Explicit Instruction for Strategy Learning, Part 1

On February 27, a snowy Wednesday, Barbara Babb and Marlene McLeod provided a training session about Strategy Learning and Explicit Instruction for twenty tutors at the Waukegan Public Library. Marlene spoke first, describing Strategy Learning.

A strategy is an individual’s approach to a task—it’s a “how-to.” We all use strategies in daily life, whether plotting a route to a destination, cooking a meal, planning an event. Strategies help adult learners plan to accomplish a task, perform the task, monitor performance during the task, and evaluate their results. 

Marlene described a visualization strategy for reading comprehension. The steps to this strategy are:

  • Read part of the passage
  • Pay attention to “sense” words (hear, feel, touch, smell, taste, see)
  • Pause when you come to a sense word
  • Make a picture in your mind
  • Continue reading
  • Add details

Imagine how helpful this strategy would be for a student reading a poem, a story or a passage describing an historic event. As a tutor, you invite the student to “make a movie in your mind” and ask the student what he or she sees, hears, feels. You can make a plan with your student to read the piece twice, first focusing on senses, then focusing on the action of the characters.

Marlene’s second example provides a strategy for the writing process called TOWER. This mnemonic stands for:

  • Think about the topic: brainstorm, use prior knowledge, perhaps do some background reading
  • Organize your thoughts: use graphic organizers!
  • Write a draft: put thoughts into sentences and paragraphs
  • Engage in revision: make changes and corrections
  • Review: see if the writing communicates the message

This strategy helps adult learners understand that spending time and making revisions are an important part of the writing process—that writing does not have to be perfect the first time.

Strategies provide the steps, the “how-to” that help students become independent learners. Do you have a strategy that you’d like to share—a tutoring approach that you find helps an adult learner? Email Janet, jwigodner [at] waukeganpl [dot] info and we’ll share your strategy!             

Marlene McLeod is a special education teacher, certified in the state of Illinois, who has worked in the field of special education for over 30 years. She has taught in the classroom as well as provided teacher in-services, workshops and skills training. Marlene holds a B.S. in Psychology and a Masters in Special Education from the University of Illinois. Marlene’s primary concentration is in mentoring, teaching and training teachers.

Submitted by Patricia Burns and Janet Wigodner


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