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Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR): Improving Secondary Students’ Reading Comprehension Skills

Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR): Improving Secondary Students’ Reading Comprehension Skills

By Christine D. Bremer, Sharon Vaughn, Ann T. Clapper, and Ae-Hwa Kim

The Problem

Reading comprehension is a critical skill for secondary students with disabilities, as it facilitates participation in mainstream content-area classes. Unfortunately, many secondary educators are not adequately equipped to provide reading instruction. This Brief introduces a research-based practice, Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR), developed by Janette K. Klingner and Sharon Vaughn (1996, 1998).

Overview of CSR

CSR is a reading comprehension practice that combines two instructional elements: (a) modified reciprocal teaching (Palincsar & Brown, 1984), and (b) cooperative learning (Johnson & Johnson, 1987) or student pairing. In reciprocal teaching, teachers and students take turns leading a dialogue concerning key features of text through summarizing, questioning, clarifying, and predicting. Reciprocal teaching was developed with the intention of aiding students having difficulty with reading comprehension. Palincsar and Brown found that seventh graders with poor reading comprehension skills achieved sizable gains through use of the reciprocal teaching method. More recent studies using reciprocal teaching have found it to be effective with struggling middle school and high school readers (Alfassi, 1998; Lysynchuk, Pressley, & Vye, 1990). Klingner and Vaughn (1996) originally designed CSR by combining modified reciprocal teaching with cooperative learning. Through a number of research trials, CSR has been refined and currently consists of four comprehension strategies that students apply before, during, and after reading in small cooperative groups. These reading strategies are: (a) preview (before reading), (b) click and clunk (during reading), (c) get the gist (during reading), and (d) wrap up (after reading).

Research on CSR

The effects of CSR on reading comprehension for students with learning disabilities, including secondary students with learning disabilities, have been examined in a series of intervention studies by Vaughn, Klingner, and their colleagues. Most intervention studies demonstrated that CSR was associated with improved reading comprehension for students with learning disabilities. The first study using CSR was conducted with 26 seventh- and eighth-graders with learning disabilities who used English as a second language. In this study, students learned to use modified reciprocal teaching methods in cooperative learning groups (i.e., brainstorm, predict, clarify words and phrases, highlight the main idea, summarize the main idea(s) and important detail, and ask and answer questions). CSR was effective in improving reading comprehension for most of students with learning disabilities (Klingner & Vaughn, 1996).
CSR has also been combined with other approaches to address the range of skills needed for reading competence in middle school and high school. In a study of 60 sixth-grade middle school students with varied reading levels in inclusive classrooms, a multicomponent reading intervention was used to address the range of reading needs (Bryant et al., 2000). CSR was used in conjunction with two other research-based strategies: Word Identification (Lenz, Schumaker, Deshler, & Beals, 1984), and Partner Reading (Mathes, Fuchs, Fuchs, Henley, & Sanders, 1994). Results revealed that students with learning disabilities significantly improved their word identification and fluency, but not reading comprehension.
The effectiveness of CSR with elementary students with learning disabilities has also been supported. Klingner, Vaughn, and Schumm (1998) implemented CSR with fourth graders with a wide range of reading levels. Students in the CSR group significantly outperformed those in the control group on comprehension. In a subsequent study, fifth-grade students were taught to apply CSR by trained classroom teachers during English as a Second Language (ESL) science classes (Klingner & Vaughn, 2000). Students significantly increased their vocabulary from pre- to post-testing. Furthermore, students in CSR groups spent greater amounts of time engaged in academic-related strategic discussion and assisted one another while using CSR. CSR has also been implemented in conjunction with other research-based reading strategies (writing process approach, classwide peer tutoring, making words) for elementary students with learning disabilities (Klingner, Vaughn, Hughes, Schumm, & Elbaum, 1998). In this study, trained teachers implemented CSR with their students. The results also confirmed that use of CSR has resulted in improvement in reading comprehension and vocabulary for elementary students with learning disabilities.

Implementation of CSR

CSR can be implemented in two phases: (a) teaching the strategies, and (b) cooperative learning group activity or student pairing. The implementation steps described below were developed through a series of research studies (Bryant et al., 2000; Klingner & Vaughn, 1998, 1999; Vaughn et al., 2000; Vaughn, Klingner, & Bryant, 2001).

Phase 1. Teaching the Strategies

Students learn four strategies: preview, click and clunk, get the gist, and wrap up. Preview is used before reading the entire text for the lesson, and wrap up is used after reading the entire text for the lesson. The other two strategies, click and clunk and get the gist, are used multiple times while reading the text, after each paragraph.
Preview. Preview is a strategy to activate students’ prior knowledge, to facilitate their predictions about what they will read, and to generate interest. Preview consists of two activities: (a) brainstorming and (b) making predictions.
A teacher introduces previewing to students by asking them to think about the previews they have seen at the movies. The teacher prompts students to tell what they learn from previews by asking questions such as, “do you learn who is going to be in the movie?” or “do you learn in what historical period the movie will take place?” Then the teacher asks them to skim information such as headings, pictures, and words that are bolded or underlined to determine (a) what they know about the topic and (b) what they think they will learn by reading the text.
Click and Clunk. Click and clunk is a strategy that teaches students to monitor their understanding during reading, and to use fix-up strategies when they realize their failure to understand text. The teacher describes a click as something that “you really get. You know it just clicks.” After students understand, the teacher explains a clunk: “A clunk is like when you run into a brick wall. You just really don’t understand a word the author is using. That’s a clunk.” Then, the teacher reads a short piece aloud and asks students to listen carefully for clunks. The teacher asks students to write down their clunks and then teaches fix-up strategies to figure out the clunks. The teacher can use “clunk cards” (see Materials for detailed description) as reminders of fix-up strategies.
Get the gist. Get the gist is a strategy to help students identify main ideas during reading. One way to identify the main idea is to answer the following questions: (a) “who or what is it about?” and (b) “what is most important about the who or what?” In addition, students are taught to limit their response to ten words or less, so that their gist conveys the most important idea(s), but not unnecessary details.
Get the gist can be taught by focusing on one paragraph at a time. While students read the paragraph, the teacher asks them to identify the most important person, place, or thing. Then the teacher asks students to tell what is most important about the person, place, or thing. Finally, the teacher teaches students to put it all together in a sentence containing ten words or less.
Wrap up. Wrap up is a strategy that teaches students to generate questions and to review important ideas in the text they have read. Wrap up consists of two activities: (a) generating questions, and (b) reviewing.
A teacher initially teaches students to wrap up by telling students to pretend they are teachers and to think of questions they would ask on a test. The teacher suggests the following question starters: who, what, when, where, why, and how. The teacher also encourages students to generate some questions that require an answer involving higher-lever thinking skills, rather than literal recall. Finally, the teacher asks students to write down the most important ideas from the day’s reading assignment.

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