Our program theory describes the important role of teacher instruction in removing these barriers to success. Importantly, we posit that students’ reading engagement is more likely to prevail in school and home contexts that incorporate the key components and activities that underpin MORE.
Deep reading requires students to incorporate previously known concepts and information with new conceptual information in texts. To foster readers who have a deep understanding of disciplinary texts, teachers must (a) encourage students’ motivation to read and their engagement while reading; (b) develop comprehension strategies that enhance reading comprehension and science concept learning; and (c) match texts to readers so that comprehension of informational text is facilitated. In MORE, students participate in a 6-day thematic unit on animal and plant survival during the school-year. We chose this conceptual theme in order to align with the North Carolina Essential Standards and, in particular, the core science concepts, “ecosystems” and “structures and functions of living organisms.” Essential standards related to these core science concepts spiral upward from kindergarten through the middle-school grades and into high school.
Teacher instruction during this unit will include a focus on readings in related concepts, for example: survival, adaptation, habitat, and environment. Teachers will use high-quality read alouds to generate interest in the theme and engage students in rich discussion on these concepts. Students will also participate in both guided and independent reading. This systematic and sustained reading around related concepts advances students’ knowledge. Furthermore, lessons will use these texts to incorporate explicit strategy instruction, including: questioning, visualizing, drawing inferences, and summarizing.
In addition to a focus on building conceptual knowledge, teachers will enact lessons in this unit that foster student motivation and engagement. For one, lessons will support students’ perceived autonomy—i.e., the belief that they control their own behavior (Skinner, Wellborn, & Connell, 1990). Specific autonomy supports may include: positioning students to become experts (e.g., in how a particular animal or plant survives), creating a collaborative classroom climate (e.g., creating opportunities for students to share their expertise with others), teaching students to monitor their progress (e.g., helping students set personal goals), and giving students responsibility in the classroom (e.g., caring for a plant) (Swan, 2003). Other motivational supports may include: hands-on activities, high-interest texts, and mastery goals.
Home reading instruction will take place in the final lesson. Similar to in-school instruction, home instruction encourages students’ motivation to read by providing access to high-interest and appropriately leveled texts and comprehension strategies to engage more deeply with texts. Prior experimental research indicates that the combination of teacher instruction and opportunities to read matched books is more effective than simply providing children with more books (Kim & White, 2008).