Fourth graders are expected to read a greater variety of texts and use knowledge gained from those texts to broaden their range of analytical skills. For fourth graders who struggle to extract meaning from what they have read, the task can seem insurmountable. However, there are several proven methods that can help make the challenge of reading comprehension less daunting for your child.
Vocabulary deficits put a student at an automatic disadvantage when it comes to comprehension. Help your child discover new words by introducing new root words, such as learning the Greek root "aesthet," utilizing prefixes and suffixes to change word meaning, and introducing homophones, or words that sound the same but have different meanings. These are all good basic strategies that will build background vocabulary for more complex fourth grade texts.
Collaborative Strategic Reading
Collaborative strategic reading is a questioning strategy that can be used at various grade levels and has been proven particularly effective for older students according to the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition. The first phase in this strategy involves four steps aimed at enhancing a student's understanding of the text. Previewing the text to activate the student's prior knowledge, either by brainstorming or by making predictions is the first. Then, while reading, students use the "click and clunk" strategy to monitor their understanding of the text. Students should keep track of the "clunks" -- items in the text that they don't understand -- for later discussion. "Get the gist" helps students understand the main idea by answering, "Who or what is it about? What is most important about the who or what?" The "wrap up" concludes phase one with students generating remaining questions and reviewing what they have learned. In phase two, students work together to perform phase one tasks, however one student acts as the CSR leader and monitors group discussion. The teacher uses this time to clarify concepts on an as-needed basis.
Question-answer relationships help students understand different types of questions. The benefits of this strategy include improved comprehension as students think more deeply about the text. It also challenges them to use higher-order thinking skills to clearly support their responses. In this strategy, students are taught four main types of questions: "right there," meaning the answer is literal and found in the text, "think and search" in which the answers are gathered from several different parts of the text, and "author and you" questions that call on the student to combine his own experience or knowledge with information from the text to formulate a response. The final question type is "on my own." These questions draw only on the student's knowledge to answer and are often opinions.
Before, During and After
The before, during and after strategy begins with pre-reading activities, such as brainstorming, to test prior knowledge before beginning to read. During reading, students are asked to jot notes or keep track of questions they have. This is often done with sticky notes on the text itself. After reading, students are asked to reflect on what they learned. This can be done in either writing or the spoken word as long as it engages the reader and gives an accurate picture of the student's comprehension.
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