What Are Strategies That Can Improve Reading Comprehension?
Reading comprehension is a somewhat tricky skill to evaluate, but what educators agree on is that it boils down to getting students to think sharply while they are reading.
Indeed, teachers are covering other verbal skills, such as vocabulary acquisition and writing. But reading comprehension prepares students for various challenges they will face in college and beyond.
Reading comprehension is a skill set that is not limited to English courses. In Social Studies, students use it to analyze facts and detect patterns in information about history. In the sciences, reading comprehension also allows students to understand the relevance of scientific theories to contemporary matters. In all disciplines, what is important is making sure that students are reading intelligently and critically.
When students master reading comprehension, they are more ready for the materials they will be exposed to in college.
A student with excellent reading skills, for example, can manage reading materials in a Religion or Political Science course better than a student who has already studied these subjects but does not have sufficient reading comprehension skills.
Including reading comprehension in all facets of education is vital to prepare students for the subjects at hand. They need it to understand history, comprehend complex logic, and master scientific concepts.
Reading Comprehension: A primer
Reading comprehension is a skill related to the capacity to understand and process reading material. A student with good reading comprehension will be able to have a good overall grasp of a passage’s context and significance.
Not just limited to the level of words and paragraphs, reading comprehension relates to the general message of a text and its rhetorical devices. Is it persuasive? What is the purpose of the text? Does it attempt to convince the reader of something?
Improving Reading Comprehension
In the age of smartphones, many parents report that their children don’t like to read. That means that they are not as liable to put in the effort to understand what a text means.
Subsequently, this leads to a drop in reading comprehension and a vicious cycle of not liking reading. If students don’t understand what they are reading, they are less likely to take up reading on their own.
What can educators do to promote reading comprehension and reading in general? One of the greatest mistakes is forcing materials that are uninteresting to students. That is one of the best ways to dissuade young people from reading at all.
Instructors may assign a chapter or two about an esoteric topic to students. Why would they dedicate their time to reading about something that is potentially uninteresting to them? Why do they take pains to write notes or highlight key passages when they don’t care about the material?
It’s important to think about the students’ points of view and the other distractions that they have competing for their attention.
Before they read, students could use some guidelines to get them motivated and engaged with the material. When confronted with a big block of text, they might feel daunted and not know what to do.
Work on some ideas about how to create a more active reading model for your students to get them interested in what they are reading – meaning that they are asking questions to guide the reading process and answering them along the way.
- Reading Comprehension Questions
One of the best ways to orient students’ reading is to create reading comprehension questions for students. So they know what to look out for and facilitate their overall understanding of the text.
Sometimes, the questions provide answers by suggesting the primary themes and major ideas of a passage/ Which helps students while reading.
Once the students have completed the text, they can create questions that the instructor can include in a quiz or question-and-answer session.
This way, the student feels like an active participant in the conversation about the text rather than a passive recipient who needs to respond to formulaic questions.
- Reading Out Loud & Engaging With the Text
Reading out loud may seem elementary, but it gets students involved and sometimes even allows them to showcase their dramatic talents.
When teachers read out loud, it can keep students interested. And when students read out loud, they become active participants in the performance of the text and more readily invite commentary.
As students read out loud, there are ample opportunities to stop and perform comprehension checks. In these instances, instructors can ask for feedback from students and demonstrate multiple ways to approach the text, from the level of the individual words to more contextual commentaries.
Ultimately, discussions about the text generated in this way can lead to larger-scale conversations about the main ideas in the text. That often proves vital to students’ abilities to make connections between the material and other texts from the course as well as other courses.
- Supporting Constructive Discussion
The class discussion provides the instructor with the opportunity to check reading comprehension. As well as facilitate a synthesis of ideas that can help to identify the relevance of the passage or passages under discussion.
At the same time, such conversations allow the instructor to highlight the importance of key ideas and reiterate primary themes.
- Close Reading Strategies
Guiding students through close-reading processes helps them to see the relevance of word choice and structure.
In the process, they can also evaluate any supporting materials like illustrations or charts. All of these features assist them in their overall comprehension of the themes for a chapter or section at hand.
When applied to a literary text, attention to a literary structure can help students appreciate how a text is organized and affects reader understanding. At the same time, a study of the structure serves to help students comprehend and retain the content of a text.
- Written Forms of Responding to Texts
Students should always have their pens ready to take notes and write down the associations that come to mind during reading or discussion.
They should also write down unfamiliar words and look them up to generate a vocabulary list. When students take notes, they are also better prepared for subsequent discussions in class.
Students may also annotate a text by writing in the margins or highlighting. That is especially helpful with handouts, but it is also possible with books; if they don’t want to write in a book, they can use sticky notes.
They can then organize sticky notes later to group their ideas when thinking about their responses to a passage.
- Working From Context
To understand a text overall, students need to grasp the general context well. If they don’t understand a word, for example, they may be able to deduce the meaning based on other words that come before and after.
For determining vocabulary, students may also use a word’s roots and affixes/suffixes to determine its meaning. Look at how the word is used in contrast with other words in the sentence or passage; deduce its meaning based on the rest of the sentence; look up a definition of a word; ascertain how the word functions grammatically; or search for an illustration of the word to arrive at a more precise definition.
- Organizing Information Visually
Students may find that organizing information visually, such as through concept maps, significantly enhance their understanding of reading material.
That allows students to visualize the content of the reading and understand it in terms of main areas and concepts.
When students are at the high school level, instructors should be able to determine which ways students can organize information visually to facilitate their reading comprehension best.
- Providing Summaries
It is good practice for students to generate summaries of what they have read as they go along. When they write these summaries, they include the material they have already covered and identify key points from the passages.
Instead of just regenerating content, students need to determine the key points to identify the major themes and messages of a passage.
As they create summaries, students differentiate main from minor content and can come up with the major points of a passage.
Students’ preferences will differ: some will opt for annotating texts, while others will choose to summarize.
In either case, students need to understand what their approaches to texts are. This way, it is possible for them to not only improve their reading comprehension. But mastery over how to do it and determine which methods work best for them.
These strategies will vary from individual to individual, and each student should be capable of ascertaining their best strategy for identifying and summarizing a text’s key points.