Home > Strategies and Skill Development - Specific Foci for Instruction and Assessment

Families of Cognitive Strategies

The cross-section of literacy skills discussed in previous sections is extremely useful to provide a picture of the wide variety of types of literacy activities in which highly literate people may be involved, often simultaneously or in rapid succession. But when people learn these skills, they do not learn them in isolation. They learn them as tools that help them function within literate activity systems, which means that they learn assemblages of skills along with strategies that enable them to coordinate those skills.

Such strategies serve several roles. During learning, a conscious strategy can scaffold a new skill, making it possible to coordinate all of its elements before the skill has been automatized. Once fluency has been achieved, strategies can serve as techniques that help literate people manage scarce cognitive resources and carry out complex literacy activities with less strain on working memory and executive processing.

One useful way to view strategy families is by considering the level of cognitive representation to which they most strongly connect and determining whether they focus more on interpretation or expression. (They are always, by definition, ways of deliberating about expression, interpretation, and the thought underlying both).

The sections that follow explore strategies for learning and processing representations of

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