When kids are first learning to read, we teach them their letters, the sounds associated with those letters, which we call phonemic awareness and in many cases we teach words as whole units or sight words. Soon sentence structure is taught and increasingly more complex sentences are introduced. During this process, kids are grasping these lessons at many different levels and mastering these skills at varying paces. The teaching continues on. Before long, reading becomes a means to an end.
Students are expected to read and extract meaning. They have transitioned from learning to read to reading to learn. For many this transition is effortless and happens organically. However, some students require a bit more intentional training and still others need the process of comprehension completely revealed to them.
I believe many of our struggling students need this process to be explicitly taught and that is why so many do not have either the ability to comprehend or any interest in reading. Therefore, they quite quickly lose pace with their peers and fall critically behind.
However, there is even more I believe effects our student's previous successes and current struggles.
To further ensure success, we must know our students and how they learn best. Simply speaking, we must know whether they are auditory, visual, tactile, or kinesthetic learners. This can be assessed with any number of free online assessments. The information can be as eye opening for the student as the teacher. It is a great beginning of the year activity. Once this information has been discovered, the teacher can tailor his or her teaching to meet the needs of all students.
Another important bit of information is knowing their learning history. We must know how they see themselves as a reader. As a learner.
Each of our students comes to us with a school history. The experiences they have had begun to create their view of themselves as learners. This can either contribute to an increased self-confidence or a confirmation of incompetence.
Knowing this information will allow us to provide our students with either challenging reading comprehensions texts and activities or activities and texts geared towards building confidence.
Often teachers get so bogged down with the pressures on them to get struggling kids up to speed that we forget the child.
I believe by assessing their school history, opinion of themselves as learners and their learning styles, we can then proceed with a systematic informed and student-centered approach.
Once these assessments have been completed, students are ready to be shown how to take the words on the page and extract meaning. That is where teaching the six reading comprehension strategies come into play. Different techniques can be used to reach each student and present the strategies in a way that each student can experience success.
Presenting the six strategies must be done with care, preparation and a lot of modeling. This will also help all students slowly begin to understand the intensive internal dialogue that takes place when all good readers read.