In this fast pace world, understanding the written word is crucial for success not only in the classroom but in the business and social world as well.
Teachers have many goals to reach with their class of students during a school term. One of the most important of these is to help students improve their comprehension of the written word. While many students are capable of sounding out words and reading aloud on grade level, it may be surprising to note that often times a large percentage of students cannot tell the teacher what the sentences mean. This lack of comprehension causes problems throughout the school day and well into transition after school. It is a skill that is often taken for granted and many times one that is not checked on in a regular fashion until it is almost too late.
Reading The Lines
The first step is to make sure that each student can decode. This means they are able to read the sentence at the most basic level. Having a student read aloud is the best way to discover how well a student can pronounce words. It is important that each teacher checks the progress and ability of each child. Relying on previous data is never a good idea. Students can improve or regress during summer break. It is also feasible that a previous teacher made an error either during testing or while recording the information. Gathering information and documenting the level observed is the best way to know each child on an individual basis.
Reading Between the Lines
The second level is reading between the lines. This is the one in which the reader recognizes the author’s intent and purpose. The student can interpret the thoughts and can pass judgment on the author’s statements. It is in this process that the reader is exhibits his or her maturity level of reading and if it is possible to answer questions like, why did the author write this piece? What does it mean to you? Do the opinions seem to follow logically from the facts?
Many times younger students are better at reading between the lines than older students. This is due in part to younger students and their need to please the teacher. Younger readers are not as prone to allowing peer pressure to prevent them from attempting to understand what they have read.
Older students, teens in particular, might hold back during a class discussion for fear of ridicule by classmates. This is one reason why it is very important for the teacher to check for comprehension one on one.
Reading Beyond the Lines
Often times it is the more mature student that is capable of reading beyond the lines. This involves deriving implications, speculating about consequences, and drawing generalizations not stated by the author. This process leads the reader to new insights and to reflection on the significance of the ideas proposed by the author. This level of reading is perhaps the highest and most difficult to attain, however it is in reach of every reader. Questions to ask at this level would be, If you agree with the author, what other conclusion now mentioned can you draw? What other reaction can you or other people experience to this material? Why are these alternatives important?
Methods for Improving Comprehension
There are many teachers proven strategies that help with comprehension. One of the best ways is to provide background experience for each student. This means non-reading experiences, such as, trips, talks, films, and television. The current generation has a vast array of technological advances not available before that can give a teacher a new way to infuse the class with information. This background information can be worked into different lessons and reading. For example, a television show on Dr. King can cultivate conversation but can also lead to books that will provide a wider range of information for the student to digest. Vocabulary lists, book reports, and word webs are all innovative ways to get a grasp on the student’s comprehension.
One way to make sure this is utilized is to give fully developed assignments whether in class or for homework. To improve comprehension is crucial that each assignment has a reason behind it’s requirement. This is not to say that repetition does not have merit but that with comprehension improvement as the goal it is important to get the most out of the assignments. When the material is interesting and has a purpose, many students will be self-motivated to complete the work. The student will see the reason behind the lesson and understand the need to complete the work as given.
Last but not least is to make sure the students know how to use their textbooks. While many teachers have moved away from relying on one book per subject and have incorporated different texts, it is still possible that many students have no clue how to use their textbooks.
Spending a part of the first few days of school on a cooperative examination of the textbooks to be used pays huge dividends to the teacher as well as the class. Pointing out the different sections and how they can be utilized will make the best use of class time and gain valuable time further into the school year.
This article only touched briefly on ways to improve comprehension of reading material. Reading is an active process in which people attempt to extract ideas, concepts, thoughts, or images from the pattern of words set forth on the printed page. A teacher’s goal should be to help the reader to become proficient and understand what he or she is reading.
There will always be problem readers in school and it is important that teachers treat these slower readers with respect and understanding to give them optimum help and the greatest opportunity for success.