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“It may seem like second nature to us

and it is sometimes taken for granted

and forgotten that not every child
comes to class with an innate
understanding of how to learn. High 5!
breaks down learning into a sequence
of strategies that can be taught at the
basic level and used over the course of
the learner’s educational path.”

High 5!
EDU 401: Intermediate Literacy
Eastern University

Lynnea Summerscales
Strategy Introduced and Aligned with Reading Element
There are many strategies that can be utilized when developing skills for reading

comprehension. Those strategies are going to be differentiated depending on the student and the

type of text. The type of text that my strategy will be focusing on is expository text. The high

5! Strategy plan aligns with reading comprehension, and teaches students how to extract the

information they need from text. Within this paper you will be introduced to the research-based

comprehension strategies that make up the high5! as well as their benefits and guidelines for


High 5! Definity and Explanation:

The High 5! Strategy is a combination of the five most effective strategies for reading

comprehension of expository text. C.R. Adler explains comprehension strategies as, “conscious

plans – sets of steps that good readers use to make sense of text. Comprehension strategy

instruction helps students become purposeful, active readers who are in control of their own

reach comprehension” (Adler, 2001).

There are many comprehension strategies that are research based, and depending on the type of

text that you are reading will determine which strategy you would use. For this strategy we will

be focusing on expository text. Expository texts have their own, unique structures that are

different from those of narrative text, and most students, regardless of their reading ability,

struggle at times with expository text (Vacca, 1998). This type of text is meant to be read with

the purpose of educating its readers, while being clear and concise. As students progress through

school they will be faced with the challenge of having to rely on this type of text for

information. This is why it is important for them to not only know how to tell the difference
between this type of text and other texts that are found in classrooms, but also which strategy

they will be using to unravel and store the information.

There are roughly nine comprehension strategies that good readers utilize while reading. Susan

Dymock and Tom Nicholson devised a strategy that marries the top five of those reading

comprehension strategies for specific use when reading expository text. “The five key

comprehension strategies that published studies support, those that we think are most critical and

that we have called “High 5!”, are (1) activating background knowledge, (2) questioning, (3)

analyzing text structure, (4) creating mental images and (5) summarizing” (Dymock, Nicholson,

2001). These components can be used separately, but when combined they offer a greater

impact on learning. The following information contains the five components of “High 5!” and

guidelines for their use.

1. Background Knowledge:

By activating a student’s background knowledge of a subject before a lesson is taught, pupils

gain insight into valuable information on which the teacher will assess what the student already

knows, “Activating relevant background knowledge helps readers make connections between

what they know and what they are reading” (Dymock, Nicholson 2010) This strategy is

beneficial in two ways. First, it helps the students to ground the information they are taking in.

Secondly, it allows them to connect it to something from their past. They can then compare and

contrast the information they might already know and the information that they will be

learning. Assessing background knowledge is also beneficial to the teacher as a way to establish

if students have the appropriate knowledge base to continue with the lesson, or if further

instruction needs to be completed before the lesson begins. Assessing background knowledge is

done before text is read, as well as after. This can be done by the use of a K-W-L chart which
features what the student already knows about the subject, what the student would like to know

about the subject, and lastly what the student learned about the subject. This can be done in

whole class setting, groups, or individually.

(2) Questioning:

Questioning is one of the many tools that all teachers have at their disposal. Research proves

that teacher questioning strongly supports and advances students’ learning from reading.

According to the National Institute for Literacy, questioning is beneficial because it:

 Gives students a purpose for reading.

 Focuses students’ attention on what they are to learn.

 Helps students to think actively as they read.

 Encourages students to monitor their comprehension.

 Helps students to review content and relate what they have learn to what they already


When questioning expository text, there are three main types of questions that can be asked: text

explicit (right there), text implicit (think and search), and scriptal (beyond the text). These

questions are designed for the purpose of drawing answers from the text, but are also beneficial

in the sense that they promote a level of deeper critical thinking beyond just the questions

themselves. Text explicit questions can be answered simply by pulling informational facts from

the text. Text implicit questions ask you to review the text further and piece together answers

using the facts. Scriptal questions are questions that cannot be answered from the text. When

reading and analyzing informational text, good readers consider text structure as well.

(3) Analyzing Text Structure:

There are many variations of text structures, specifically related to expository text. Most of

what can be found in an elementary school can be separated into two groups: text that describes,

and text that is affected by time (Calfee & Patrick, 1995). In elementary school there are

typically three types of descriptive text and three types of sequential text that students are faced

with reading and understanding. It is important for students to understand the layout of

information so they can prepare themselves to look for keywords or descriptive headings to help

them mentally locate where and how information is presented.

Descriptive text:

There are three main types of descriptive text that students need, in order to be taught how to

recognize and analyze the data. Those main three structures are: List, Web, and Matrix. The

table below shows the attributes for each of those structures.

List Web Matrix

 Simplest descriptive  More complex than a  More complex than list or

pattern list web
 Does not matter which  Attributes of an object  Describes more than one
item is first are discussed thing
 Attributes have a
Example: Grocery list  Compares and contrast
common link
two or more topics

Sequential Text:

Sequential text provides a series of events, or steps, that progress overtime. Typically, this text

can be found in a step by step instruction or first to last pattern. The three types of sequential

text commonly found in elementary expository text includes: String, Cause and Effect, and
Problem-Solution. Below is a chart that lists the attributes of each sequential text commonly

found in an elementary school setting.

