In this series of blogs about micro-comprehension, I have presented strategies that boost micro-comprehension: vocabulary words, gap-filling inference, sentence structure processing, figurative language processing, and applying text structure.
When you teach students how to slow down their own thinking— to become aware of what they are thinking about while reading, you are teaching them comprehension monitoring. However, some readers, especially very young ones, fail to truly read for comprehension. Here’s a solution: teach readers to monitor their comprehension in smaller chunks. If you can help readers chunk their understanding step-by-step, you up their odds for success.
Chunks of Meaning
We can help our young readers by teaching them some thinking steps to use when they read. These steps make it possible for readers to put a voice to what they think about when they read. The first step in chunking meaning starts with getting students to slow their reading down a bit when they read harder texts. Then, teach them to ask the following questions after each paragraph or two. Don’t do it too often. You can tell when a plot thickens in a story, so that is the ideal place to sprinkle in these comprehension chunks:
What are the times and settings of the story I know about so far?
Who are the main characters so far?
Have any new characters been introduced?
What important events have occurred so far and who was involved?
Make sure you model this process periodically throughout the story or book. You will know students understand the gist of a story by the way they react to and respond to these kinds of questions.
When students read aloud, do not allow them to simply skip a word and move on. Sometimes, readers will substitute a wrong word. If the substitution doesn’t work, and the reader just keeps plowing through, that’s a problem. Don’t let them ignore it. Instead, teach them to go back and re-read. Good readers need to re-read to verify comprehension—it’s just that a lot of kids will never do so if they aren’t taught directly. Teach the following steps when students encounter new words or phrases or whole lines of challenging text. When a student stumbles, hesitates, or substitutes with a nonsense word, do this:
Say: “Go ahead and try it.”
If the student cannot correct the error, say the word for the student.
Note: Decide what caused the problem. Ask yourself if the student made the error because of a phonics problem, a visual miscue, or if the student substituted with a nonsense word. If the student immediately self-corrects the mistake, just move on. If the student substitutes the problem word with a synonym that works in the sentence, have them correct it after they finish reading the whole passage.
Have the student start at the beginning of the sentence which contains the problem word or phrase.
As you continue your efforts to help kids learn to read and comprehend, give some thought to all of the micro-comprehension strategies in this series. If you make it a habit, you will multiply your effectiveness and improve your students’ reading comprehension at the same time. Thanks for reading!
(This post is part of a series on Micro-Comprehension. To start at the beginning, click here.)