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10 Tips for Teaching Reading Comprehension

November 20, 2012 , , , ,

Written by: Neale Pitches

Here are my 10 tips for teaching reading comprehension:

1. See each of your students as capable young people, merely lacking in experience – this mindset will help you (and them) with the remaining nine tips!

2. Give feedback. Think of how you teach a skill, such as kicking a ball. Having modeled how to kick a ball you then ask the students to try, and you give them feedback on their efforts. Do the same in teaching comprehension! Research says feedback is hugely important in learning.

3. Build your students’ reading confidence by offering them many short, interesting texts from diverse places. Students will have wide interests regardless of how much they normally read. For this reason, you will find they can make many connections to the texts you show them, even – or especially – poetry.

4. Include texts from across the content areas. Students will have to read material in all content areas as they progress through school. Research says that as the content load grows, some students fall behind.

5. Model, by thinking aloud, how you read actively to understand and enjoy texts. Model also how you use comprehension strategies to build your own understanding of texts.

6. As you model, make it clear that comprehension is not an “all-or-nothing” process. Students often think comprehension is about answering questions with a “right” or “wrong” answer. Show them how even a teacher like you doesn’t always understand everything in a text, especially at a first read-through. Comprehension is as much about asking questions as answering them.

7. As you model, involve the students, perhaps through think-pair-share. This will stave off the boredom and disengagement that can come with “stand-and-deliver” teaching. Also have students place an acetate sheet onto a text and annotate it with a felt pen where they are having challenges or using strategies. This makes their thinking explicit to you.

8. As you model, discuss vocabulary with the students. Have them try to figure synonyms or short definitions for challenging vocabulary (encourage them to be “deTEXTives”). Building vocabulary is crucial to comprehension.

9. Display texts on a digital interface – whiteboard or data projector. Your students are digital natives and they will welcome your efforts to use “their” technologies in their learning.

10. Be a reader yourself and notice your own use of comprehension strategies as you read. Read different books as they challenge you to use different strategies (I find the author Haruki Murakami great for putting my strategies to the test!). Research also shows that the deeper our knowledge as teachers the better we may teach.

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