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teaching reading comprehension to below level readers
Author Message
Posted: Thu, 31 October 2002 12:52:55
Subject:

teaching reading comprehension to below level readers

I teach fourth graders, some LD and others not, who are deemed "working toward grade level." I am always searching for any strategies for teaching reading comprehension to children with below level reading skills. Any suggestions?

Anonymous
Posted: Thu, 31 October 2002 17:48:03
Subject:

Re: teaching reading comprehension to below level readers

Read these two books. Mosaic of thought by Ellin Keene and the book Strategies That Work by Stephanie Harvey. Both of these book will teach you how to teach comprehension. You will be amazed at what your students will be able to do.

Anonymous
Posted: Thu, 31 October 2002 22:39:31
Subject:

Re: teaching reading comprehension to below level readers

I've spent the past ten years researching comprehension strategies -4th grade is critical. I will only give one very simple suggestion - the key to increased comprehension is in expressive vocabulary. You get that by working with words with the kids - talking about the world, etc. I want to post more, but a (hopefully temporary) medical condition prohibits it tonight. Ken

Anonymous
Posted: Fri, 01 November 2002 00:23:20
Subject:

Re: teaching reading comprehension to below level readers


I read an article this Fall, it was about how high schoolers
suffered from very poor reading comprehension.
The one trick teachers used, that really stood out was what one teacher
called, "Stump the Chump".

The kids were challenged to bring in complicated pieces
of writing and give them to the teacher.
The teacher sat down and read the piece outloud, then
she went back and took it apart. She did verbally what
we all do in our heads.
She reread some passages, compared and contrasted,
asked herself questions, found the answers, summarized,
concluded.
All in front of the kids.
Supposedly this really helped the kids understand that
just reading off word after word was not going to impart
the information they needed. They had to actively think
about it.

I thought that made sense!

Anonymous
Posted: Fri, 01 November 2002 08:12:51
Subject:

Re: teaching reading comprehension to below level readers

This is what I was taught many years ago about comprehension.

Comprehension is a feature of background and experience, rather than rote learning. Therefore, what we as teachers need to do, is to think ahead to what it is that our student is going to need to understand - next year, or the year after - (or in Grade 9, for example) - and set about now, preparing him with the background and context for that understanding.

There are several things that play right into this theory. One of them is the Latin and Greek roots - which may seem irrelevant at the time they're being taught - but become a lifelong in-depth comprehension tool.

What do others think?

Anonymous
Posted: Fri, 01 November 2002 08:29:42
Subject:

I learned Latin in elementary school...

many many moons ago - 8th grade I believe. And there is no doubt that it helped me with vocabulary, taking the SAT's, and probably reading comprehension in ways I was unaware of. To this day if I see an unfamiliar word if it has a Latin root it can help provide a clue as to the meaning of the word. BTW, it also helped when I was learning foreign language as well.

Anonymous
Posted: Fri, 01 November 2002 09:39:25
Subject:

Re: teaching reading comprehension to below level readers

Okay, modeling is an important part of teaching -- but it's only one part. The teacher, hopefully, followed that up with guiding the students to be able to do it too.

Anonymous
Posted: Fri, 01 November 2002 10:00:03
Subject:

Re: teaching reading comprehension to below level readers

Well, first you want to make comprehension what they're working on, not decoding. Ken is right -- you cannot lose by working on vocabulary, using words a lot in oral language, cuing students to listen to words and think about their precise meaning. Most kids really do like learning about words & feeling/getting smarter.
One thing I do is keep an ongoing list posted of words we're learning and give points or encouragement for using them. I also teach things like basic suffixes and prefixes -- that way I can adjust words to suit the student (one student's learning fearless, the other one feckless :-))
I've got a lot of comprehension stuff on my site at http://www.resourceroom.net including comprehension and vocabulary exercises that you could use as is or as models for specific literature or topics you'd want to tartge.t

Anonymous
Posted: Fri, 01 November 2002 10:59:08
Subject:

Re: teaching reading comprehension to below level readers


Who knows?

I would expect so but can't comment on
what the article didn't say.

I just thought it was a neat idea.

