Effective Practices for Developing Reading Comprehension - Guide on Teaching How to Read (Part 2)
In the previous post, guide on teaching how to read (Part 1), we shared with you the various components of phonics that are essential to developing word-recognition abilities in children. Now, reading is not just the ability to decode text. It comprises understanding as well. Along with the development of phonemic awareness and phonics instruction, there are three more areas that require sufficient attention for our children to read successfully. They are Fluency, Vocabulary and Comprehension.
Let us discuss each one in detail.
Preschool fluency activities
Our basic understanding is that fluency means the ability to read quickly with accuracy and it develops with a substantial practice in reading. But what makes it significant is the fact that it acts as a bridge between word recognition and comprehension. Children who can read fluently can focus their attention on making connections among the ideas in a text with their background knowledge. They can focus on meaning-making. Fluent readers read effortlessly and with expression.
- As per scientific research findings, repeated reading of texts coupled with monitoring, guidance and feedback by a fluent reader, shows great improvements in helping children to become fluent readers. So, all you need to do is let your little children re-read passages from their favorite stories and provide them with your encouragement and support.
- Secondly, you can model fluent reading and then ask your child to re-read the text. Repetition of this process yields great results in building fluency as well as confidence.
- Enacting short plays/practicing dialogues with children can be a fun way to re-read the same text and practice fluency.
We should also measure the growth and achievement of our children in this area by counting the number of words they can read correctly in a minute. Make sure that you choose texts which is at the child’s independent reading level. The child should be able to read it with about 95% accuracy or misread only about 1 out of every 20 words. A difficult text does not encourage fluency.
How to teach vocabulary
Vocabulary refers to all the stock of words a person knows, and it plays an important role in learning to read. When a child starts decoding words by sounding out letters, if the word exists in the child’s vocabulary, he/she can recognize words quickly. So, it becomes important that we constantly make efforts to enrich our children’s vocabulary base. There are a variety of interesting ways through which we can do that.
It has been found out that children learn most of the new words indirectly, through everyday experiences with oral and written language. Children learn new words from the spoken language in their surroundings while conversing with adults, friends, etc. They often hear adults repeat words several times and also use new and interesting words. All these oral language experiences help children learn new words and their meanings.
Children also learn word meanings when adults read to them. Pausing to define unfamiliar words, engaging in conversations after reading a book, relating new concepts with prior knowledge- all these help in expanding a child’s word base indirectly.
Children also learn many new words on their own when they read independently.
Now, these indirect ways of learning vocabulary are great but direct vocabulary teaching helps children a great deal.
Direct instruction includes providing children with specific word instruction. Teaching new words before reading helps in comprehending the text. Extended instruction and active engagement with new words in different situations and repeated exposure to vocabulary play a significant role. Direct instructions should be part of every kindergarten vocabulary lesson.
Children can also be taught word-learning strategies such as using dictionaries.
They can be guided to use information about word parts to figure out the meanings of words in a text. For example, if children learn just the four most common prefixes in English (un-, re-, in-, dis-), they will have important clues about the meaning of many words. Prefixes are easy to learn because they have clear meanings (for example, un- means “not” and re- means “again”), they always occur at the beginnings of words. Few suffixes can also be helpful such as, -less, which means “without” (hopeless, thoughtless) and -ful, which means “full of” (hopeful, thoughtful). Teaching children word parts is beneficial. We can do activities like listing as many words as we can using the base word and elicit meanings after noticing the prefixes and suffixes. (For example, playful, replay, player, played, playing, plays)
Another strategy is to teach how to use context clues to determine word meanings. Children can be taught to focus on surrounding words to understand the meaning of new words. These context clues can be in the form of explanations, definitions or words with similar/opposite meanings. For example, we can guess the meaning of the word gregarious in the following sentence by studying the context which contains its opposite. Selena is gregarious, unlike her brother who is quiet and shy.
Lastly and importantly, we need to guide children with comprehension.
Comprehension, understanding is the reason we read.
There’s no point in reading if we can decode the words, pronounce them correctly but have no understanding of the content. So, we must empower our children with text comprehension skills.
The following six strategies have a strong scientific basis for improving text comprehension. All these should be modelled by the adult as well as explained explicitly. Children should be guided with these until they can apply these on their own.
Monitoring comprehension: It includes being aware of what one understands, what one does not understand and what can be done to understand. Comprehension monitoring strategies can include re-reading, using a dictionary, discussing with someone, using contextual clues, etc.
Using graphic organizers: Also known as mind maps, spider webs- all these help in illustrating concepts and interrelationships between different concepts and ideas in a text. An example can be asking children to brainstorm words on the summer season and then categorizing all the words under Activities, Clothes, Food, Weather, etc. This process helps children construct a thorough knowledge of the topic.
Answering questions: Asking children factual, implicit, and reflective questions based on the text makes them active readers who read carefully and go back to the text to gain maximum understanding.
Forming questions: Teaching children to ask questions improves their active processing of text and their comprehension. Children can be taught to ask main idea questions relating to important information in a text.
Recognizing story structure: Identifying the categories of content such as setting, characters, plot, problem, resolution, etc. help children in understanding, appreciating, and memorizing a story. This can be done with the help of story maps or story ladders.
- Summarizing: Summarizing requires children to determine what is important in a text and to condense this information and put it in their own words. Instruction in summarizing helps children to identify main ideas, connect the main ideas, eliminate unnecessary information, and remember what they read.
Here we come to the end of our resource on teaching how to read. We hope you employ the strategies discussed under all the key areas of reading instruction, namely phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.
We would love to know your thoughts and experiences with reading instruction. Wish you all the best with this amazing endeavor of teaching how to read!
P.S. Check out these resources as well:
- Read part 1 on how to teach your child to read. Click here: teach your child how to read (Part 1)
- Read what science says about teaching your child to read: science behind teaching children how to read
- A paid step-by-step course on teaching your child to read through phonics and phonemic awareness. Click here to learn more: teach your child to read (If you decide to buy the program, Learning Nest will earn a referral fee to keep the blog alive, at no extra expense to you)