String Cause and Effect Problem-solution

 Step by step  Two or more ideas  Writer states a problem

description of events or events interact or askes a question that
 Tells the steps in order with one another is then followed by a
to do something or  One is cause one is solution or answer
make something effect  Signal words include:
 Signal words include:  Cause is WHY for instance, an
first, second, next, last, something happened example, to illustrate
then, before, after, and effect is WHAT
finally, soon happened

(4) Creating Mental Images:

It is not only important to understand the way informational text is written and the layout in

which the writer chooses, but that when you add a layer of mental visualization, true

comprehension comes alive. Readers, as they process the text, should be able to get a “visual

image of its ribs and bones, its structure” (Dymock, Nicholson 2010). This creates a basis for

which the student can build upon, and later diagram the information. As they are reading, they

can mentally separate information into groups or categories based on the type of text

structures. Strategies four, and five, go hand in hand, and it is important that students utilize

both strategies to increase comprehension when reading informational text. Below are

representations of how each type of text can be visualized and broken down into charts. Once

the students learn the concept of breaking down text and charting it, then they will begin to do so

without the use of a diagram and start to visually and mentally compartmentalize the data from

the text.
Visualization Diagrams for Descriptive Structure:

List : Web: Matrix:

Visualization Diagrams for Sequential Structure:


Cause and Effect

(5) Summarizing:

Summarizing can be a difficult process for many students because they have problems sorting

through all of the information that they have processed. When you are summarizing, you are

basically weeding out all of the extra, unneeded information. The National Institute for Literacy

states that instruction on summarizing helps to:

 Identify or generate main ideas.

 Connect to the main or central ideas.

 Eliminate redundant and unnecessary information.

 Remember what they read.

Dymock and Nicholson (2010) suggest that “students can easily produce a summary if they use

High 5! Strategy 3. First, read the text. Second, identify the text structure the writer has

used. Third, make a diagram of the structure. Fourth, discard redundant information so that only

the key ideas remain. Fifth, circle only the critical ideas that you need for the summary.” Using

this process will support students and create a starting point for them to retell the information

using their own words.

Benefits of the High 5! Strategy:

Each of the strategies that combine to form the High 5! are effective by themselves, but when

they are put together and students are taught correct ways to utilize these strategies in unison,

they become an even better asset when comprehending expository text. The high 5! Strategy

uses very little resources and has components that have hopefully already begun to be established

in the classroom. Many students have been taught and have used most of these strategies alone

for different types of lessons, and in return they have become used to these learning strategies at
an early stage. As the students make their way through school, and work their way up to the

grades where they are depending on informational text more and more, these skills become

second nature because they have built a strong foundation in the beginning years. The High

Five! Strategy plan can be tailored for differentiated instruction. For instance, when creating a

visual image and drawing a diagram, the teacher can provide lower level students with a diagram

partly filled in. Another benefit to this strategy is the fact that it takes little time to develop once

it is established. The first few times the classroom practices this strategy the teacher will want to

take extra time to make sure each prong is well reviewed and students know what to

expect. Along with the initial learning steps come a few guidelines and suggestions.

Guidelines and suggestions:

 Students need to first be taught how to use all 5 strategies that compose the High Five 5!

before they can begin to use the High Five 5! to extract information from text.

 Break the lesson down into 3 sections, beginning, middle and end.

 At the start of the lesson, use strategies 1,2, and 3. Utilize background knowledge, ask

questions and analyze text. The teacher should ask the students’ questions about what

they already know about a subject, and what they think they might find out.

 In the middle of the lesson, use strategies 2,3, and 4. Here is where the students will

begin to break down the text into categories and begin to mentally arrange it. This may

take some time and students may need extra attention in the beginning until they feel

comfortable to do it alone. Here is where differentiated instruction can be useful, some

students may need parts given to them. For instance, if they are having a hard time

determining which type of text the article consists of then they will have a hard time
visualizing it. For those students, you can provide the text type and which type of outline

for them to visualize.

 At the end of the lesson all High 5! Elements are at play. Here is where we use all of the

information we have gathered. The teacher can assess this by asking probing questions,

such as “what type of structure was this text?”, or, “how would you diagram this


 This type of strategy will prove to be very useful in the years to come as the students rely

more on informational text as a predominant means of learning.


Comprehension is key to learning and as a teacher we need to realize that students need to be

taught how to learn. It may seem like second nature to us and it is sometimes taken for granted

and forgotten that not every child comes to class with an innate understanding of how to

learn. High 5! breaks down learning into a sequence of strategies that can be taught at the basic

level and used over the course of the learner’s educational path. By tapping into previous

knowledge, questioning, identifying text structure, creating a mental image, and summarizing,

students can begin to easily pull out important information that will stay with them. Once this is

practiced repeatedly, when faced with reading informational text, it will hopefully become

second nature for the student and become a great benefit to learning.
Supportive Material:


Armbruster, B. B., Lehr, F., & Osborn, J. (2006). The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read:
Put Reading First. National Institue for Literacy.

Calfee, c. R., & Patrick, L. C. (1995). Teach Your Children Well: bringing k-12 education into the 21st century.
Stanford Alumni Association.

dymock, S., & Nicholson, T. (2010). High 5! Strategies to Enhance Comprehension of Expository Text. The
Reading Teacher, 166-178.

Vacca, R. T. (1998). Let's not Marginalize adolescent literacy. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 604-609.
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