Lack of language instruction has been linked to poor reading comprehension, resulting in students having great difficulty with school work and organizational skills. Today, I want to share with you current literacy practices and their problems related to language comprehension and what you can do about it.
Last summer, I went through training about the Science of Reading and learned many things that challenged my belief system.
However, the more I think about the learning, the more I realize how much sense it makes related to reading comprehension.
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What is Reading Comprehension?
The simple definition of reading comprehension and the one that needs to be remembered related to reading instruction is the idea of reading to understand and interpret what is read. We read for a variety of purposes whether it be entertainment, information, or creating something; reading is a skill that encompasses so much of our daily lives.
So why do our kids struggle so much related to reading? I'm sure there are many factors that hold our students back but I believe one of the biggest reasons is the lack of language development.
What is Language Comprehension?
Language Comprehension is an overarching term used to describe a student’s ability to derive meaning from written and oral language.
Simple View of Reading
As indicated by the graphic, a student must be capable of both word attack (decoding and sight word knowledge) and understanding language in order to gain meaning from written text.
If students are having trouble with either of the factors (decoding or language comprehension), a student’s ability to gain meaning will not occur.
The Problems with Current Literacy Practices:
1. Problem – Kids come to us lacking background knowledge and vocabulary.
Kids from lower-income families come to Kindergarten hearing approximately 1 million words while kids from upper income 30 million.
Solution – Provide students the opportunities to build that knowledge. The best way I know how is through content-related instruction. Some best practices include:
- STEM Challenges – Grab my free activity below and start STEM Challenges using my Fun Friday approach.
- Project-Based Learning Units
- Inquiry Units
- Language Experience Approaches
2. Problem – Allowing students to only read leveled texts. While leveled instruction is beneficial, expose students to other types of reading throughout the day.
Solution – Students need exposure to more complex texts; especially if they have background knowledge of the topic. If students have a passion to learn about a particular topic, find books related. Also, spending time allowing students to participate in interactive read-aloud is a great way to promote discussion, strengthen vocabulary, and build background knowledge.
3. Problem – Understanding how we can close the achievement gap. It can be difficult to know the best practices when there is so much information buzzing around. However, allowing students opportunities to learn through inquiry is a great way to build language comprehension.
Solution – Spend more time getting to know your student's strengths and allow them to show what they know based on these strengths.
What You Can Do Now to Improve Reading Comprehension
Don't let the mandated curriculum keep you from doing what is best for kids. There are things you can do in these situations.
- Stop compartmentalizing instruction -Even if you are the language arts teacher doesn't mean you can't teach science concepts. For best results, work closely with your colleagues to implement project-based learning units in which everyone is teaching on the same page. Reinforcing the connection between reading, writing, speaking, and listening in all subject areas helps tremendously.
- Be sure to plan lessons that incorporate different learning styles. By providing visual and auditory elements, you reinforce and deepen concept understandings.
- Have students reflect on their learning and the learning of others. Implement share time during the day or reflection rubrics. These activities cause students to confront multiple perspectives and learn how to take constructive criticism.
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