Publication Type: Web Article
Year of Publication: 2007
Middle grades educator Beverly Maddox greatly admired the first edition of Harvey and Goudvis's Strategies That Work and wondered, "How can they possibly improve this book?" They did, Maddox says. "I anticipate that the second edition will be even more useful. It is better organized, the style remains collegial and informative, and the revisions and new lessons enrich the book."
Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement (Second Edition)
By Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis
2007 (360 pp./paperback)
Reviewed by Beverly Maddox
Henderson Middle School
Little Rock, Arkansas
In preparation for mail delivery of my copy of the second edition of Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis, I reviewed my dog-eared copy of the first edition, subtitled Teaching Comprehension to Improve Understanding. Multi-colored text-coded sticky notes sprout like tulip blossoms from its pages, and I wondered, "How can they possibly improve this book?"
They did. Strategies That Work is one of the first teacher resource books recommended for K-8 that proved useful to me, an 8th grade teacher, but I anticipate that the second edition will be even more useful. It is better organized, the style remains collegial and informative, and the revisions and new lessons enrich the book.
Teachers familiar with the first edition will benefit from reading the introduction outlining the changes to the work before plunging into the new version. Goudvis and Harvey graciously credit their previous readers with "pushing our thinking, challenging our ideas, and asking us questions," and the two used what they learned from those educators as they revised.
I applied my two favorite strategies from the first edition as I read the second — conversing with and questioning the text, and using sticky notes to code my connections. This is too rich a book to read in one sitting, despite the easy style. I read it incrementally over ten days, lolling in the summer shade of an unseasonably cool July, often consulting the index to link ideas and pausing to jot down thoughts for my lesson plans. "Active Literacy" and increased attention to background knowledge, the two improvements that engaged me most, were threads that seemed to guide my first reading of the book.
"Active Literacy" doesn't appear in the first edition, but Goudvis and Harvey's notion of the active engagement of readers as they interact with text and with each other, drives the second edition, as the change in the book's subtitle suggests. They've added two chapters on the concept of "Active Literacy" and 20 new lessons, dropping only those that relied on now out-of-print texts. Closely related to "Active Literacy" is teaching students "to monitor their understanding before focusing on specific strategies," and they provided five new monitoring lessons to support this skill development.
Goudvis and Harvey more explicitly tie Background Knowledge to each of the strategies in the second edition, increasing the index entries under background knowledge from eight to 14 (scattered throughout the book) and adding four new lessons to the four they kept for Chapter 7, "Activating and Connecting to Background Knowledge: A Bridge from the New to the Known."
Goudvis and Harvey acknowledge classroom teachers' concern with assessing for learning and differentiation, ending each strategy lesson with a section entitled "Teaching with the End in Mind: Assessing What We've Taught" and an "Assessment Commentary" on representative student examples applying the strategy described in each chapter. The assessment commentaries let us "see" master teachers' thinking as they assess student learning. They make instructive and engaging reading.
Fifty-eight strategy lessons, including 20 new ones, appear in Part II, comprised of Chapters 6 through 11. I was pleased to see that the List of Strategy Lessons, in the table of contents, outlines the purpose, resources, and responses for each lesson and flags the new lessons.
Possibly in response to teachers' questions, Goudvis and Harvey added a Part III, "Comprehension Across the Curriculum." Newly hired elementary and middle school literacy coaches will find chapter 12, "Content Literacy: Reading for Understanding in Social Studies"; Chapter 13, "Topic Studies: A Framework for Research and Exploration"; and Chapter 14, "Reading to Understand Textbooks," particularly helpful as they plan how to assist science and social studies teachers with improving students' engagement with and understanding of reading. Chapter 13 in my copy bristles with post-its and flags; learning to conduct inquiry-based research is integral to the AVID elective class that I teach in a middle school, and I will refer to this chapter throughout the coming school year.
Chapter 15 may be the obligatory nod to teachers and administrators worrying over the state benchmark tests, but it does not encourage holding instruction and learning hostage to "The Test." Citing the work of Zemelman, Daniels and Hyde, the authors state on page 240: "Since reading is about purpose and once a year the purpose of reading is to pass the test, we teach the genre of test reading right before the annual test. We do not teach test prep all year. We begin to prepare kids to take the test about two to three weeks ahead of the test date." The rest of the chapter outlines a reasonable, realistic test prep scenario that "help(s) our kids to read and think, preparing them first to be better readers, but also better test takers." I plan to make sure my principal reads this chapter!
Seven appendices make up Part IV of the second edition, and each is a tool for teachers incorporating the seven strategies into instruction. The appendices have been revised and expanded (websites have been added to Magazines and Newspapers, for instance) and re-organized to be more useful.
At the Stenhouse Publishers website, you can read samples from Strategies That Work, Second Edition, including the detailed Table of Contents, Introduction and Chapter 1, “Reading Is Thinking.” A 19-page study guide suitable for study groups is free to download. What a boon to elementary and middle-school teachers!
The description on the publisher's website relates some of the changes. I read the book before I looked at the website; the publisher's description is perhaps a bit too modest and low key. I downloaded the study guide in the hope that my school's newly hired literacy coach will want to organize a study circle as her first official act of the school year. Even without the aid of a literacy coach, teachers who want to establish "active literacy" in their classes can infuse the ideas and strategies in this book into their instruction. I know I'll be consulting it frequently.