MET:Computer-Assisted Collaborative Strategic Reading

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This page was originally authored by Tara Avenia (2012).

This article looks at both the collaborative strategic reading (CSR) model and the computer-assisted collaborative strategic reading (CACSR) platform as instructional exemplars that improve the proficiency levels of reading comprehension in school aged students.

Collaborative strategic reading (CSR)

CSR is an instructional model based on cooperative learning and reciprocal reading that has been designed to improve the reading comprehension skills of students, those in particular with learning disabilities (LD) and at-risk of failure (Annamma et al., 2011; Clapper, Bremer, & Kachgal, 2002). CSR includes many features of effective instruction, as defined by Palinscar and Brown (as cited in Kim et al., in 2006a), by utilizing four comprehension strategies before, during, and after reading as well as emphasizing cooperative group work, collaboration, and clearly specified procedures. The goal of the CSR intervention is to increase student text engagement and to improve reading comprehension (Vaughn et al., 2011).

Educational focus on reading comprehension

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released the results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study in 2002 that compares literacy levels across nations, languages and cultures. PISA tested 15 year old adolescents from 31 countries to determine their literacy level at an age close to the end of mandatory schooling. The PISA study found that 61% of Canadian and 66% of American adolescents do not have strong literacy skills. These students are reading, at or below a level 3, which is considered to be the minimum for participation in society (Kirsh et al., 2002, p.84).

Collaborative strategic reading and improving reading comprehension

CSR teaches text comprehension strategies to improve reading comprehension, serves to include struggling readers in grade-level text-related learning, and provides English language learners (ELL) with the opportunity to work in cooperative groups with peers to improve their English proficiency and chances of success in school, as well as later in life (Swanson et al., 2011).

Cooperative learning, like that enforced in CSR, “typically results in higher achievement and greater productivity, more caring, supportive, and committed relationships, and great psychological health, social competence, and self-esteem” (Tsai, Hwang, Tseng, & Hwang, 2008, pp.49-50).

Numerous studies have been conducted on the impact of CSR in public school systems for teaching comprehension (Annamma et al., 2011; Kim et al., 2006a; Klingner, Vaughn, Arguelles, Hughes, & Leftwich, 2004; Klingner, Vaughn, & Schumm, 1998; Shook, Hazelkorn, & Lozano, 2011; Swanson et al., 2011). Of these studies, all have indicated that CSR is an effective instructional model, in particular is the significant improvement found in students who are labelled as LD or at-risk of failure. A study conducted by Shook, Hazelkorn and Lozano in 2011 tested the results of integrating CSR in a middle school science classroom and found that “students with LD can achieve at the same level as general education students when using the CSR strategy and that they can successfully be included in class activities” (p.5). Evidence also suggests that promoting interactive dialogue between classmates and between students and teachers results in positive outcomes for teaching reading comprehension to LD students (Klingner et al., 2004).

The stages of collaborative strategic reading

File:Csr image.png
Figure1: CSR’s plan for strategic reading includes before during and after reading strategies

The CSR stages are represented in Figure 1.


In CSR, the teacher begins the process by introducing the topic prior to reading to make predictions in think-aloud brainstorming sessions with the students.

In the Preview stage, the teacher will teach the comprehension strategies to the class through precise instruction and will draw connections through each strategy and its role in advancing comprehension.

The teacher will also define unknown vocabulary terms, those that students would have trouble defining on their own, and will make connections between the vocabulary and the content (Swanson et al., 2011).

This stage encourages active reading of the text by generating student interest and through making connections with the text to students’ prior knowledge. Students will take notes in a learning log, and will begin reading once the Preview stage is complete.