Anonymous
Posted: Fri, 01 November 2002 17:57:24
Subject:

Re: teaching reading comprehension to below level readers

The first thing that you have to do is teach them how to decode and then see if they can comprehend after they become fluent readers. Generally if a child can decode, they can comprehend. I would also teach them how to find the important points in a chapter. But the first thing you have to do is teach them decoding skills.

Anonymous
Posted: Fri, 01 November 2002 20:37:41
Subject:

Affixes & Roots

I think affixes and roots help vocabulary improve at exponetial rates; however, some kids do not suffer from comprehension problems due to vocabulary--and some do. Teaching roots/affixes doesn't hurt anyone, but may not fix everyone.

"To be or not to be." All simple words from the preprimer word list; however, the meaning would certainly elude most young children in Shakespeare's context.

Of all the reading subjects, comprehension is the most multi-faceted. To teach decoding is pretty cut & dried: phonemic awareness & phonics or sight words. Essential, but cut & dried notwithstanding. (I love that word...it is so Dickens-ish.)

BTW, I have both the books mentioned above" Mosaic and Steph Harvey's Strategies. They are superb books--well worth the investment.

Anonymous
Posted: Fri, 01 November 2002 20:45:34
Subject:

I respectfully disagree...

Though the percentage is much smaller, there are students who can decode very well but who cannot comprehend. More common are students who struggle with both decoding and comprehension issues.

I believe in strong decoding instruction, as you know. However, I am always looking to help children make meaning of text at higher and higher levels. I find vocabulary to be a real issue for many kids: their hearing vocabularies just aren't very sparkly.

Anonymous
Posted: Fri, 01 November 2002 21:33:44
Subject:

Re: I respectfully disagree...

I agree, Susan, that vocabulary is important but if they can't read the words, then what use is it in print? Teach them to decode and then teach them vocabulary. I have my own program of vocabulary of suffixes, prefixes and word roots that I am going to start to teach my reading class next week, I already taught them how to decode the first nine weeks.

Anonymous
Posted: Fri, 01 November 2002 23:16:00
Subject:

Re: teaching reading comprehension to below level readers

Dear Michelle Brosius,

I think all teachers understand your frustration. One way to strengthen your students reading comprehension may be to put a lot of emphasis on systematic instruction in sentence comprehension. One teaching method may be to have students arrange cut up sentences in correct order finding action words firsthand then asking who,what,where, and why. An aid for LD students for this activity maybe to have a note card taped to their desk to remind them what specifically they need to be searching for. An example of note card may be:

THINGS TO LOOK FOR
IN YOUR STORY

 WHO WAS INVOLVED?
 WHAT HAPPENED?
 WHEN DID IT HAPPEN?
 WHERE DID IT HAPPEN?

They may learn to use this note card not just for this activity but for all literature.

Another activity may be to have students pretend to write telegrams about a story they have heard or read. Explain to the students that each word in a telegram cost money. Thus they need to tell what happened in the story using the fewest words possible.
Instruct the students that some of the things they may need to include in their telegram, such as:

• Who was the story about?
• Where did the story take place?
• What did the person/people in the story do?

An example of this activity may be to have them write a telegram that Little Red Riding Hood might have sent to her mother after the woodcutter saved her and her grandmother. (Teaching Reading in today’s Elementary Schools page 185)

I hope some of my suggestions will help you in the classroom.

Anonymous
Posted: Fri, 01 November 2002 23:16:00
Subject:

Re: teaching reading comprehension to below level readers

Dear Michelle Brosius,

I think all teachers understand your frustration. One way to strengthen your students reading comprehension may be to put a lot of emphasis on systematic instruction in sentence comprehension. One teaching method may be to have students arrange cut up sentences in correct order finding action words firsthand then asking who,what,where, and why. An aid for LD students for this activity maybe to have a note card taped to their desk to remind them what specifically they need to be searching for. An example of note card may be:

THINGS TO LOOK FOR
IN YOUR STORY

 WHO WAS INVOLVED?
 WHAT HAPPENED?
 WHEN DID IT HAPPEN?
 WHERE DID IT HAPPEN?

They may learn to use this note card not just for this activity but for all literature.

