Saturday, May 23, 2009

Things to Improve: Reading Comprehension

At the moment, I'm taking a bit of time to reflect on where I want to improve and what I'm doing well. You can find the master list of reflections here.

Teaching Reading Comprehension

The majority of my class are very good readers. That is, they can read - aloud - just about any piece of text you put before them. But, I always wonder, how much are they really understanding? And how much more could they be getting from the text?

This is where I'm very much like the students I teach. I was reading novels at age 5, adult books at age 9. I could handle almost every piece of text put before me, although - admittedly - I made a few clangers in pronunciation. But a lot of the time I just let the words fall over me, without really engaging in it. I'm sure there are many occasions I still do that. (Especially when reading some of the notices we get)

So, first, I suppose I really need to consider what we should be getting out of texts. It is important, of course, that students are able to read and use what they are reading. They should be able to identify the audience and the purpose of different texts. But what comes next? Should we take the critical literacy approach of asking what the author is really trying to say, even if the author does not realise they are really trying to say it? Or should we take a more methodical approach on how the author has used certain literary techniques to achieve particular effects? Or maybe a mixture of both? And how does this fit into the classroom as I currently have it.

Most importantly to me, in my reader friendly classroom is how do I teach this without removing the love of books and reading my students currently have? How do you protect pure enjoyment of a well written piece of writing without going into why it is so well written?

Where do I get my resources from? We have precious few resources aimed at the higher level, and even fewer ideas which don't rely on worksheets (my distaste of worksheets continues to flourish).

Is there a way to take a more investigatory approach to teaching reading? I know this approach has been a huge success in our maths lessons - how does it translate to reading?

Many many questions. I'm sure there will be much more to reflect on as I continue to walk this path.

How do you teach reading?

Image from Public Domain Images



  1. I'm thinking of doing literature circles with choice novels. First, we'll practice reading strategies with short stories from the literature book. Then we'll go into literature circles and use the strategies to discuss the books we're reading. The tricky part, for me, will be getting groups of 3-4 talking about different books without it all being recap.

    After (if?) we master that, I'd like to do some close reading. This will have to be with whole-class materials, short stories at first, then MAYBE a novel. But we'll definitely keep going with self-selected reading.

  2. I like to have students do projects outside of plain old book reports to show they understood what they have read. I had students make a comic book, movie poster, scrapbook page, and even pick a character to dress up as and tell about the book from the character's point of view. The students really enjoyed these projects and was proud to present them to the class.

  3. Clix- the recap thing is definately a possible problem. I like the idea of literature circles, though. I've been playing with the idea of reader's workshop (works in with our writer's workshop) and the circles will work well into that.

    Loonyhiker - This would work well in place of homework. I think if I had a couple working on it, then I'd be able to get more of them into it.