Elementary Reading Comprehension

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by Bookworm2021, Apr 25, 2021.

  1. Bookworm2021

    Bookworm2021 New Member

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    Apr 25, 2021

    Hi everyone,

    I will be tutoring reading to a small group of Grade 4&5 students remotely, for 30 minutes twice a week for 6 weeks.

    We will be working on reading comprehension through the use of reading passages. I would like to know which reading comprehension strategies you would consider to be the most important to teach explicitly (since the tutoring will be rather short term). Also, whether it is recommended to go back and forth from fiction to nonfiction.

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
     
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  3. miss-m

    miss-m Groupie

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    Apr 26, 2021

    Current research and evidence is that comprehension "skills" don't exist as teachable, practicable skills. Comprehension comes from background knowledge and solid foundational skills in phonics, fluency, etc.

    Instead of focusing on comprehension "strategies," which provide a small one-time boost but can't be practiced to improve in isolation, I would look more at the specific content knowledge of the passages. What do students need to know about to understand the passage? What topics are in the nonfiction texts? There's a reason fiction is usually easier for students to understand - they're more likely to contain situations or contexts with which students are familiar. Fiction usually involves problems or interpersonal relationships that students have experienced before, so kids understand those better. Fiction is great for practicing decoding and fluency because there's less cognitive load on comprehension. Nonfiction is great for teaching background knowledge, but it won't happen in a one-and-done text.

    Look up close reading, too. Reading a text multiple times with a different focus each time can be a way to build knowledge AND develop comprehension.
     
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  4. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Apr 27, 2021

    I agree with almost everything from your post. I even agree with this statement.

    My concern has always been gauging reading comprehension using passages or stories with predictable information whether that be fiction or non-fictions. If background knowledge is sufficient enough, it can mask reading comprehension problems because the questions associated with the passage are predictable and often do not need significant understanding of the passage whether that be fiction or non-fiction.

    If you really want to see if someone can comprehend the written word, give them a passage about a topic they know thoroughly and have that topic contain completely contradictory information from what they know. Reading comprehension is the understanding of what is written based on the words used and their agreed upon meanings.

    Now, if a passage says that Marco was sad when he lost his toy, that isn't a stretch for the child to ask the child how Marco felt when he lost his toy. A predictable guess is sufficient. However, if the passage said Marco was excited he lost the toy, you would know whether or not the student understood the passage.
     
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  5. miss-m

    miss-m Groupie

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    Apr 27, 2021

    This is a great idea. I also like that this enables some beyond-the-text, inferential or reflective questioning -- What do you think about Marco's reaction to losing his toy (if he's excited)? Does that surprise you? Why? What did you expect to happen?
    It would be a really interesting way to pull in some metacognitive skills and get students thinking more deeply about what they're reading.

    Alternatively, maybe Marco is sad about losing his toy, but the text doesn't say so explicitly. The student then has to provide evidence for why they think he was sad; maybe he looked everywhere for it, he told his friends about losing his toy, his body language changed and the author described it, etc. Still predictable, but now they're explaining why it was predictable and what in the text brought them to that conclusion.
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2021
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  6. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Apr 27, 2021

    Absolutely. Requiring evidence is important, especially when it is not explicitly stated.
     
  7. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    Jun 8, 2021

    One thing that good readers do is to expect the passage to make sense. Poor readers might read, "The cowboy mounted his house and rode away." Obviously the reader substituted HOUSE for HORSE.

    Teach your students to expect the passage to make sense.
     
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  8. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Jun 8, 2021

    Yes and no. I've also seen students "make sense" by changing words they don't know to something different and making the meaning different.

    "Make sense" is subjective. If a student has a limited vocabulary and a poor grasp of the structure of language they can do a whole lot of "making sense" within a sentence. Our district relies so heavily on "making sense" that most kids do not read well. They aren't taught phonics, sentence structure, or grammar. They are taught to "make sense" and guess a lot. So sad.
     
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  9. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    Jun 8, 2021

    I agree that emergent readers need the basics, but the question was about comprehension. Slowing down a reader has devastating consequences on comprehension. My daughter entered first grade reading. Her teacher told her to sound out every word, this slowed her down and her reading comprehension took a huge plunge.
     
  10. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Jun 9, 2021

    It is not more devastating than making up words as you go along that change the meaning. A slow but accurate reader may have to re-read. Someone who makes things up because they lack the skill to actually decode the word or are taught to guess rather than pay attention to the word that is actually on the page, has great impact on comprehension.

    Do you agree that substituting an different word that means something else than the word that is on the page but make sense to you hurts comprehension?

    I'd rather someone who reads slowly but reads correctly than someone who tries to speed up by overusing strategies like "making sense".

    I have to wonder, if your daughter was such as excellent reader and was able to accurately read all of the words on the page, how did the teacher know she wasn't sounding out the words smoothly, quickly, and accurately? Could it be that she lacked the basic skills and was heavily relying on sight and memory? For many kids, the lack of the basics ends up hurting them later when the reading level surpasses their memory bank or the words become unfamiliar. An example, a child who seemed to read really well until they get to the sciences in MS and HS and they don't recognize words they know when they are written on the page because they lack the skills to sound words out. But a lot of this is now hidden because kids are no longer required to read the text books but are provided all information via powerpoint slides where teachers will show and say the words.
     
  11. miss-m

    miss-m Groupie

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    Jun 9, 2021

    Emergent readers who read slowly to ensure accuracy end up with better fluency and comprehension down the road. It's a short term dip for longterm gains.
    In first grade, decoding and reading accurately are FAR more critical skills than immediate comprehension. Comprehension can be improved through read aloud and listening; decoding and fluency can really only come from the reader reading.
    As counterintuitive as it seems, students who read slowly at first end up being much better readers.
     
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  12. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    Jun 9, 2021

    I actually think we agree on everything: kids need a foundation in order to read and "Comprehension can be improved through read aloud and listening; decoding and fluency can really only come from the reader reading."

    Kids need fluency in order to comprehend what they read. This can only be gained by lots of reading. In my own class, we spend 4-5 minutes reading to every one minute in instruction. We practice reading with expression (this can only be done well if the student comprehends the passages.) and other comprehension strategies.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2021

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