Compensatory strategies are thinking strategies that empower the reader to have a reflective cognitive learning style that renders interactive and meaningful dialogue between the reader and the printed page.
Individuals with dyslexia and other learning disabilities may sometimes have an impulsive cognitive style (Walker, 1985) or learning/thinking styles that are reactive (and reactions are too quick) as opposed to interactive. Adequate considerations are not given to hypothesis testing, weighing alternatives, and strategic planning. A reflective cognitive learning style is one that is paced to the requirements of a reading task with metacognitive (thinking) skills and self-monitoring in place. Having a reflective cognitive learning style allows the reader to respond purposively and meaningfully to the printed page. Compensatory strategies are those activities that promote the acquisition of reflective cognitive learning styles. A cognitive strategy-instruction approach is one way to develop reflective cognitive learning styles.
Swanson's Cognitive Strategy Instruction Guidelines
Swanson (1989, 1993) proposes three principles for effective cognitive strategy instruction for individuals who are dyslexic: (1) Always keep in mind that there is no one best strategy to use- different strategies can effect different cognitive outcomes; (2) consider the individual- what works for one individual may not work for another; and (3) be parsimonious- use only the strategies necessary to accomplish your goal and that's all!
Deshler's Strategies Intervention Model
One cognitive strategies model that has been used successfully with adolescents with dyslexia is that of Deshler and his colleagues, developed at the University of Kansas Institute for Research in Learning Disabilities (KU-IRLD) (Deshler, Alley, & Carlson, 1980; Deshler, Schumaker, Lenz, & Ellis, 1984; Deshler & Schumaker, 1986; Schumaker, Deshler, Alley, Warner, & Denton, 1982). Deshler and his associates propose that the teacher or appropriate professional establish a student's current level of reading/language functioning through testing. The teacher would then model appropriate cognitive learning strategies with verbal rehearsal/practice. Positive and corrective feedback is used when the teacher monitors the student implementing a strategy. Post-testing assesses growth in learning and effectiveness of strategies usage. According to the National Reading Panel Report (2000), comprehension monitoring, cooperative learning, the use of semantic organizers, question generation, and question answering are the most effective comprehensive strategies.
Comprehension of text requires strategic reading or the purposeful and flexible thinking person who is engaged in the task itself (Palinscar & David, 1992; Pressley et al., 1989; Ruddell, 1993; Searfoss & Readance, 1994). The comprehension of subject matter material in science, social studies, or other content areas in large measure rests on the student's ability to perceive the organization of ideas and utilize text structure to facilitate comprehension. Determining areas of need for the student with dyslexia would be a priority, and the methods/techniques chosen should be matched accordingly.
Using Context Clues
Students can bridge the gap between word recognition and comprehension of text by developing strategies that allow discerning word meaning from context clues. The SCANR acronym developed by Jenkins, Matlock, and Slocum (1989) instructs students to substitute a word(s) for the problem word, check the surrounding context to confirm the reasonableness of the substitution(s), ask or self-monitor to see if the new word actually fits, readjust if a new word(s) is needed, and revise if necessary. This type of technique encourages flexibility on the part of the reader and self-monitoring and checking of ideas. Because individuals with dyslexia tend to over rely on context clues or cues when decoding, teachers need to ensure students are balancing their repertoire of word identification strategies with phonics, structural analysis, and the overstudy of sight words.
Think-Alouds- A Diagnostic/Teaching Tool
A general rule would be to present any technique first through modeling. Davey (1983) believes that modeling behaviors allows teachers to demonstrate how comprehension problems can be overcome. Davey (1983) recommends using think-alouds, predictions and hypothesis testing, visual imagery (let's picture...), analogies (like a...), and verbalizing problem areas and how to correct (fix by...). Think-alouds begin at the level of the emerging reader and continue through all stages of reading. Strategic interventions can be accomplished individually and in a group format. Troutman and Lichtenberg (1987, 1995) also carefully note that the teacher should observe each group as the students work through problems encountered and, especially, key in on students with learning problems.
Graphic organizers allow the reader to organize and summarize information from think-alouds and text readings. Struggling readers have limited awareness of what external organizational devices will improve their memory and comprehension. The National Reading Panel Report (2000) found the main effect or benefit to the use of graphic organizers was on the reader's memory of content read.
Graphic organizers are diagrams or outlines that depict the main structure of the material to be read. Key terms and concepts are used to create an outline that depicts the order and organization of the textual material. Graphic organizers assist students in making those cause-and-effect relationships relevant to reading comprehension. Through the visual format, they are able to see the relationship between ideas and concepts. Traditional outlining procedures might not be sufficient for the student with dyslexia because their organizational/study skills are frequently lacking. Varnhagen and Goldman (1986) conclude from their research that individuals who experience comprehension problems also benefit from instructional techniques that focus on the causal connections/events/relationships in stories. The use of story grammar via story maps (Reutzel, 1985) and other such techniques seems to help students with comprehension difficulties (Tierney & Cunningham, 1984).
Anticipation Guides: Text Previews and Reviews A type of previewing method is to look at certain parts of the book in order to generate anticipation on the part of the reader. The use of an anticipation guide can introduce students to text concepts by having them respond to statements prior to reading. Following the reading, students review their earlier responses to revise or support prior views. Valeri-Gold (1987) suggests assisting students in estimating how long it will take to read a book and then break the time required for the reading into manageable chunks. Students can read the book title, subheadings, pre-and post-chapter questions, chapter introductions and conclusions, graphs, charts, and pictures in order to make guesses or predictions about story content that can be confirmed or disconfirmed after the reading.
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