Some children read frequently in their free time, suggesting they are natural readers. While it's true some students have a natural inclination for reading, they all require reading instruction. Teaching reading strategies starts with direct instruction and modeling. Building successful readers involves providing them with opportunities for both guided and independent practice. Parents can foster both types of practice at home
Strong readers employ strategies before beginning to read a text. Teachers encourage students to activate their prior knowledge by tapping into the attitudes, experiences and knowledge they already have. This practice gives students an entrance into the text. Another strategy is to ask them what type of story they expect to read based on title and pictures, if applicable, and also if they have read or experienced anything similar. Teachers model this with a think-aloud, mimicking their thought process out loud. Students also set a purpose for their reading, deciding what they want to learn from the text; this encourages engagement in the process.
Students learn to monitor their own understanding by stopping when they get to a difficult part; teachers instruct them to reread, go back in the text or even continue reading for clarification. Another strategy is for students to check their understanding of a text by stopping periodically and reflecting on their reading. In school students sometimes read aloud with a partner, taking turns summarizing the passage. Successful reading requires students to interact with the text. Reading specialist Kylene Beers developed an activity for actively engaging students in reading called “Say Something.” In this activity, students take turns reading aloud with a partner, pausing periodically to make a comment or ask a question about the text.
Students comprehend and remember a text when they can make connections to it. Teachers encourage students to relate to situations in a text by asking them if the situation sounds familiar or reminds them of something. Students often participate in class discussion about a text during which time they go over big ideas within a story or unit. Beers suggests using scales so students can show their level of agreement with a statement after reading; the statement relates to a generalization from the passage. Discussing the text allows students to teach and learn from each other; it also cements the new knowledge in their minds.
Reading comprehension strategies are taught explicitly in schools. Teachers name the strategy and model its use with the think-aloud method to demonstrate the thinking process. Parents who want to help their students practice the reading strategies at home have a lot of options. They can have their children read out loud to them, listening for fluency. If familiarized with the strategies, they should encourage children to use them every time. They can remind their children to set a purpose for reading, monitor their own understanding and conduct regular comprehension checks. The key is for children to use the strategies again and again so they learn to apply them independently.
- Journey North: Reading Strategies for the Journey North Teacher
- Thinkport: Strategies for Helping Readers
- Kylene Beers: When Kids Can’t Read – What Teachers Can Do
- ReadWriteThink: Teacher Read-Aloud That Models Reading for Deep Understanding
- Reading Rockets: Seven Strategies to Teach Students Text Comprehension
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