Comprehension Corner

What Does Engaging Instruction Look Like?

Comprehension Corner
What Strategies Do Good Readers Use?
What Are Fix-Up Strategies?
What Are Comprehension Constructors?
How Do I Use Modeling Effectively?
What Are Accessible Texts?
What Are Text Sets?
How Do I Make Reading More Purposeful?
How Do I Improve Group Work?
What Does Engaging Instruction Look Like?
How Do I Promote Transfer?
What Strategies Promote Comprehension?
What Are Inquiry Units?
How Do I Create Opportunities for Social Learning?
How Do I Promote Questioning?
Where Can I Learn More?
Meet the Author

Csikszentmihalyi (a leading psychology researcher) studies times of enjoyment, what he calls flow experiences.  He defines flow experiences as those “in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.” Smith and Wilhelm, authors of Going with the Flow, attempt to condense Czikzentmihaly’s eight characteristics of flow experiences into four and apply these modified characteristics to literacy instruction.  Overall, the characteristics stress the need to make literacy instruction as engaging for students as their choice activities outside of school. 


Characteristics of Flow Experiences 

         A Sense of Control and Competence

o   Students were more willing to persist with literacy tasks when they perceived the tasks to be within their range of ability. This motivation increased further when students were given some ownership in the decision-making process.  This is crucial because when all aspects of literacy tasks were too difficult or chosen for students, the students resisted doing the work.  By giving students appropriately challenging options with some student-choice, teachers receive more effort and higher-quality work. 


         An Appropriate Challenge

o   While we want students to feel competent and experience success, it doesn’t mean that we should give work that doesn’t push them to take their knowledge to the next level.  In fact, when work was too easy, students rejected it just as much as when it was too hard. Learning out students and their needs becomes even more important as we strive to provide everyone with “just right” learning experiences.


         Clear Goals and Immediate Feedback

o   Setting goals is a great way to boost achievement.  Not only are students competitive with each other, but they are competitive with themselves too.  Sharing work with peers can also boost achievement and motivation.  Smith and Wilhelm mention students who eagerly share their writing with peers in hopes of receiving immediate feedback.  Such feedback encourages students to persist with the task and take it to a higher level.


         A Focus on the Immediate Experience

o   Csiksentumihalyi’s work showed that “One of the reasons flow experiences are so compelling is that one’s engagement is so intense that those unwanted intruders [distracting thoughts form outside of school] are banished.” 


For further reading, see Going with the Flow, Chapter 1.

Last updated: July 9, 2008

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