Segmented Guided Reading Strategy

Summary and Reflection


Why the Segmented Guided Reading Strategy


Four concerns influenced our use of the segmented guided reading strategy with our 11th grade class: improving student concentration and attention, deepening the level of processing during reading, stretching student capacity for scriptal and inferential thinking, increasing new knowledge and skills by using existing schema, and improving student capacity to comprehend and remember the ideas presented in a text.

As teachers committed to supporting the literacy development of all students, we agree with the encoding specificity principle, that grew out of the research of Orlando and Caverly. By helping students to structure their ideas prior to reading, the students were able to engage in deeper processing of Anzia Yezierska's short story "America and I" during reading and they improved their capacity for abstract reasoning and recall of story ideas in the post reading discussion. To this end, the segmented reading lesson involved the activation of prior knowledge, a schema that drew upon their knowledge of the immigrant experience,  and in the words of Anderson "provided the ideational scaffolding" that made the information presented in the text more accessible.  The students read the story in three segments with clear purposes for reading set for each one.


The macro concepts or big ideas that served as chapter marks are as follows:


• Mismatch between Immigrant expectations and Life in America  pp. 19-26

•Influence of Americanization on the protagonist        pp. 26-31

•Flaws in the protagonist's vision of America/ possibilities for alternate vision pp. 31-32


These macro concepts (See attached pre and post graphic organizer pages) helped us to frame relevant questions and build bridges to students own lived lives as well as other texts on the immigrant experience read/viewed previously in class (Bread Givers, Bintel Brief and Hester Street).


The use of the pre reading strategies focused student attention on the needs of the immigrant woman in the story and it enabled students to collectively build prerequisite knowledge on the immigrant experience prior to reading. We used a reader's theatre format inviting selected students to assume the voices of the characters in each segment of the story. This adaptation captured student attention and gave us an opportunity to observe student engagement with the text.

            Over 30 percent of the students are first and second generation Asian and Russian Jewish immigrants so they were able to activate pre-existing schemata on the immigrant experience while the other students in the class were able to broaden their base of experience by calling up previous readings and using the class dialogue to construct new or more sophisticated schemata (Bransford 1994, p. 488) that deepened their level of comprehension. The pre and post reading discussions that took place during the segmented guided reading activity supports the Vygotskian notion of a "zone of proximal development" because students were able to progress to higher levels of thinking under teacher guidance and the collaborative/reflective dialogue of their peers.


Inclusion of Concepts Needed for Pre Reading

The predicting concepts activated what Anderson terms pre-existing schemata and focused student attention to the plight of the central character. The pre-reading strategy and the predicting concepts were important to students' construction of learning relative to each segment. In Pre-Map 1 students were invited to use the textbook of their own lives as well as previously read classroom texts to share their knowledge of immigrant expectations for life in America. The pre reading map development and discussion provided students with an opportunity to surface notions many immigrants hold about America. Through the purpose setting and post reading discussion they were able to look critically at immigrant expectations against the realities of life in America for immigrants during the 30's.  Each segment gave students a window into the progressive struggles of the protagonist, an immigrant woman in search of her place in American society. The pre and post reading maps charted for students their own evolving envisionments (Langer)--continually building upon prior knowledge to attain new understandings and deeper insights.

While the recent immigrant population in the class was able to identify with an immigrant's utopian vision of an America that provided unbridled opportunity for all, many of the native born students could not understand such a perspective. The notion that hard work and a desire to achieve are the only ingredients necessary for success was a notion that many of the African American and white working class students in the class had a difficult time comprehending. The mismatch between immigrant expectations and realities discussed in Post Reading 1 gave students insights into some of the obstacles varying groups of people have faced in America either due to race, class or gender. Students' talk in Post Reading 1 and 2 provided hints of their multiple social existences. Many of the minority, poor and working class students in the classroom were able to cross relational divides and voice perspectives they are often reluctant to share in the "contact zone" (Pratt cited in Langer p. 144). The classroom as "contact zone" is described as a place where sociocultural divides based on group identity or other hierarchical relationships often limit students' participation. The envisionment building classroom much in the matter of "critical" classrooms  (Freire 1968, Shor,1980) represents an alternative learning environment where trust and shared understanding disrupt unequal power relations (Langer, p. 144) . The segmented approach to instruction is one that supports teachers in creating an emancipatory setting because it gives all voices equal opportunities to be heard and it provides a safe space for the airing of all perspectives.

