Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Seven Easy Ways to Teach Text Comprehension

With ELLs in mainstream classes in all subject areas, teachers now find themselves teaching the skill of reading.  Though elementary school teachers are highly trained in this area, single subject high school teachers have rarely, if ever, taken any classes in their teacher certification or credential program in this area.  It suffices to say that for many teachers teaching reading is new.  That being said teachers enjoy a challenge and will approach it with a "can do" attitude every time.

There are several basic things teachers can do to support struggling readers both ELLs and English Only students.  Reading Rockets has identified 7 highly effective approaches to strengthening student reading skills in any course or discipline.  If built into all reading activities regardless of material read, students will become more proficient readers.

1.  Monitoring what they have read is a skill that all good readers have.  If they don't understand what they have read, they know to return to the reading and re-read to make sure that they understand the message the author is conveying in the text.  Poor readers skip what they don't know and muddle along so teachers must teach the skill.
2.  Metacognition--Good readers ask themselves questions as they go along.  They want to fully comprehend a text and know what to do to remedy any problems they encounter in the process.  Poor readers are not equipped to understand enough of the text to ask those revealing questions.  They can't identify specific problems.  Teachers must support them here by doing such activities as "think aloud" where the teacher demonstrates how to interact with a text by asking and answering those probing questions for all the class to hear.
3.  Graphic organizers are excellent tools to scaffold a student's attempt to develop better reading skills.  Though venn-diagrams are listed here, I prefer thinking maps (see earlier posts in this blog) since the results are better organized.  Several common ones are listed here along with a link to many more (also see earlier posts in this blog).
4.  QAR (Question Answer Response) encourages students to learn how to develop better techniques to asking 4 key question types:

a)  Right there--answer to question is right there in the text.
b)  Think and search--answers can be found in several places in the text hence think and search.
c)  Author and you--students must understand the text and then relate it to their own prior experiences.
d)  On your own--questions here are based on the student's own experiences and not the text.

5.  Develop skills in asking questions on the text.
6.  Recognize story/writing structure.
7.  Be able to summarize what they have read.


Consider this a quick cheat sheet that will provide you with the basics as a content teacher in addressing the needs of ELLs in interacting with content text.


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