Strategies That Work with Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis

by Fran McVeigh

‘Warning!  Make sure you turn your computer off.”

The “Y2K” threat was everywhere. Warnings were on TV, radio, and the internet. No one knew exactly what would happen when the clocks hit midnight on December 31st, 1999.  Just think, JK Rawling had just published her fourth Harry Potter book and reading was on an upswing. That’s the time frame that ushered in the first edition of Strategies That Work by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis and I remember it vividly.

This year, 2017, heralded the top-selling third edition of their book and what we now know as basically a 20 year decline of teen reading. With a focus still on students and engagement, we were excited to have Stephanie and Anne join us for the #G2Great chat on Thursday, December 14, 2017!

Our chat answered the following Three Big Questions:

1) How do students “understand” the texts they work with?

Students need to be thinking first and foremost. Stephanie began and ended the chat with comments about the role of the students in this work. Every time a student is reading, the student needs to be thinking. In fact, when “thinking falters”, students need to be able to independently reconnect with text.  In the words of Stephanie and Anne, we need students to be “thinking intensive readers, listeners and viewers.” How do we know what students are thinking?

“Annotation is a powerful thinking tool. We share with kids that after a night of snowfall, we can see the fresh tracks of animals and know who was there.We need to see the readers tracks so that we know what they were thinking and so they remember their thoughts.” (Stephanie Harvey tweet 12/14/2017)

2) How do we increase student engagement with texts?

One way we increase engagement with text is to add in more student choice in what is read in our classrooms.  High quality texts also need to be available to students in large quantities across the day.

A second way to increase engagement is to pay attention to our assessments.

Assessment matters. Stephanie referred to P. David Pearson who said, “The questions a reader asks after reading a text are a far better assessment than the questions a reader can answer about that text.”  Assessment is what happens 24/7 when we continually study students and their work.  “Evaluation is putting a grade on it. We only grade after the kids have had time to practice, learn and understand what we have taught.”  And Anne added that, “Assessment is the continuing conversation between kids and teachers.”  Another quote from Stephanie was that, “Assessment informs us of three things:  what a child did at one moment in time, our future instruction-where to go next based on their work- and our past instruction. When kids don’t get it, it is our responsibility.”

What is your metaphor for assessment?  Is assessment a mirror, a window, a door?  Can it be all of these at varying points in the instructional cycle?  An assessment is a mirror when it reflects the student learning.  It can be a window because it allows two different views:  the reflection like a mirror as well as an opportunity to look through the glass and see what is happening. And yet assessment can also be the door that opens into the next phase of learning.

A final caution on assessments:  

When our goal is to have independent readers, who can and do read, who read strategically, and who think when reading, we often ask our students to self-reflect on their learning.  If we ask students to self-reflect, doesn’t that seem to imply that teachers would be reflecting DAILY on the relationship between student learning and the instruction provided?

3) How do we increase and build knowledge?

Teachers have been working with students to leave “tracks of their thinking” with post its, annotations, and other tools.  But are students using these tracks independently or using them on teacher demand?

I have been fascinated for three years by Stephanie Harvey’s claim that school days would function well with four workshop periods: “Reading, Writing, Math, and Research (science/social studies). Because of the workshop format, students would be expected to be reading, writing, thinking, talking, making, and learning across the entire day.  Is that the learning you want for your students?  Is that the learning your students need?  Which answer will best meet the needs of your students?   

Three editions: Why were those necessary?

Check your shelves because you may have earlier copies of Strategies that Work.  Or someone in your building may have them.  Earlier editions are never “wrong”; typically more work and thinking has resulted in clarifications and additions that strengthen the original ideas.  Sometimes misconceptions about implementation issues are also clarified.

Strategies that Work has remained the title over the 17 years of the published life of this text; it’s the subtitle that has changed as reading pedagogy and research has evolved in the early decades of the 21st century.  In 2000, this work began as Strategies that Work:  Teaching Comprehension to Enhance Understanding. Neither Stephanie Harvey or Anne Goudvis claimed to be “researchers” but they built their text on the comprehension research in the field of literacy.

