We’ve all heard children read words, phrases, sentences, and even entire passages, only for us to ask them a question and be greeted by a “deer in the headlights” look. Just because students are able to read the words or pronounce them, this does not mean that they understand what they are reading. This is why they are so perplexed, frustrated, or embarrassed by the question: what happened in the passage? Sure, students can pass reading fluency tests and demonstrate proficiency in reading rate assessments, but that doesn’t make them an effective reader.
One might ask: what makes a skilled reader? In brief, skilled readers have a purpose for reading. At times, this purpose is for entertainment value. At other times, this purpose is to obtain information. Regardless of the purpose, good readers are constantly thinking about what they are reading. As their brain processes the words, it works just as hard to attach meaning and understanding to this complicated process known as comprehension. Some students have an innate ability to simultaneously read and process the contents of what they read with little to no assistance; meanwhile, there are some students that benefit directly from instructional strategies.
There are a number of differentiated strategies that aid children in becoming readers that are passionate, purposeful, and actively engaged. Scientific research has clearly concluded that providing explicit instruction with reading strategies yields significant gains in reluctant readers. Additionally, these strategies aid students in comprehending what they read.
For many students, they stare at a passage with questions firing at their mind as the typeset print stares back at them; yet, others, may stare at a page with a single question: do I have to read this? The reluctant reader needs to see a purpose for reading that will allow them to make predictions and personal connections with the text. In doing this, they are beginning to interact with the text in a very personal way. This interaction will continue as they read, allowing them to use their internal monitor to detect if something doesn’t make sense. Additionally, this internal thought process leads students to visualize what they read, activate prior knowledge, understand a text’s structure, and accurately summarize what they read.
As students rely on these proven reading strategies, the connections and personal interactions with text are increased, allowing them to assimilate them knowledge into their existing database. Let’s take a look at some key ways to assist students in making the most of what they read.
What Will Happen Next:
Everyone loves making predictions. Even more so, everyone loves finding out if their prediction is correct or incorrect. This method keeps children motivated to find out the ending result. While one cannot always accurately predict the plot line in a short story, incorrect predictions can aid teachers in identifying misconceptions that need to be retaught. To aid students in making predictions prior to reading, consider doing the following:
• Take a picture walk through the text. Look at the pictures, but do not read the words.
• Pay close attention to the table of contents, chapter headings, maps, diagrams, and other graphic sources.
• Are there special features that grab your attention?
• Advise students to write down their predictions.
• During the reading process, ask students to skim and scan for words, phrases, and other clues that relate directly to their predictions.
• During the reading process, encourage students to revise their current predictions or make new ones.