For good reading comprehension, readers must be first able to decode the words fluently and have an adequate background in the information and the format that is presented.
Some teachers and tutors tell parents that their child has poor comprehension when, actually, decoding or fluency problems are an important consideration.
Another major cause of poor reading comprehension is failure to monitor one’s own understanding. Students must be trained to do this, but rarely are. They should be able to:
- identify important ideas
- relate them to other ideas
- provide individual questions about the text
The simplest and most effective process for teaching comprehension involves modeling. This is also called think-alouds. Parents, teachers, and tutors simply verbalize their ideas while reading aloud. At certain places in the text, they should:
- activate prior knowledge about the topic
- set a purpose
- make connections
- sequence events
- highlight important ideas
- predict and evaluate those predictions
- express confusion where a student might
- change rate if necessary
- use context to define new words
- compare to other information and to personal experience
- act as if they are the character, and laugh, wonder, cry, etc.
- evaluate the ideas
Nothing beats parental individual attention, especially when a child is beginning the process of understanding factual and inferential reading comprehension. Parents and teachers should model these strategies which improve reading comprehension.
Once is not enough to embed this process!
Students should also be encouraged to analyze the questions they are being asked. Help them to figure out how they can find the answer to different types of questions. Show them how to find
- the exact answer in the text
- the answer in the text but not in the exact words
- the answer in his or her head using the information from the text
- the answer in his or her head using information from other material
- the answer from personal experience giving one’s own opinion
For more detailed discussion read Reading Spotlight’s blog post: How to Respond to Incorrect Answers.
When teachers and parents focus on these points, reading comprehension is improved.
Be sure to check out our free Reading Self-Help Test (Grades 1-2) and our free Reading Self–Help Test (Grades 3-UP).
All Self-Help Reading Tests are free in the Reading Spotlight Store, including the Self-Help Test: Understanding What I Read.
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