The second edition title moved to Strategies that Work:  Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement just five years after the authorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  Punitive measures were already in place for “failing schools” and Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis wanted to ensure that engagement became a factor. But unfortunately, the comprehension work did not meet the “Scientifically-Based Reading Research” definition under Reading First so many primary teachers worked from a narrower list of explicit comprehension strategies.  

Talk and actions involving Common Core State Standards began to swirl across the country in 2008 thanks to the National Governors Association and then 2015 brought the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as the first legislative overhaul of the Elementary and Secondary Act in over 30 years.  Both of those actions have impacted literacy instruction.  In 2017, this third edition is titled Strategies that Work:  Teaching Comprehension for Understanding, Engagement, and Building Knowledge, Grades K-8 and is perfect for teachers new to teaching or those who need to consider which current practices need to be continued and which need to go!

Do you need the 3rd Edition?  

Stop for just a minute. Here’s one way to think about it. Consider your answer to these next two questions.  Were you in a classroom during the 2000 – 2017 era? Did you notice any changes in comprehension instruction? (As a teacher, student, or both) If not, please keep reading. If yes, please keep reading.

What changed from Edition 1 to Edition 2?

From “Teaching Comprehension to Enhance Understanding” to “Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement”

Since its publication in 2000, Strategies That Work has become an indispensable resource for teachers who want to explicitly teach thinking strategies so that students become engaged, thoughtful, independent readers. In this revised and expanded edition, Stephanie and Anne have added twenty completely new comprehension lessons, extending the scope of the book and exploring the central role that activating background knowledge plays in understanding. Another major addition is the inclusion of a section on content literacy which describes how to apply comprehension strategies flexibly across the curriculum. (source)

What changed from Edition 2 to Edition 3?

From “Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement” to “Teaching Comprehension for Understanding, Engagement, and Building Knowledge, Grades K-8.”

A big shift in the last ten years has been on changes in instruction, and what real engagement looks like.  “Being busy” is not the goal.  How does one insure that students are engaged?  Students have to have a bigger role in the classroom. This edition has ”Thirty new lessons and new and revised chapters shine a light on children’s thinking, curiosity, and questions. Steph and Anne tackle close reading, close listening, text complexity, and critical thinking and a new chapter on building knowledge through thinking-intensive reading and learning. Other fully revised chapters focus on digital reading, strategies for integrating comprehension and technology, and comprehension across the curriculum.” (source) And this (by permission of @StenhousePub), a comprehension continuum that ranges from “answering literal questions” to “actively uses knowledge.” (Harvey & Goudvis, Stenhouse, p.25)

Based on these descriptors, you might consider comparing the different versions with a friend and checking out “close reading, close listening, text complexity, critical thinking, and thinking-intensive reading and learning as a starting point.


Because students who are not successful in learning are working hard but the field of literacy has defined a “knowledge gap” as a contributing factor.  Students are being asked to do MORE with texts, fiction, informational, etexts, photos, artwork, and movies than ever before. Stephanie and Anne explicitly state their work and thinking during the last decade has led to “new perspectives on how to explicitly teach thinking strategies so that students become engaged, thoughtful, independent readers.”  

What’s the end goal for students?

For “…students to become engaged, thoughtful, independent readers.”  Are your students engaged, thoughtful, independent readers?  Or are they just going through the motions with a bit of ‘fake reading” thrown in? What is your plan to ensure that ALL of your students are engaged, thoughtful, independent readers?


If not this work, then what other professional development resources should you consider? When will you begin? How will you know that your changes are providing your students with opportunities to increase their comprehension, engagement and to build knowledge?


Additional Resources:

Storify from the chat – Link Available Here

Preview of the 3rd edition of Strategies that Work

About Stephanie Harvey – Stenhouse Author

About Anne Goudvis – Stenhouse Author

Products by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis at Heinemann – here

Harvey and Goudvis. Strategies that Work:  Teaching Comprehension to Enhance Understanding.  Stenhouse, 2000.

Harvey and Goudvis, 2nd ed. Strategies that Work:  Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement.  Stenhouse, 2007.

Harvey and Goudvis, 3rd ed. Strategies that Work:  Teaching Comprehension for Understanding, Engagement and Building Knowledge K-8.  Stenhouse, 2017.


STORIFY RECORD 12-14-17 Strategies that Work

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