We teach the Questioning strategy. “Today we’ll learn about a very important strategy that helps us understand what we read, and helps us study. Do you remember the last movie you watched? Do you remember the movie better than you remember the subject you studied? Why do we remember movies more easily? Among other things, we remember more easily because when we watch a movie, we ask ourselves questions subconsciously. We are not aware of it, but we think, “What is the movie about?”, “Is it a scary, romance, adventure, or crime movie?”, “Who stars in the movie?”, “What happens to the main character?”, and “Who are the good guys and who the bad guys are?” When we read, it’s really important to ask ourselves questions to clarify what’s happening. This way, we understand it better and we also remember it easier. In this text, who’s the main character? The child. Are there any other characters? The father. What does the child do? What does the father do? What’s the message of the text? How was the child? Savage and unfriendly. Why was he like that?”. The adult gives the answers to these questions.
- Everyone asks questions about the reading. You compare the questions with the questions you would have if the text was a movie. We focus on questions about the words in bold, “magnate”, “gifted”, and “frustration”. TO help them ask the questions, you tape cards in front of every student, asking what, why, who, etc. Come up with group questions that include these words.
- OBJECTIVE: Learn the strategy
- 1- Previewing. We motivate reading and teach the students how to do predictions.
“The reading is called What a Child! What could it be about? I think it will tell us the story of a brave and caring child who helps others and does something really valuable. Does anyone feel the same way? Could it mean something else? Who can think of anything else? It could also be the entire opposite. Maybe it’s a naughty child, and everyone is sick of him.”
“The text we’re reading reflects one of the most important problems we can find nowadays in schools, workplaces, stores, etc.: Tyranny, people abusing others, boring, thinking that money can solve anything”
- We work on the verbal fluency. The teacher serves as a model, reading the whole text. Then, the students read paragraphs of the text, trying to imitate the way the adult read.
Using theatrical reading is really useful. In it, several characters with emotional charges intervene. The teacher reads in front of the students and points out the emotions present in the characters. She assigns different characters to the students, and they practice the reading several times.
A variant of this is radio reading (reading in a radio show, or pretending to be reading in one), or using the students as models of it. Record their readings, and then listen to them, evaluating and practicing again.
Good readers have a good reading comprehension and fluency.
There are three aspects to comprehension: literal, interpretative and evaluative. To improve reading comprehension, it’s necessary to work on the three components, and even to work mainly on the last two. In Spain, teachers work mainly with literal reading or memorization. Besides, to understand the texts, students need to be taught a series of strategies. Reading fluency involves three aspects too: precision (capability to automatically recognize words within a text and phonemes within words), rhythm (the speed of reading), and expressivity. To improve comprehension and fluency, you have to use a methodology where the adult first serves as a model, and then practices with the students, guiding them. Then, the adult should guide individual practices. Next are some examples on practical lessons on how to improve reading, covering both fluency and comprehension.
Objective: teaching the summarizing strategy (summarizing what’s important).
- Indicating the goal we have for the session. We point out the importance of being capable of summarizing in few words everything the author wants to say. We mention several advantages: studying better, understanding messages on the Internet, newspaper, movies…
- Previewing: “It’s been said that many stories teach us important aspects of life so that we can be happier, fairer, and help each other… Do you know any story that teaches a lesson?” Comment on the stories briefly. “The story we’ll read today has a nice message, and we’ll try to figure out what the message is, because this message is the main idea. Discovering it helps us understand everything we read, and allows us to summarize it in few words. We’ll notice the title, “Story of the Light Worm without Light”. What does it mean? Are there worms with light? Are there worms without light? What’s the name of the worms that glow? What’s the story about? We’ll create a hypothesis… I think this story talks about a firefly who, for some reason, has no light anymore.”
- The adult reads the story, serving as a model. He makes stops whenever there are new words, and explains them. Then, he divides the text in three and several students read it, trying to imitate the adult in his rhythm and expressions.
Research strongly reject that the “you read first, then you follow” methodology, dividing the text in parts, improves the fluency of students who have a difficulty improving it.
To achieve an improvement in fluency, you need the students to imitate a model after they hear it.
- a) The teacher reads the text. It can also be played as a recording, stopping to repeat phrases or to point out words (this works especially well for students who are bad readers or dyslexic). While the model reading is being done, the unknown vocabulary is explained, and the adult can clarify things in the reading.
- b) The students read and repeat the phrases the teacher read. The teacher and the students can take turns reading different paragraphs. This technique is used a lot with students who have problems reading.
- c) They can also read in pairs. You ask the students to evaluate the fluency of the model or the fluency of their classmates. This makes them aware of the reading processes and motivates them to improve.
- d) Another technique is to use chorus reading. The adult reads, and the whole class reads with him.
- E) Sometimes, the models can be students who have trained in the reading of a text at home.
The following factors are involved with the learning of reading and writing:
- It refers to the phonologic and semantic code the student has. In other words, it’s their verbal language, vocabulary and ability to divide phrases into words, words into syllables, syllables into letters, associate and construct rhymes, say words that start with a specific letter, etc. With children, it’s necessary to work all of these aspects, because they reduce and prevent reading and writing difficulties. Speaking, vocabulary and metalinguistic abilities programs should be introduced to improve their skills, and their teaching should be the absolute priority.
- Motor skills. They affect writing, so when it comes to children, it’s good to do activities that improve them (cutting paper, coloring, etc.)
- The methodology used in teaching. You must carefully follow the steps to teach letters. In children with risk of problems on linguistic codes, attitude, motor skills, reasoning, etc., using the wrong methodology can cause important reading and writing problems.
Any reading and writing problem can be solved in due time. From 4th grade, the reeducation is difficult, and in following grades, the reading and writing problem could become irreversible.
- Verbal reproduction of the sound we’re trying to teach. Teaching the sound (phonologic code). The adult is the model.
- Production of the sound from the students.
- The adult teaches the grapheme. First he’s a model and shows how to start, follow and ends. This has to be repeated many times, and reviewing often (Motor skills)
- Guided learning of the grapheme by the students. Don’t move to the next step until you’re sure they acquired the right sound production and the phoneme’s motor skill.
- From this point on, we introduce activities where the students copy the phoneme.
- When they do those activities well, we go to dictation. Here, we check to see if they acquired the model.
- We go to synthesis exercises. We form syllables mixing the phoneme and the graph learned with the vowels. We review the phoneme’s motor skills, and teach where it starts, where it goes and how to connect it to the vowel.
- We do all the metalinguistic activities: verbal synthesis exercises about the learned phoneme, we switch the vowels, mix them, see the changes they produce in reading, etc. All of these exercises are oral.
- We go to a different phoneme and repeat the process. When doing the metalinguistic activities, we introduce other learned phonemes at the end.
- We do many review activities while the students learn more phonemes. It’s important to do metalinguistic verbal exercises with the letters learned.
- We form words with the categories we worked on, joining the reading and writing processes.
- We divide the words into syllables and corresponding graphemes.
- Form words from given syllables and letters
- Differentiation between words that vary because of a letter or syllable and the association with their corresponding meanings.
- Write phrases with increased complexity, from given words.
- It’s important to do the following oral language exercises at the same time, because they help the student improve his phonological skills: segmenting phrases into words, recognition of the number of words that compose the phrase, omission of a word at the end of a phrase, inversion of words in a phrase… Do the same exercise with words and syllables.