EXAMPLE OF A PRACTICAL READING COMPREHENSION CLASS: TEXT: WHO HELPS AT HOME?

Objective: Teaching the visualization strategy. It helps to visualize the text’s message. It helps to better understand what’s being read, and to remember what’s being studied. It’s really useful when used with students who have some kind of reading or writing disorder.

 

Methodology:

  1. Explanation of the strategy and what it’s good for
  2. Exemplification of the strategy by the adult. Practical demonstration on how to put it in practice.
  3. Guided practice with the students, directed by the adult.
  4. Independent practice by the students.

 

 Duration: one hour.

 

Session’s development:

  • “Today, we’ll explain a strategy that helps you understand and remember the messages and texts. Have you ever heard that a picture is worth a thousand words? What does it mean? Effectively, we remember images better than we remember words. So, if we want to understand and remember something, it’ll be easier if we use images, drawings and colors. What methods do comics use? Have you ever seen the comics in the newspapers or magazines, where they criticize something with only one image?” Then, I show them a Forges’ caricature, and then a letter sent to the newspaper criticizing the same thing. “Which one of the two do you see first? Which one do you remember?”
  • Previewing: “We’ll practice the technique with a text called ‘Who Helps at Home?’ This title makes me think that it’s about a family where some of the children help and some do nothing. Can anyone come up with anything else? We’ll write a hypothesis about the subject of the book, and then we’ll test it.” “This story reflects one of the biggest stress-causing problems… anxiety, depression and even separations. We’ll see what it is about.”
  • Reading the story. The teachers serve as models by reading the text. Then, the students form groups of two and take turns reading parts of the text. They can evaluate their partners on their precision, rhythm and expressivity.

Skills to learn

  1. Inferring: Ask questions about what was read, especially the words in bold. “When the author talks about the firefly, is he talking only about the animal, or could he be talking about human beings? Are there human beings who lose their light? How can they lose it? What did the firefly do to gain it back? What can humans do? Do we have to just lie on a couch and wait? What does it mean? Can we cut memory with a scalpel? Well, with a scalpel and anesthesia. What is the author trying to say? Are all humans glowworms? Do we have light and darkness? Why?”
  2. Connections:”¿Do you know anyone who has lost his light because he’s sad? What did he or she do to feel better? Have you ever lost your light? What does the author say we need to do when this happens?”
  3. Conclusion: “This is the perfect time for each and every one to write, in two lines at the most, what’s the message the author is trying to transmit with the story. We have the paragraphs’ messages; we can read them and think about everything we’ve discussed about them. What is the author trying to say? Once you have it written down, hand it in so I can correct it.”
  4. Finish the class by making a brief reference to the strategy learned and its importance.

Teaching the strategy

The following is a list of great teaching strategies:

  1. The teacher serves as a model and summarizes in few words the first and second paragraph in the text. “We’ll find the most important parts in the first paragraph. Here, we’re CSI agents, and we’re investigating because we want to find the most important clues the book’s author has given us. How do cops solve crimes? They ask questions, think and find important clues and other useless clues. The same thing happens when reading. Some of the things the author says are important, and others are not useful to us. We have to discover who’s the main character in the paragraph, what happens to him, what he does to solve the problem, etc. Well, the main character in the story is a firefly that can’t produce light and asks for help. In this case, it asks an electrician for help. And that’s it, this paragraph says that the firefly can’t produce light anymore and asks for help to solve its problem. Then we see the second paragraph, who’s the main character? What happens to him? What does he do? What’s the reply? Here, the firefly asks help from a vet, and he says the problem is that the firefly is tired, and it needs to see a doctor. We’ve finally found out what happened. The firefly lost its light because it’s sad and tired, and it asks for help. This is the main message of everything we read.”
  2. Guided practice. With the help of the entire classroom, we extract the main ideas from all the paragraphs but the last. To help them, we write in the blackboard: Who? What? Why? What for? The children answer the questions, which leads them to the main idea. You can also use the visualization technique, imagining a scene of what was read in the paragraph, and drawing it on the blackboard, completing the drawings.
  3. Independent practice. They have to briefly summarize the last paragraph by themselves. You ask them to imagine the scene, and give them an incomplete drawing of it. They must complete it and write the main idea. The drawing helps them understand it and discovering the important parts in the paragraph.
  4. You say the cop has almost solved the mystery and discovered the end of the message. It’s just a matter of joining all the clues in the paragraphs, and to do that, we need to think a little bit more.

STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE COMPREHENSION

They are nine:

  • Consists of :
    1. Prediction. It motivates students to read, and it teaches them to make predictions based on the title of the text or the illustrations on it. I.e. The text is titled “Wings Are Used for Flying”. You write hypotheses about what you think the book is about, like eagles flying, how birds learn to fly, etc.
    2. Previous information: The teacher gives a preview on what the text is about without talking about the whole plot. For example, “We’re going to read about injustice or abuse…”

 

  1. QUESTIONING. Asking questions.

To understand what they read, the readers need to ask themselves questions about what they’re reading. For example, “What happened to the man?”, “Why was he sad?”…

  1. CONNECTIONS. Connect the reader’s previous knowledge with what’s in the text, context, etc. For example, “Has anyone read a similar book?”, “Do you know anyone who has been through similar experiences?”

 

4 VISUALIZING. It’s good to visualize the message in the text. Drawing the main message works well with children under 4th grade.

 

  1. VOCABULARY. You have to decide what vocabulary you want to teach to the students, and then design a learning strategy. The students can have a small notepad where they write down the words they learn. This notepad has to be checked often, and the teacher can even ask about the words every once in a while. During each reading, the vocabulary that the teacher wants the students to learn is written in bold letters, outlined, etc. Everyone collaborates to explain what it means, and then they add it to their new vocabulary notepad. Keep making many references about the acquired vocabulary.

 

6- MONITORING. Teach the students to ask themselves whether they understand what they read or not. They started reading with a hypothesis about the text, worked on the first strategy. They have to see if the hypothesis was correct or not, if it needs to be modified, etc. This strategy is really useful to improve focusing on a task.

 

7- SUMMARIZING. Summarize the main ideas. The students learn to extract main ideas from every paragraph.

 

8- INFERRING. They are taught how to identify inferences. Inferences are things said explicitly in the text.

 

9-EVALUATING. Critical evaluation of the process.

IMPROVING READING COMPREHENSION

Reading comprehension is not improved only by reading. The students have to be taught a series of strategies to facilitate the process. These strategies improve reading comprehension, even for the students who have trouble with it.

Reading comprehension consists of three elements: literal, interpretative and critical elements. These three aspects must be worked on. Traditionally, students only work with literal questions where they have to memorize what they read. This is not a good way to improve reading comprehension.

 

STEPS TO WORK ON COMPREHENSION

 

  • Select the text to use. It has to be a text that teaches something, it has to have a message. When we understand what we read, we’re reconstructing the message the author wanted to give us. Besides, a most words in the text have to be common words, and there only has to be a small percentage of unknown words.
  • Prepare literal, interpretative and evaluative questions adapted to the class.

Literal. They make reference to aspects signaled in the text. The questions must be relevant for the value or message we want to give.

Inferential questions. Things are not said clearly, the students have to read between the lines. They are much more helpful to improve reading comprehension than the previous questions.

Evaluative questions. They’re critical questions where the reader has to express their beliefs on what’s being said on the text. It depends on each student’s evaluation system.

3- Select the strategy you want students to learn. A good way to teach the strategy is the following:

 

METHODOLOGY

The teacher serves as a model for the students.

  • First, he explains the strategy he’ll teach.
  • He solves some of the strategy’s exercises, serving as a model.
  • He solves other exercises with the students (guided practice).
  • The students practice the strategy individually (independent practice).

The exercises can be solved in groups of two as well.