Another activity may be to have students pretend to write telegrams about a story they have heard or read. Explain to the students that each word in a telegram cost money. Thus they need to tell what happened in the story using the fewest words possible.
Instruct the students that some of the things they may need to include in their telegram, such as:

• Who was the story about?
• Where did the story take place?
• What did the person/people in the story do?

An example of this activity may be to have them write a telegram that Little Red Riding Hood might have sent to her mother after the woodcutter saved her and her grandmother. (Teaching Reading in today’s Elementary Schools page 185)

I hope some of my suggestions will help you in the classroom.

Anonymous
Posted: Sat, 02 November 2002 08:00:07
Subject:

Have you not seen students who...

can say practically any word you put in front of them? They don't need decoding instruction...the problem for those students is pure comprehension. More than just vocabulary--though that is a critical part.

How do you assign students to your classes, or do you? (In some schools they are just asssigned at certain times and you deal with what you get.) How do you assess students instructional needs?

Anonymous
Posted: Sat, 02 November 2002 10:01:33
Subject:

Re: Have you not seen students who...

Most of those students that are assigned to me have "read tests to them" as an accommodation. I will tell you the reason that I say that first you have to teach them decoding which I do using PG for the first month of the year. The reason is that most kids who can decode still can't decode MS words fluently enough for comprehension. Also, they have a lot of reading bad habits and one is what you say, just word read. After I finish PG, I put them into books and we just word read so that I can error correct. After that, we practice actually reading for comprehension, this includes stopping at periods, pausing at commas, and enunciation words, in other words, reading with feeling. After we do that for a while, I teach them how to read to comprehend a core subject such as history. I copy a section of their history book that they are studying and use V/V techniques for helping them visualize print as well as to understand what is important. First, I have them highlight the important information in the section using V/V words, then I have them outline using again V/V strategies, then I have them draw a picture of what they have just outlined using stupid looking figures and colored pencils. For example, if we are studying the Revolutionary War, all of the people of the British are in red, the Redcoats' and all of the colonists are in blue. Also, I use all of the organizers in the study strategy program put out by the Kansas Learning strategies to help them learn vocabulary, mostly content vocabulary. I do a lot of things to help comprehension, but first the kids have to be able to read the content vocabulary fluently.

Anonymous
Posted: Sat, 02 November 2002 10:45:22
Subject:

Re: teaching reading comprehension to below level readers

My experience has been that kids who can't decode because nobody taught them how don't have too many difficulties with comprehension because they do fine with oral language and its comprehension, and just need to catch up in figuring out what words to comprehend; however, more sophisticated vocabulary and inference and logic and analytical skills still need to be taught because our oral language culture is pretty simple (otherwise brainless ads wouldn't be quite so effective).
Then there is a whole other significant group of folks who also need structured, systematic, explicit instruction in figuring out connections and relationships in what they read -- what is important? What does this detail mean in connection to something else in this book? This seems to be a separate skill from decodeing -- and yes, they need to be able to decode to be able to do it while they read, but no, learning to decode doesn't teach it. And I'm sure you've also experienced the older kids who haven't been reading and have not been developing the vocab and comp skills -- so instruction can help them catch up.
While I focus hard on decoding at first, I do move in with comprehension pretty quickly too.

Anonymous
Posted: Sat, 02 November 2002 18:01:19
Subject:

Re: Have you not seen students who...

Susan -- for forty years I have heard of "word-callers" who can pronounce accurately but cannot comprehend, and in forty years in many locations in two different countries and several languages I have never met one. I would think that they are mythical beasts except that a few reputable scholars say they do exist. But they are awfully rare. If you meet several, your school must have an astoundingly good but perhaps sometimes mechanical phonics program.

What I have met, and what Shay also seems to have a lot of experience with, are experienced and practiced guessers. They can repeat words that they have been taught, but are totally flummoxed by unfamiliar vocabulary (eg flummoxed). They read in a monotone and do not pause at appropriate places.They replace unfamiliar words and literary language constructions with dull and elementary words and sentence structures. For example, one student simply would not read the pluperfect "had had"; since she had never been taught either the grammatical concept or accurate reading, she just decided that she knew better than the author and editor and cut out the extra word.

