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3 Tips for Supporting Reading Comprehension

Sep 20, 2018 by

Reading is a fundamental skill all young learners develop and strengthen with time. It’s also a skill that individuals need throughout life, whether it’s to read a menu at a restaurant, from a website dedicated to flight training or a text book for a test or book report. But once a child has a basic understanding of site words, pronunciation, and reading with emotion and inflection, focus shifts to comprehension. It’s difficult for some students to truly understand and repeat what they’ve read. Reading words on a page is one thing but actually comprehending what the words mean is something very different. So what can you do, as an educator, to help students better grasp the meaning of what they’re reading? Here are 3 tips for helping students with reading comprehension.

1.  Focus on the Important Facts

The first step to comprehending a story is to understand what information is important and which information can be eliminated. Students often get distracted by random information that has no bearing on the story itself. Things like a car driving by the narrator’s home or a bird in the birdfeeder. These facts aren’t nearly as important as the narrator’s first name, the day of the week, or how the character was feeling. Help students weed through the information. Here are some things students should focus on:

  • Characters (names, main/supporting, roles)
  • Time (time of day, season, day of the week, year)
  • Relationships (how are the characters related in the story)
  • Problem and Resolution (what type of problem are the characters faced with and how do they solve it)

Once students better understand what types of facts they’re looking for, they can pay closer attention to those and ignore the less important facts that cloud their mind. Using this process, learners feel less overwhelmed by an abundance of information and are less likely to forget the important facts. Let them use a journal or piece of paper to keep track of certain parts of the story.

2. Metacognition

Metacognition means “thinking about thinking”. Practicing metacognition gives students control over their reading. Before a student starts a story, have them think about what they’re about to read. What is the purpose of the task? They can even scan through the book or story. Look at the pictures (if there are any), glance at the text, and gain a better sense of what the story is about. As they read, they practice pausing at difficult words or recognizing complex sentences that may require review. This is a method of active learning. Through metacognition students tap into what learning methods work for them and use these skills to their advantage when it comes to comprehension. Other metacognition methods include identifying where the disconnect is. This might mean pointing out specific sentences, paragraphs, and phrases and then going back to re-examine this information before moving forward.

3. Create a Productive Atmosphere

Although the method used during reading is important, so is the atmosphere in which students are reading. If a child is struggling with comprehension, the last thing you want is any added distractions. If you can, designate one area of the classroom for quiet play and reading. Take it one step further and schedule quiet reading time for the entire class. Outline rules for asking questions and clarification. Some student may work best with headphones on or soft music playing. Others comprehend best when reading aloud to themselves or others. You may need to try several different methods and see which works best for your current student’s needs.

With lots of practice and different techniques, each student will learn how they work best. For some, it’s reading aloud while others do better making outlines or rereading paragraphs before moving forward. Reading with a purpose is a great start. Help students set out with an intention and an understanding of what facts and information they’re looking for. Before you know it, they’ll be retelling you the stories they’ve just read without trouble or hesitation.

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