Click and clunk

In this stage students read the text and monitor comprehension as they search for meaning in a text (click), as well as observe for areas of misunderstanding (clunk). Students read the entire text and are taught to record the areas of misunderstandings and to use the following Fix-up strategies to find the meaning of unknown words or concepts:

To Fix-up, students:

  1. Reread the sentence without the word - think about what word meaning would make sense.
  2. Reread the sentences before and after the clunk, looking for clues to determine the word meaning.
  3. Identify key elements in the word (e.g. prefixes, suffixes, a known word part).
  4. Identify word parts that may aid in understanding. (Vaughn et al., 2011, p.947)

Get the gist

Students get the gist throughout the reading and specifically after they complete reading every section or paragraph. Students are taught to stop reading and to summarize the main idea in each passage in their own words. Students identify the most important points, by re-iterating who and what, the paragraph is about and by re-stating the significant information (Swanson et al., 2011).


The Wrap-up stage happens once students have finished reading, at which time students are taught to generate questions, “to improve students’ knowledge, understanding, and memory of the passage read” (Vaughn et al., 2011, p.947).

Students are taught:

  • Right there questions: questions that can be answered directly by rereading one sentence in the text, to help students remember facts and to focus on the most critical information.
  • Think and search questions: questions that are more difficult and that help students to amalgamate information from the text. To answer these questions students need to remember events or facts from various parts of the text, not always in the same page or paragraph.
  • Author and you questions: These questions require the student to draw conclusions and to use facts from the text to make inferences. (Vaughn et al., 2011)

Collaborative grouping

This stage typically happens after the students have completed the first four stages of CSR, and involves collaborative group work. The students are each assigned a role. The four essential roles are: leader, clunk expert, gist expert, and question expert. Other roles are available if the group is larger; they are encourager and timekeeper. Students work through the text and utilize the CSR strategies to further their comprehension of the assigned task.

The teacher walks around the room and monitors the students’ progress. He or she guides the student discussions, listens for opportunities to provide feedback, and checks the students’ understanding. Students refer to their learning log and become experts through scaffolding (Annamma et al., 2011). Collaborative grouping provides students with an opportunity to engage in their learning, and to actively be involved in contributing to the group’s understanding of the text (Swanson et al., 2011).

The added value of computer-assisted instruction

Computer-assisted instruction (CAI), like that used in computer-assisted collaborative strategic reading (CACSR), provides special and general education teachers with an instructional tool to teach large groups of students, who are naturally at different levels and who have different needs (Kim, Woodruff, Klein, & Vaughn, 2006b). The benefits of CAI may be further demonstrated when teaching students with LD. These students have responded well to CSR and have furthermore been shown to respond better in an unconventional classroom and when changes to traditional instruction have taken place (Kim et al., 2006b; Baker, & Zigmond, 1990).

For CAI to effectively teach comprehension, the program must be used to compliment teacher-guided instruction, it must include specific instructions, and should be clearly integrated into the curriculum (Kim et al., 2006a). CAI is, in addition, most beneficial when provided in intensive small group settings or on a one-to-one basis (Macaruso & Rodman, 2009).

Computer-assisted collaborative strategic reading

CACSR is a researcher-developed computer program that provides students with individualized, differentiated instruction that teaches students how to apply comprehension strategies and how to effectively use a technology application (Kim et al., 2006b). CACSR teaches educational strategies that are said to improve reading comprehension: such strategies include visual imagery and imaging, graphic organizers, mnemonics, main idea self-questioning strategies, and summarization (Stetter, & Hughes, 2011).

This platform “provides an individualized learning pace, choices in learning paths and reading passages, and reading level options” (Kim et al., 2006a, p.237). CACSR also provides an opportunity for real-time feedback, a correction process and a program to record student performance to aid in continual assessment to promote student success (Kim et al., 2006a).

Like its predecessor CSR, CACSR has been received with positive results. Kim, Vaughn, Klingner, Woodruff, Reutebuch, and Kouzekanani (2000a), found that when studying the effects of CACSR on teaching comprehension to LD students, the experimental group that were taught to use CACSR outperformed the comparison group on all measures. The CACSR experimental group was favoured and the differences were statistically significant.

