Reading comprehension is the culmination of all the previously taught skills of phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, and vocabulary. The ability to synthesize these skills seamlessly and effortly help students focus on the underlying goal of reading – to understand, analyze, derive meaning from the content, and access the upper rungs of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
However, a study of 4th graders concluded that teaching reading comprehension was largely neglected – during 4,000 minutes of reading instruction, reading comprehension was only taught for 20 minutes (Vaughn, S. & Linan-Thompson, S., 2004, p. 100).
Of course, this fate will not befall your classroom! Here are some helpful strategies to teach reading comprehension.
–Modeling – According to Sprenger, the brain is hard-wired to mimic (Sprenger, 2013, p. 148). Think of a baby smiling after you smile first or a toddler flipping through the pages of a book before he or she can even read but have seen adults do so.
Therefore, metacognition of how to ask questions and analyze the text will provide students with a road map to follow. Sprenger recommends that modeling should extend beyond teachers to parents and potential service providers, so that students have more access to see how active readers make meaning from text. One of the most important skills to model is how to ask questions when stuck and then look back at the text for clues to answer questions. This shows active monitoring of reading comprehension abilities as well as perseverance.
–Visualizing – Creating pictures of the text will help students actively engage with the text and also supports their memory of the content (Sprenger, 2013, p. 150). The Lindamood Bell program Visualizing and Verbalizing helps students develop and exercise this skill. If you do not have access to this curriculum, you can also look at the Measured Mom’s advice on how to teach this skill.
–Predicting – Having students predict what will happen next in the text yields a positive multiplier effect. Students will evaluate important plot details and character traits when making these predictions. What happens next in a story can be a salacious, charged conversation. Did you ever argue with your friends about what would happen next in Game of Thrones? Sprenger equates the idea of predicting in reading comprehension to gambling – when students correctly predict a major plot point they receive the same dopamine rush. (Sprenger, 2013, p. 151).
How to Incorporate Reading Comprehension into the IEP Process
Assessment for Present Levels: Reading assessment can be through a running record such as Fountas & Pinnell or Johns Reading Inventory. Informal assessment can also occur while student is reading a text at independent or instructional level.
Sample IEP Goal:
By annual review, with access to text to speech and a graphic organizer, student will be able to answer reading comprehension questions from a (insert grade level) text including explaining the main idea, making predictions, or finding supporting details with 80% accuracy on ⅘ trials as measured by teacher records or student work.
- Recorder to dictate thoughts from what just read
- Reading Comprehension checklist
- Opportunities to connect text to previous knowledge
Ideas for Centers/Activities
-Reciprocal reading – This Vygotsky recommended reading activity allows students to derive meaning from the text as a small group. In a group of four, each student receives one of the four tasks with specific directions: summarizing, asking questions, clarifying and predicting. The tasks will continually be rotated so that students have different opportunities to implement these skills and receive support from their peers.
–KWL+ Charts– The original know/want to learn/learned chart designed by Donna Ogle was revised to add one more section – how students plan on finding out more information (Sprenger, 2013, p. 164). KWL charts help students bridge existing knowledge with new knowledge. This tool to building schema provides a familiar context for students to build their knowledge upon and increases student engagement.
–Cloze assessments – Cloze assessments allow students to show their comprehension by filling in missing vocabulary words. You can take out passages from a book you are reading in class or go to this website.
–Jigsaw/Creating Posters– This activity works great with non-fiction texts. The teacher splits up a reading into different sections or provides different groups with different readings. Students work in groups and then create a presentation/poster to share out to the rest of the class. Chances are you probably had to do this activity myriad times in your teaching credential classes.
–Roll and re-tell– This game allows students to roll the dice and then asking corresponding reading comprehension questions, which increases engagement and distributes the cognitive load to the students who are actively questioning each other.
Sprenger, M. (2013). Wiring the Brain for Reading: Brain-based Teaching Strategies for Teaching Literacy. San Francisco: Wiley & Sons.
Vaughn, S. & Linan-Thompson, S. (2004). Research-Based Methods of Reading Instruction, Grades K-3. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.