These students seem on a superficial level to be very fluent readers. They babble along at a great rate. If you catch them out on one of the above errors, they blame it on the fact that you are making them read orally, whereas "everyone knows" that "good" readers read fast silently, so it is your silly ideas that are slowing them down and mixing them up. If you give them unfamiliar material with unfamiliar vocabulary and they start to stumble, they become angry and even aggressive, and again blame you for giving them work that is simply too hard and nobody on their grade level could be expected to do it.

Their comprehension is good up to a point. As long as the vocabulary is restricted to the 2000 words memorized, as long as the story is factual, as long as the sentences are simple and direct, then these students get high scores. This gets them to Grade 3 or 4 level.

Things crash in upper elementary school. Suddenly everyone is worried about fluency and comprehension. After all, the kid can read a 2000 word vocabulary, can pass the school's phonics test, and can get a score of 4.0 on a reading test -- surely it's a deep problem of comprehension! In fact, however, if you sit down and actually listen to the child read, you will hear the same errors over and over again. The child makes constant substitution and omission errors, omits endings, rushes over little words and battles with multisyllables, and hits a brick wall on comprehension at exactly the point where detail and exactitude become important. If the question is "Who won the race?", he can easily answer "Tortoise." Unless, of course, he substitutes "Turtle." But if the question asks for an explanation supported by specific details from the story, such as "How do you know that the hare is not a dependable character?", he falls flat.

As Shay pointed out above, these kids are almost always very weak at decoding multisyllable words. This doesn't show up on many phonics tests which are at a minimal consonant and vowel level. They have poor reading habits, and guesswork makes them extremely inaccurate. This doesn't show up at the beginning where the main ideas are tested, but strikes in upper elementary when comprehension goes beyond simple statements. They are inefficient readers, filling in with guesswork and hesitating over every long word. This also isn't a problem in primary grades, but causes real trouble when vocabulary is no longer limited in upper elementary and questions may not be predictable.

Teaching reading skills, phonics and advanced phonics and fluent oral reading is only the *first* step -- after that you definitely have to do all that work on comprehension -- but as Shay and I keep pointing out, if you aren't even reading those words in the first place, you simply will get nothing out of trying to comprehend them.

Anonymous
Posted: Sat, 02 November 2002 19:49:54
Subject:

I've met 'em :)

No, they're not as common as the guessers... but they're out there. Worked with one yesterday -- listened to him read smoothly, effortlessly -- but really, without attending to the meanings of the words. When I modeled dramatic reading suddenly he was comprehending (it was "A gathering of old men" -- full of drama, for crying out loud!) ... now, to get him to make that transition...

Anonymous
Posted: Sat, 02 November 2002 21:39:47
Subject:

Re: I've met 'em :)

Where one really notices word callers when they read word lists in isolation. I've tested several (and I don't think my phonics program is dull or whatever else was mentioned) who can pronounce words several grade levels above their listening comprehension level.

I wonder how many teachers give full reading inventories, including the listening comprehension piece. Phonics nut that I am, I still want to be sure comprehension has proper attention--in conjunction with decoding rather than following it.

Anonymous
Posted: Sat, 02 November 2002 21:54:25
Subject:

I might contend...

that something may be amiss with your assessment program if you've never seen one word caller in forty years.

I am also troubled by a tendency toward over generalization. No oneseems to be discounting the high incidence of word guessers. However, one cannot assume that they also do not have comprehension issues without testing their listening comprehension adequately. There are a number of students with both decoding and comprehension issues. And some without comprehension issues.

This discussion happened to begin with a sharing of comprehension ideas. Reading conversations don't always center on decoding, especially when they include regular classroom teachers and Title I teachers (for at-risk populations).

Anonymous
Posted: Sun, 03 November 2002 13:18:46
Subject:

Well, I can do that...