The stages of computer-assisted collaborative strategic reading

File:Structure CACSR.jpg
Figure 2: The Structure of Computer-Assisted Collaborative Strategic Reading (CACSR). NOTE: Guided = guided practice; independent = independent practice.

The structure of CACSR is illustrated in Figure 2.

The two components of the CACSR program are: Learning CSR, and Using CSR to Learn.

Learning CSR

Students begin with Learning CSR which teaches students how, when, and why to use each instructional strategy throughout each stage (Preview, Click and clunk, Get the gist, and Wrap-up), as they would in traditional CSR. This section consists of an overview, modelling, guided practice, and independent practice.

Taking the role of the teacher, the Learning CSR portion presents detailed instruction for using each strategy and provides video clips of a teacher and of students using the CSR strategies.

In the final stages of Learning CSR, after passing through the Overview and Modelling sections, students can practice using each strategy and are provided with real-time feedback (see Figure 3) (Kim et al., 2006b).

File:Feedback CACSR.jpg
Figure 3. An example of the “practice” section guiding students’ engagement in activities.

Using CSR to learn

In Using CSR to Learn, students choose a reading selection appropriate to their reading level and they are encouraged to fill out a digital learning log in which they type in what they have learned through using the four CSR strategies (Preview, Click and clunk, Get the gist, and Wrap-up).

After submitting their original gist, students can check their gist with an exemplar provided by the program. Students are provided educational support from a clunk expert, a digital dictionary, and quick review on CSR. “The clunk expert provides guidance for figuring out how to sound out words and apply fix-up strategies (e.g., affix analysis), while the dictionary defines difficult words (i.e., clunks; approximately 1,500 words) that students may encounter” (Kim et al., 2006b p.276).

The reading passages are grade-level, expository, and consist of multiple paragraphs. The readings focus on animals, historic figures, and mysterious events (Kim et al., 2006a).

File:LearningLog CSCAR.jpg
Figure 4. An example of a learning log
File:ClunkExpert CACSR.jpg
Figure 5. An example of the clunk expert

Positioning collaborative strategic reading and/or computer-assisted collaborative strategic reading into the classroom

With respect to planning and organizing a CSR or CACSR initiative, professional development (PD) programs should address where questions as well as what and how questions. Teachers and administrators, for example, should decide where the comprehension instruction will take place, either in the general classroom or in a resource room. They should also consider which specific reading strategies to use as well as how these strategies will be taught. It is possible that through PD, teachers will improve the quality of their instruction. Through practice and professional training, the quality of the feedback provided by teachers will improve, as will the selection of appropriate text and classroom management. These improvements should contribute to increased student achievement and improved teacher morale (Swanson et al., 2011).