The predicting concepts and post reading maps elicited better recall of story ideas and more sophisticated inferential thinking as it related to the main character's feelings and actions. The purpose for reading set in Pre-Reading 3 asked students to look for flaws in the protagonist's vision of America. This focused student attention on the protagonist's perspectives and the stereotyped notions she began to buy into as she read American History told from a white male perspective. The students were guided to take a critical stance on the "received" (Langer p. 92) story and begin to invoke a range of perspectives on who benefits and who is hurt by the image of "courageous pilgrims" and "savage Indians." Students were able to scrutinize the text and their own personal biases in the light of other opinion in the class. By having a safe place to surface ideas and a structured format for  looking at them critically, students were able to "put their mental houses in order" (Rosenblatt, p. 114) and bring a level of critique to their reading. The framing questions as well as pre and post discussion maps provided students with an entry into the structure of assumptions present in the reading selection and provided them with both "literary and social perspective"( Rosenblatt, p. 115). The segmented guided reading activity provided a forum for surfacing new ideas and helping students think through evolving envisionments.

The "end of chapter" marks, the purpose setting for  each segment, and the post reading discussions provided students with a framework/structure for interrogating ideas and a "social and intellectual context" (Langer, p. 144) to interact  as members of a learning community. The purpose setting for Reading Three (Flaws in the Vision), the end of chapter marks for reading two (Assimilation vs. Acculturation), and the post reading map and discussion opened powerful talk about the institutionalized policies and practices that negatively impact the social and economic conditions of many who live in America. The structure allowed me to frame questions that invited diverse historical and cultural perspectives. Students were able take perspectives, explore other points of view, while actively querying their own backgrounds as the source for their interpretations. The four key principles of practice as outlined by Langer (pp. 57-60) were evidenced as students activated prior knowledge, used questions to make connections, engaged in collective sense making and drew upon the multiple perspectives in the room to explore the notion of an American Dream and it's attainment.

The use of macro concepts to frame each segment gave me the freedom to step away from the lesson plan and do what Yetta Goodman terms "kid watching" (cited in Langer p. 57).  I was able to engage in ongoing assessment using student responses to gauge student needs and frame other questions that would help them push their envisionments further. The query, "Is there is an America other than the one you experience or create?" sparked dialogue about  interior and exterior forces and the role these forces can play in an individual's experience of America. The macro ideas took the class away from the personal experiences of the protagonist and linked her experiences to broader issues of equity and justice. The students in this format were able to query together the sources of their differences in search of more fulfilling resolutions to the questions and problems raised by this powerful short story.



I consider the segmented reading activity a powerful tool in stretching student capacity for scriptal and inferential thinking. The structure of pre, during, and post reading strategies oriented students to the text in ways that kept the text always present in their talk. There willingness to engage in content driven discussions with peers and the ability of students who I had previously classified as "hopelessly concrete" to raise critical questions indicated to me the need for a range of strategies to promote student learning. This teaching experience proved to me that there is clearly a place for teacher directed activities as well as the more student centered strategies in the teacher tool kit.



Anderson, R. (1994). Role of Readers Schema in Comprehension, Learning, and Memory. In R. Rudell. M. Rudell and H.Singer (Eds.), Theoretical Models and Processes of Reading (pp. 448-468).  Newark, Delaware:IRA


Bransford, J. (1994). Schema Activation and Schema Acquisition: Comments on Richard C. Anderson's Remarks. In R. Rudell. M. Rudell and H.Singer (Eds.), Theoretical Models and Processes of Reading (pp. 469-482).  Newark, Delaware:IRA


Freire, P. (1968).  Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Seabury Press

Langer, J. (1995). Envisioning Literature: Literacy Understanding and Literature Instruction.

Rosenblatt, L. (1965). Literature as Exploration.

Shor, I. (1980). Critical teaching and everyday life.