Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Reading with ERICA

The ERICA model (Effective Reading In Content Areas) has been around for a while now (Morris & Stewart-Dore, 1984), but it still has a lot going for it. It gives teachers a step-by-step approach to teaching effective reading in content areas.

In brief, the model consists of four stages:
  • Preparing
  • Thinking through
  • Extracting and organizing
  • Translating
The ERICA model, once learnt, means that students are able to think more clearly about the content of the course they are studying, extract and organize information from their texts for particular purposes, write more effectively, speak more clearly about the discipline content they are studying, and function more successfully as independent learners.

Each stage in the model helps students with particular difficulties. For example, the strategies outlined in the first stage – preparing – assist students who are struggling to understand how to use the assigned reading. In the second stage – thinking through – strategies are provided to assist students who ‘read’ but don’t understand. Stage three – extracting and organizing information – assists students to make the material their own; it is very useful for those students who copy material rather than writing about the ideas in their own words. Translating – the final stage of the model – assists students who can’t summarize or express themselves clearly and accurately.

In their book, Morris & Stewart-Dore outline a raft of strategies, including:

Stage 1: Preparing
  • Structured overviews are arrangements of key words which illustrate the relationships between component ideas in the target text.
  • Graphic outlines are approaches that teach students to survey the text before reading it so that they are familiar with the organizational structure being used. Graphic outlines can also be used to assist students to predict the content of a text, before they read it in detail, using clues from the structure, the headings, and other presentation elements.
  • New vocabulary exercises are strategies that include ways in which the teacher might introduce students to the specialized vocabulary of the discipline or content area before giving them readings, and strategies to teach students how to deduce the meaning of new vocabulary from context.
Stage 2: Thinking through
  • Three-level reading guides: This strategy, based on work by Herber (1970), is a three-step model of comprehension, where students are taught
    • Literal comprehension: “reading on the lines” to see what the text actually says,
    • Interpretive comprehension: “reading between the lines” to make inferences, and
    • Applied comprehension: “reading beyond the lines” to make associations with other knowledge, to solve problems, and to modify existing perceptions.
  • Cloze exercises: Cloze is a technique where words are deleted from a passage and students are required to suggest replacements for the missing words. The cloze technique is useful for students who read word by word, rather than in meaningful chunks.
Stage 3: Extracting and organizing information
In this section of their book, Morris & Stewart-Dore discuss ways to teach students to extract information from a text, by seeing the overall plan, recognizing top-level structures, identifying the main ideas and supporting details in the text, using diagrams as aids to understanding, and outlining.
Stage 4: Translating information from reading to writing
In their book, these authors – both teachers themselves – provide detailed instructions about how to use each of the techniques, with pre-made exercises that can be used to explain and demonstrate particular reading skills. These exercises, completed in class, can be used to prepare students for the task of reading in their new disciplines.

For more information:
Morris, A. & Stewart-Dore, N. (1984). Learning to learn from text: effective readings in the content areas. Sydney: Addison-Wesley.

Herber, H.J. (1978). Teaching reading in content areas. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

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