See Also


  • Annamma, S., Eppolito, A., Klingner, J., Boele, A., Boardman, A., & Stillman-Spisak, S. J. (2011). Collaborative strategic reading: fostering success for all. Voices from the Middle, 19(2), 27-32. Retrieved from
  • Baker, J. M., & Zigmond, N. (1990). Are regular education classes equipped to accommodate students with learning disabilities? Exceptional Children, 56(6), 512-526. Retrieved from
  • Clapper, A. T., Bremer, C. D., & Kachgal, M. M. (2002). Never too late: Approaches to reading instruction for students with disabilities. Research to practice brief: Improving secondary education and transition services through research. National Center on Secondary Education and Transition, 1(1), 1-9. Retrieved from
  • Kim, A-H., Vaughn, S., Klingner, J. K., Woodruff, A. L., Klein, C., & Kouzekanani, K. (2006a). Improving the reading comprehension of middle school students with disabilities through computer-assisted collaborative strategic reading (CACSR). Remedial and Special Education, 27(4), 235-248. Retrieved from
  • Kim, A-H., Woodruff, A. L., Klein, C., & Vaughn, S. (2006b). Facilitating co-teaching for literacy in general education classrooms through technology: focus on students with learning disabilities. Reading & Writing Quarterly: Overcoming Learning Difficulties, 22(3), 269-291. doi: 10.1080/10573560500455729
  • Kirsh, I., Jong, J., Lafontaine, D., McQueen, J., Mendelovits, J., & Monseue, C. (2002). Reading for change: Performance and engagement across countries, results from PISA 2000. PISA, OECD: Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development Publishing. Retrieved from
  • Klingner, J. K., Vaughn, S., Arguelles, M. E., Hughes, M. T., & Leftwich, S. A. (2004). Collaborative strategic reading: “Real world” lessons from classroom teachers. Remedial and Special Education, 25(5), 291-302. doi: 10.1177/07419325040250050301
  • Klingner, J. K., Vaughn, S., & Schumm, J. S. (1998). Collaborative strategic reading during social studies in heterogeneous fourth-grade classrooms. The Elementary School Journal, 99(1), 3-22. Retrieved from
  • Macaruso, P., & Rodman, A. (2009). Benefits of computer-assisted instruction for struggling readers in middle school. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 24(1), 103-113. doi: 10.1080/08856250802596774
  • Shook, A. C. , Hazelkorn, M., & Lozano, E. R. (2011). Science vocabulary for all. Science Teacher (78)3, 45- 49. Retrieved from
  • Stetter, M. E., & Hughes, M. T. (2011). Computer assisted instruction to promote comprehension in students with learning disabilities. International Journal of Special Education, 26(1), 88-100. Retrieved from
  • Swanson, E., Mohammed, S. S., Boardman, A. G., Vaughn, S., Klingner, J., Roberts, G., Leroux, A., & Solis, M. (2011) The effects of collaborative strategic reading instruction on the reading comprehension of middle school students: Year 2 replication. Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness, 1-5. Retrieved from
  • Tsai, P., Hwang, G., Tseng, J. C. R., & Hwang, G. (2008). A computer-assisted approach to conducting cooperative learning process. International Journal of Distance Education Technologies, 6(1), 49-66. Retrieved from
  • Vaughn, S., Klingner, J. K., Swanson, E. A., Boardman, A.G., Roberts, G., Mohammed, S. S., & Stillman-Spisak, S. J. (2011). Efficacy of collaborative strategic reading with middle school students. American Educational Research Journal, 48(4), 938-964. Retrieved from


  • Boardman, A. G., Klingner, J. K., Boele, A. L., & Swanson, E. (2010). CSR’s plan for strategic reading includes before during and after reading strategies. Figure 1. In T. E. Scruggs, & M. A. Mastropieri, (Eds.), Literacy and Learning: Advances in Learning and Behavioral Disabilities, 23, 208. Bradford, West Yorkshire: GBR. doi:10.1108/S0735004X(2010)0000023010
  • Kim, A-H., Vaughn, S., Klingner, J. K., Woodruff, A. L., Klein, C., & Kouzekanani, K. (2006a). The structure of computer-assisted collaborative strategic reading (CACSR). Figure 2. Remedial and Special Education, 27(4), 239. Retrieved from
  • Kim, A-H., Woodruff, A. L., Klein, C., & Vaughn, S. (2006b). An example of the “practice” section guiding students’ engagement in activities. Figure 3. Reading & Writing Quarterly: Overcoming Learning Difficulties, 22(3), 277. doi: 10.1080/10573560500455729
  • Kim, A-H., Woodruff, A. L., Klein, C., & Vaughn, S. (2006b). An example of the learning log. Figure 4. Reading & Writing Quarterly: Overcoming Learning Difficulties, 22(3), 278. doi: 10.1080/10573560500455729
  • Kim, A-H., Woodruff, A. L., Klein, C., & Vaughn, S. (2006b). An example of the clunk expert. Figure 5. Reading & Writing Quarterly: Overcoming Learning Difficulties, 22(3), 279. doi: 10.1080/10573560500455729

External links

  • OECD official website
  • PISA official website