By Teachers, For Teachers
Students who read fluently may not necessarily be able to comprehend what they have just read. Many children are able to pronounce the words in a book with no problem, but once they are asked about what they have read, they are unable to respond. They struggle to understand the main idea, or to make real-world connections with the text. In order for students to be a good reader, they not only must read fluently, but they must be able to comprehend what they are reading. It is important to employ a variety of strategies before, during, and after reading. To facilitate comprehension, apply any of these strategies below.
Make Students Prove their Answers
Always ask students to prove how they got an answer. This will help them comprehend and confirm what they have just read. Teach them how to find their answers in their text so it will help them understand what they are reading. For each text that students read, make them predict (before reading), clarify, question, connect, summarize and evaluate (after reading). Encourage them to highlight and/or write down the page number where they found their answer. Implement this strategy after each chapter, and you will find students will have a better sense of what they are reading.
Try Comprehension Shuffle
Pennonprofit.org has an amazing free download called “Comprehension Shuffle.” There are 20 different comprehension techniques in this download. The idea for this strategy is that students are to read a little bit of the text, then explain what they have just read. To do this, students are given comprehension cards. After they read a little, they must turn over a card and perform the skill that is on the card. For example, the card may say “From the section you just read, tell what happened in your own words.” Or another card may say “The setting of this page is …” There are some creative cards where students must use props to retell, and talk about how the text is connected to the real world. This strategy is great to use one-on-one with a student, in pairs, or in a small group. These comprehension cards are a must-have for students who struggle with this skill.
Use Sticky Notes
A big part of the problem that students have with comprehension is because of the words that they do not understand. To elevate this issue, allow students to keep a pad of sticky notes at their desk. Then, as students read through the text they can place their sticky note next to the word, sentence or paragraph they are having trouble comprehending. Encourage them to write down the word or sentence on the sticky note as they read.
Prep Students before They Read
Before you even introduce a text, talk about the vocabulary words that you think may be hard for them. Give students the title and have them predict what they think it will be about. Then briefly have a discussion about what they will be reading. By prepping students, and giving them some sort of idea about what the text will be about, will help improve their comprehension.
Use a Graphic Organizer
To help students get in the habit of reading for a purpose, have students look at or fill in a story map or any type of graphic organizer before they begin reading. This way, students will know what they are looking for before they begin to read.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
As you read a text with your students ask questions, such as “What have we learned about the character so far?” And “If the story was to continue what do you think would happen next?” Get students to really think about what they are reading. You can even pair students up and ask them to create open-ended questions that relate to the story. When students need to come up with their own questions, it helps them comprehend what they have just read.
Have Students Visualize What they are Reading
While students are reading a text, have them stop and visualize what they think the story looks like. After each chapter, have students draw a picture that the text painted in their heads as they read. Then, have students compare their drawings with each other to see how their characters and scenery were similar or different. If there are pictures in the book, photocopy them and give to students to compare their drawings to the actual book.
Decoding, word recognition and fluency are all skills students must master. But, the overall goal is the ability to understand and comprehend what you read. It is crucial to implement comprehension strategies before, during and after reading. This way, students will be able to learn how to construct meaning from the text and become an effective reader.
Do you have any comprehension tips or tricks you think work well? Share with us in the comment section below. We would love to hear your ideas!
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.