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Transactional Strategies Instruction

Transactional Strategies Instruction (TSI)* is one method of teaching reading comprehension strategies. It was developed and researched by Michael Pressley and his colleagues at the university and school levels.

TSI involves teachers modeling their use of comprehension strategies to demonstrate when and how to apply the strategies in different problem-solving situations. Teachers share the responsibility of conducting a thoughtful discussion about a common text with students, who are also expected to explain their use of strategies and to communicate their reflective responses to what they have read. The goal of TSI is to have students independently use the comprehension strategies as they read any text and this goal is for ALL students, not just a few.

Here are comprehension strategies that are often taught in TSI:

  • Questioning
  • Summarization
  • Prediction
  • Visualization
  • Activation and use of prior knowledge
  • Use of story grammar (fictional texts)
  • Use of text structures (informational texts)
  • Thinking aloud
  • Understanding when comprehension breaks down
  • Personal responses to texts
  • Connections

Use the following questions to think about how you can integrate elements of Transactional Strategies Instruction into a discussion of any text (fictional or informational, novel or textbook) with any grade or academic level of student:

  • How can you explicitly demonstrate what the comprehension strategy is and how to use it?
  • How can you explicitly explain why you used a particular strategy and other times when use of that strategy would be appropriate?
  • How can you listen to your students’ explanations of how, when and why they are using comprehension strategies?
  • How can you communicate to students that the use of strategies and responses to texts depend on each person and his/her experiences and that we can learn from these different points of view?
  • How can you prompt students to choose a strategy instead of telling students which strategy to use?
  • How can you allow students to respond to each other instead of having all the conversation come through you?
  • How can you integrate the use of all the comprehension strategies while also focusing on teaching new strategies?


*Please see the following articles for a more detailed description and explanation of TSI and the research that has been conducted on its use in classrooms:

Brown, R. (1992). Beyond direct explanation: Transactional instruction of reading comprehension strategies. The Elementary School Journal, 92(5), 513-555.

Brown, R., Pressley, M., Van Meter, P., & Schuder, T. (1996). A quasi-experimental validation of transactional strategies instruction with low-achieving second-grade readers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 88(1), 18-37.

Pressley, M., El-Dinary, P. B., Gaskins, I., Schuder, T., Bergman, J. L., Almaso, J., & Brown, R. (1992). Beyond direct explanation: Instruction of reading comprehension strategies. The Elementary School Journal, 92(5), 513-555.

Key words: discussion, reading, comprehension strategies