... most good decoders can figure out long words they don't necessarily understand -- that's one way good readers embellish their vocabularies. The context provides the clues (or we go look 'em up -- it's why I love Charlotte McLeod mysteries, there are at least 4 new words in every book).
I had one ferociously good visual learner who could remember words so she really hadn't picked up on sounding out multisyllable words, so when she did meet a new word she was completely clueless. I made up about 50 multisyllable nonsense words and we did a few a day and by the end of it she had a good handle on it. (Obviously I didn't sweat accents -- but there are only so many ways you can pronounce plentinurgy or oscendify).
And, of course, you get hte words you've only seen and not heard -- until you hear them and say "aha!" and h9ope you haven't mispronounced them too often in public (what a catastrophe, right?).

Anonymous
Posted: Sun, 03 November 2002 15:54:37
Subject:

What I'm seeing

Working in the at-risk high school program, I don't have any gifted-LD or even superior LD. I probably don't have more than 1-2 average IQ LD. I have more borderline and below average kids. Several of them--not all but several--can pronounce words above their comprehension level (both listening and reading). Their experiences with print are low, their environments are super-unenriched, their vocabularies match their enrichment, they've moved a lot. But they can decode. They are not LD--just low.

Then I see a bunch of kids with processing issues and IQ's that do not provide discrepancy. I serve them anyway because they cannot decode or comprehend. They were probably potentially average kids with such socio-econ and poor environments that they never made it to average.

Sounds like a fun group, eh? I need a jack-hammer to crack the walls they've built around themselves. One quarter has passed and some are just now beginning to trust me enough to learn something.

Last year I had two low IQ (65-70) kids with Auditory Processing problems and other processing issues. I have come to believe that the processing problems of LD can present at any measured cognitive level. So, what is LD then???? (That seems to be the million dollar question.)

Anonymous
Posted: Sun, 03 November 2002 20:23:26
Subject:

Re: What I'm seeing

It has more recently been accepted into thinking that yes, processing difficulties can occur in somebody regardless of how the rest of the brain is wired; it's not exclusively for high IQ folks or the folks from highly enriched backgrounds who started the whole investigation into LDs. It took kids with otherwise stellar profiles -- bright parents, enriched homes and the whole nine yards and of course the money to pay the specialists -- but anybody can be LD. And sometimes it doesn't matter what the source of the problem is.
At the college I see lots of folks who just haven't learned to think in words, much less consciously develop vocabularies. These folks have done their share of "read the paragraph and answer the multiple choice question," but haven't thought about what they read -- often they've looked for words that looked the same that they couldn't even read. They are LOST when they are supposed to read a columnist's essay on heroes or the role of TV , and respond intelligently to it. WHen a writer discusses the history of eugenics, invariably if you ask for the writer's opinion, you get that of the folks he talks about instead.
Just making them aware of which phrases they understand and which they need to find out about can make a difference. No, you're not going to understand that paragraph unless you understand what "messianic fervor" is. (THat's why you should bring the stuff down here to the tutoring center -- you can just ask and I'll tell you... and I'll demonstrate :-))

Anonymous
Posted: Mon, 04 November 2002 18:35:52
Subject:

Re: teaching reading comprehension to below level readers

I liked your ideas. Thanks

Anonymous
Posted: Mon, 04 November 2002 19:23:25
Subject:

Gosh, what IS messianic fervor? (NT)

NT

Anonymous
Posted: Mon, 04 November 2002 21:48:13
Subject:

Base word is messiah

I looked it up to be sure I was accurate. (Not an easy phrase.) Websters Collegiate defines "messianic" as "marked by a mystical idealism in behalf of a cherished cause." Ferver (or passion) is the icing on the cake--taking this already far-reaching idealism and raising it to a near sweat. Now, I've forgotten the context... :-)

Anonymous
Posted: Tue, 05 November 2002 00:05:33
Subject:

Re: Base word is messiah

It was in an article about eugenics, describing the way people embraced the theory. I got to go into my very best enthusiastic, frenzied maniac to say that "these folks knew they had finally, finally FOUND THE ANSWER TO ALL THEIR PROBLEMS, SENT FROM ABOVE!!" and (calmly) "that's what a "messianic fervor" would sound like"... sometimes reading *is* more exciting than algebra!

