ASCD at 1-800-933-2723 (in Virginia 1-703-578-9600) and press 2 for the Service Center. Or buy the book from ASCD's Online Store.