All teachers need strategies for reading comprehension problems. No matter what subject you teach, you will encounter students with problems understanding a text.
The key to solving literacy problems is to correctly diagnose where a student is struggling in order to provide targeted interventions, whether the problem be with word meanings, comprehension, or decoding. Today I will discuss each of these issues and possible ways to help.
1. Strategies for teaching unknown vocabulary
Many reading comprehension problems stem from a lack of vocabulary knowledge. Teachers don’t have time to teach every vocabulary word a student will need to know. That is why it’s important to teach kids to identify words by using context clues.
To increase vocabulary, teachers can teach words that are central to the main ideas and key themes of lessons and connect them to other words through semantic mapping. They can also use things like graphic organizers for key words and subtopics.
2. Strategies for teaching summarizing and main ideas
Many strategies for reading comprehension problems are beneficial in any content area. Before reading a challenging text, teachers can build background knowledge around a particular topic by showing pictures, videos, or other documents that activate the schema around a topic. Using prior knowledge builds a foundation that will increase reading comprehension.
You can also use these graphic organizers before, during and after reading any text.
Summarizing can be difficult because students tend to paraphrase content without picking out the most important ideas. This blog post describes ideas for improving summarizing skills.
Using think-alouds is one way to increase comprehension: teachers can talk students through the metacognitive processes they use when reading to model this kind of thinking for students who are unfamiliar with the cognitive work that good readers employ naturally. Some of these strategies include summarizing, pausing and rereading when something is confusing, asking questions, making predictions and so on.
3. Strategies for helping students decode words
Direct instruction in phonics may be necessary for students who are struggling to read because of decoding problems. Phonics is not often taught in schools past the early elementary years. However, some students may still require interventions as they move up in grades, and should not be ignored.
To address reading comprehension problems that are related to decoding, one strategy teachers can use is audio books. Text to speech software is also now becoming more widely available as students spend more time working on computers.
Finally, remember to keep a student’s reading level in mind. Students should be working within their zone of proximal development as much as possible. When students are not ready to move at the same rate as their peers, they will become frustrated and begin to lose motivation and self-confidence, possible becoming defensive or exhibiting avoidance tactics. Differentiating is key to helping all of your students make progress.
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