Anonymous
Posted: Tue, 05 November 2002 05:21:29
Subject:

Re: I've met 'em :)

I have given an informal reading inventory at the end of each year when I have a reading class. As I have stated above, I also have had a few word callers but all they needed was to slow down their reading and add some study skills. They really didn't know what to do with the information that they read. I do believe that their are more word callers out there but they are in regular education not special education. I asked my regulare kids in my inclusion academic English class if they always had to reread what they read and about everyone put their hand up. These I think are the word readers, the poor decoders are the ones that have special education services.

Anonymous
Posted: Tue, 05 November 2002 10:38:42
Subject:

I think you're right

It's harder to measure the reading problem there, so they coast along.

Anonymous
Posted: Tue, 05 November 2002 16:50:00
Subject:

: )

... sort of like the "fervor" with which some people embrace methods of teaching reading. BTW, to me, anything is more exciting than algebra!

Anonymous
Posted: Tue, 05 November 2002 20:31:03
Subject:

You'v got the gist of it!

I 'spose I'd fall into that reading category...except that I'm not a one-method gal...I have a ferver for several! :-)

Speaking of algebra, I got to teach some high schoolers today (reteach actually) how to factor using FOIL. It was *very* exciting when they got it and could do it.

Anonymous
Posted: Sat, 09 November 2002 22:00:18
Subject:

Re: : )

I'll make algebra exciting for you . . .

Anonymous
Posted: Sat, 09 November 2002 22:24:05
Subject:

Re: I might contend...

I don't have an assessment "program" -- I work one-to-one and have long conversations with my students in which I find out an awful lot that the formal assessments have missed. Shay mentions students who have to reread their assignments in order to understand, and those who just need to slow down and work on expression. I would *not* say these are "word-callers" -- they are just students who do not put any attention to what they are doing when they are supposed to be reading; they lack interest and motivation and are just running their eyes over the text because they have to. But when they want to get the questions answered, they put some attention on the job, and they do comprehend at least at the basic level of the assignment given.
I didn't want to muddy the waters the first time with the following, but just to be clear: I also work in French, sometimes with English-speaking students and sometimes with French-speaking. Since French phonics is actually more predictable than English and there are fewer phonemes, a student can grasp how to pronounce French words out loud fairly easily. Of course, if the student is a native English speaker and has a limited vocabulary in French, this means you can then have a true word-caller -- a student who can pronounce all the words on the page, and even read with expression, if they know punctuation; it's easy to spot French verbs and you can get really good expression without a clue. I've had a couple of these, and of course the solution is to expand the French vocabulary by reading and talking and showing. This of course goes for all second-language learners.
But in a student's native language, I've never seen this pattern of being able to pronounce fully and read fluently with expression but not understand a thing. It's pretty noticeable working one on one, and no, I haven't seen it in native language.
One other poster has pointed out that you can get a degree of this problem by reading far above the student's age/conceptual level. When my daughter was five, the landlady got a real kick out of having her read the newspaper. Of course she didn't understand the newspaper, but that wasn't a comprehension problem, it was unsuitability of material. She went back to reading kids' books because the subject matter suited her interests and developmental level. Now, if you have severely environmentally deprived kids, then you may have a problem with the kids' books available to you being out of their comprehension range. This isn't a reading problem, but a socio-economic issue.
Someone else pointed out that reading words you haven't met orally yet is one of the great joys of really being able to read, and how you increase your vocabulary. Absolutely!! One of the minor fallacies of "whole-language" -- think about this for a second -- if everyone only reads words they have met orally and know well, then every generation will have a smaller and smaller vocabulary until we're down to a few hundred words.

Anonymous
Posted: Sat, 09 November 2002 22:32:05
Subject:

PS

I happen to work with comprehension, constantly, and with fluency, day in and day out. When you do one-to-one oral reading, problems with comprehension and fluency show up glaringly, and you have to deal with them then and there. Everything we read, we discuss. My students start to develop fluency and get higher test scores because they are starting to get involved in their reading and make it a part of themselves. That's why I can spot immediately when my second-language learners have completely lost the thread of the story; and how I see immediately the glazed look that comes over the student who is running eyes over text but whose mind is elsewhere. I just hold strongly that first you have to be able to read the words before you can comprehend them, and that in any field of endeavour you need to get it right first, fast later.