Now, let's jump into reading comprehension, the fourth essential component of reading. What comes to mind when I think of reading comprehension is the use of Lexile-leveled texts in conjunction with comprehension strategies (You can talk to your child's teacher to determine their Lexile range/level or you can figure it out yourself). For leveled texts, it's more student-controlled than teacher-led. When reading decodable books, teachers usually follow a sequence from the objectives they are working on (for example, let's say the teacher is working on CVC words, and this week they are instructing the short "o" sound. The teacher will choose a decodable book that matches this objective and it's not necessarily based on student choice). Leveled texts usually have more in-depth comprehension questions and students need to be taught comprehension skills to access all of what the texts have to offer. Lexile is the measure of how difficult a text is or in other words, a student's reading ability level.
According to Read Naturally, "comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading." Comprehension is "extracting meaning from what" we read. Students should be taught that reading is not something to do with passivity. Several different reading strategies can be taught to students to help them understand what they are reading. I will only review a few general strategies (fiction) in this blog post for the sake of time:
1. Accessing Prior Knowledge/Background- I think this is the most crucial reading comprehension component to teach to students (but again, I may be a little biased). As a Special Education Teacher, I've noticed that the majority of my students (not all of them) were not as fortunate to have the same experiences as other students. Previewing the texts helped them to tap into what they already knew about the text as well as creating a basis for them to learn and understand new information they read.
2. Predicting- I've found that students are more involved in the outcome of stories when they make predictions throughout the reading of texts given. They are not just reading, but thinking critically about logical sequencing and making changes based on new information. Helping students make predictions will keep them focused on the text at hand.
3. Main Idea/Summarizing- Stories and passages give a lot of information. Summarizing the key points will help readers determine what is important as well as the author's purpose. This strategy teaches students how to weed out less crucial information while simultaneously appreciating the figurative language and other creative elements that make a story come to life.
4. Making inferences- Teaching students how to infer is hard! It is even harder to teach students with language and processing problems on how to infer! I, myself, even find it hard sometimes to make inferences from things not explicitly stated in the text. Teaching learners how to infer is not an easy process. As students mature and gain more experience, they will have more prior knowledge to use when making inferences. A lot of grace is needed in the early stages of teaching this strategy.
5. Visualizing- The last strategy I will discuss is visualizing. I like to tell my students that visualizing is "painting a picture in your head." I like to do fun visualizing exercises where I get my students to close their eyes while I give descriptions of different objects. I'd name the object's color, how the object feels, how it tastes (if applicable), and get the students to guess the object. I tell them that is how I visualize things when I'm reading. Have you ever noticed a student who reads very well, but when you ask them literal questions, they tend to zone out? Or better yet, have you ever gone driving and got to your destination without realizing it? It's because reading is like riding a bike (or maybe in your case, it's like driving a car), once you learn it, it's hard to unlearn it. However, you had better pay careful attention when you are charting new territory or you may find yourself lost. This parallels to reading. Students may know how to read, but without visualizing what they are reading, they will get lost.
As stated earlier, comprehending what you read is the goal of reading. If you can't comprehend, then what's the point of reading? We read to get information about something. Students must be explicitly taught how to access texts and how to use comprehension strategies to retain the information they read. What reading comprehension strategy do you think is the most important for students to learn? Why? Leave your comments below. I would love to hear from you.