Micro-comprehension: A Foundation of Words

Reading with Shurley English.jpg

In an earlier blog post, I pointed out that early reading might best focus on micro-comprehension strategies before exploring the macro-comprehension kinds of questions that are found in most reading programs. But why? To start with, a reader won’t have clear macro-comprehension without clear micro-comprehension. A deep and wide vocabulary makes the micro-comprehension much more accurate!

Make Words Concrete: I like to think of words as “containers.” Some have a lot of sound-symbols (letters)—quite roomy! Others don’t, but kids can see words as concrete rather than abstract with this kind of metaphor. These sound containers (words) have limited meaning outside of context. To build deep and wide vocabularies, keep context front and center. Help kids expand their word banks, using these strategies:

1.  Label everything in the learning space. If you are a home educator or classroom teacher, label the items in the students’ learning space. In lowercase letters (except for proper nouns), write the name of the item on index cards or self-stick name tags.

2.  Use synonyms. On the same index cards or other signage, also write under the most common word for the item any synonyms associated with the original word. For instance, a box of crayons may have the original word crayons on its label, and beneath it, you might also write the word colors.

3. Focus on Early Reading books. Many early reading books contain illustrations with similar labels, like I described in item number 2 above. Keep these kinds of books handy for young learners and call attention to the items and their labels.

4. Include poetry. Be sure to read a new poem every day! Start with short rhyming poems. Branch into longer poetry with repetitive sections and cadences that children like to repeat aloud.

To launch into the next several blogs about early reading, establishing a baseline around micro-comprehension makes sense. You can take the lead and help students build a strong vocabulary. Students have to be able to hear words, interpret their meanings, choose the correct meaning, and apply that within the context of the story they are hearing or reading—no small task—but doable!

On your next visit, stay tuned for gap-filling inference, an important step in building micro-comprehension skills…until then!