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Cognitive Processes and Comprehension - 1

ACTIVITIES USED TO DEVELOP COGNITIVE PROCESSES FOR COMPREHENDING By Andrew P. Johnson, Ph.D. Minnesota State University, Mankato [email protected]

These activities are based on my book: 10 Essential Instructional Elements For Students With Reading Difficulties: A Brain-Friendly Approach (2015), published by Corwin Publishers.

PROBLEM SOLVING Problem solving activities can be used as pre-, during, and post-reading activities. • Pre-reading problem-solving. As a pre-reading activity, introduce a problem found within the upcoming story or selection. Then have students work in pairs, small group, or in large group to generate as many ideas for a solution as they can. The goal is to generate a large number of ideas without evaluating them. From their list have students select what they believe to be the best solution. In this way students have encountered the story problem in real life before they encounter it in the story. The graphic organizer in Figure 1 can be used for this problem solving strategy called Creative Problem Solving (CPS). Figure 1. Graphic organizer for Creative Problem Solving.

Another problem solving strategy that can be used here is Means End Analysis (MEA). The steps and graphic organizer are found in Figure 2.

© Andrew P. Johnson, Ph.D.

Cognitive Processes and Comprehension - 2

Figure 2. Means End Analysis.

• During-reading problem-solving. Identify one or two problems found in the story. As students encounter the problem have them generate and record two or three possible ideas for solutions in their literature log or reading journal. This is a form of predicting. Eventually, students will begin performing this cognitive operation automatically without the need to record ideas. • Post-reading problem-solving. Identify a problem found in the story. Students cab use either CPS or MEA to find their own solution to the problem. CONNECTING • Literary connections. The purpose here is to connect story components (characters, events, settings, emotions, or items), to other stories. Provide scaffolding initially by selecting two or three story components. (Eventually students will be able to identify their own components.) As a pre-reading activity, introduce these to students. Display the connect-Ograph in Figure 3 and tell students look for similarities with other stories, movies, or even TV shows as they read. The connect-O-graph should be completed as a post-read activity individually or in small group. Figure 3. Graphic organizer for making literary and life connections. From the story

CONNECT-O-GRAPH It’s like … How it’s similar

• Life connections. This is the same as above, except here students look to make connections with similar things in their lives. • Feelings chart. Here students identify and connect thoughts and emotions from stories to their lives. As a pre-reading activity introduce the story, one key event and one character affected by the event. Either during or after reading the story, students should infer to identify

© Andrew P. Johnson, Ph.D.

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possible thoughts or feelings experienced by the character (see Figure 4). To extend, work in pairs or small groups. Give each group the same event but different characters from the story. Each group would use the internal-izer in Figure 5 to create a wall chart. Figure 4. Graphic organizer for making internal connections. internal-izer Event or circumstance: My life

Character Thoughts


Figure 5. Graphic organizer to analyze thoughts and feelings. internal-izer Event or circumstance: Character Thoughts


• Preview prediction. Provide a simple story preview with a cliff hanger then ask students to predict what they think will happen. • The person chart. The person chart is graphic organizer that invites students to use story details to make inferences about what a character might like and dislike as well as things they are good at and not good at (see Figure 6). First, introduce the person chart as a pre-reading activity. Then provide students with a brief description of one of the characters found in the story and tell them they will be filling in the boxes after reading. (This gets them thinking as they are reading.) This activity works best in pairs or small groups. Give each pair or small group a different character from the story. Finally, after completion have students post their person charts on the wall or board.

© Andrew P. Johnson, Ph.D.

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Figure 6. Person chart.

• Character traits-different books. Here students use a character from the story and two or three characters from other stories, from real life, history, current events, or even their own lives (see Figure 7). This can be an effective way to make a variety of connections. Figure 7. Comparing characters from different books Brave Smart Strong Harry Potter 10 7 8 Ramona Quimby 9 8 9 Laura Ingalls Wilder 7 9 9 Andrew Jackson 9 6 9 Key: 10 = very high; 5 = average; 1 = very low

© Andrew P. Johnson, Ph.D.

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