Reading Comprehension Strategies, Text Structures & Genres
I like to teach comprehension strategies by using Think Alouds. Think Alouds are when the teacher reads a text and draws attention to things that are going on in my mind. And things that I like to focus on are before reading strategies, so I have them posted in the classroom, I have two posters that are focusing on before reading strategies, I have during reading strategies, and I have after reading strategies. And I'll introduce a text like this, which is one that we looked at, at the beginning of the year, from our biography unit, and it's a story about Iqbal Masih, who is a child labourer from Pakistan. I'll ask the children, what's the purpose of reading the text? The purpose of reading the text is that it's part of our biography unit, what can you think about when we know that this is a biography? Well, it's going to probably be in chronological order and something really important probably happened to this person or this person did something really important and that's why there's a biography about them.
So the text form helps us; the purpose helps us. Text features are really important, and I am really surprised sometimes that kids don't pay attention to them, so I try to really, as much as I can, to draw their attention to it. So that title itself, The Story of Iqbal Masih you know it's going to be his story, it's going to be his life story. And there are aspects of the text and important features that are really going to help you understanding what's going on in the story, so pay attention to them. It's also a good strategy to pull up previous knowledge, so is there another story that we've covered? Is there something that you know about child labour around the world that is really going to help you understand this story. A couple of the strategies that I focus on for during reading are to summarize what you've learned so far.
I also like to talk to the kids about things that aren't answered in the text yet, that they might be wondering about, and in order to ensure that they're understanding, get them to retell, or I retell, or summarize what's gone on, and if I don't understand what's gone on or something's a little bit confusing, they have to go back and reread it, because that's a really good strategy for understanding. If they come across a word that they don't know, they can't just go past it, they have to try some strategies. So one of the strategies that I encourage them to use is to see if the word has a root, if it has a root and they know what the root means, think about a prefix or a suffix and how does that affect the meaning of the root. Think about the context, maybe that can help you, if not, go to the dictionary. Figure it out. Another during reading strategy is to evaluate and ask questions about the story.
And finally, when you get to the end of the story, it's really important to get the child to reflect upon what they have learned from the story. So, to summarize it in their own words and then I know they've understood the story. And I can articulate, when I do a Read Aloud, I can articulate all of these for them, so they see it modelled. And that's very helpful for the students.
McKenzie, J. (2009). Nelson Literacy BC 6: Student Book 6B. Toronto: Nelson. http://www.canadapost.ca/shopper/items/8711607/Nelson-Literacy-BC-6-Student-0176334963
The goal of Think Alouds: Modeling Ways to Think About Text (Virtual Tour) is to model effective strategies before, during and after reading in order to help students improve essential skills in comprehension.
- After explaining and modeling the before, during and after reading strategies provide students with sticky notes to use while they read a text. Have students indicate how they are applying comprehension strategies.