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Reading/Story Comprehension: Why This Skill Is So Elusive and How It Can Be Fostered Marion Blank, Ph.D. Columbia University Developmental Neuropsychiatry.

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Presentation on theme: "Reading/Story Comprehension: Why This Skill Is So Elusive and How It Can Be Fostered Marion Blank, Ph.D. Columbia University Developmental Neuropsychiatry."— Presentation transcript:

1 Reading/Story Comprehension: Why This Skill Is So Elusive and How It Can Be Fostered Marion Blank, Ph.D. Columbia University Developmental Neuropsychiatry Program May 23, 2008 Autism One: Chicago

2 Goals of Presentation  Provide the background to this vital, but neglected area of language and communication A paradox: Often co-exists with hyperlexia A paradox: Often co-exists with hyperlexia Comprehension problematic –even in those with high Comprehension problematic –even in those with high levels of verbal skill levels of verbal skill  Offer the model for a new program  Present the program

3 Background: The Invisible 800 Pound Gorilla in the Intervention Closet  Language –a skill so valued that it gets a “pass” Resulting in teaching that leads to: Resulting in teaching that leads to: errors of commission errors of commission errors of omission errors of omission teaching the “unteachable” teaching the “unteachable”

4 Needed: A Model of Language and A Model of Verbal Communication

5 Components in a Model for Language  Language is not simply words; it is an organized SYSTEM which allows words to be combined  The combinations follow certain rules or patterns  One key set of patterns fall in the domain of syntax (grammar)  The basic foundation for syntax rests with two classes of words: nouns & verbs

6 How Issues of Syntax Transform Meaning The boy is sitting. The boy was sitting. A boy is not sitting. The boys are sitting. The boys were sitting. Most boys are not sitting. The boy is going to sit. The boy does not want to sit. Some boys are going to sit. The boys do not like sitting.

7 Techniques to Enhance Language Production  Goal: to expand, build, elaborate the children’s language base so they can comprehend & produce the language of “reading” (stories)  Starting point: an already established base of expressive language (via speaking or writing)  Method: the key (neglected, disparaged, controversial) technique for this expansion is sentence imitation

8 A Model for Verbal Communication  Communication is one of the “functions” of language— it is how we use the language system to express & comprehend ideas  The possible taxonomy is endless  To make it manageable & coherent, the functions appropriate to each domain need to be specified  Story (reading) comprehension –is one central, but complex domain

9 What Makes Stories So Difficult  Hidden communication: reader is not alone  Reader is a responder (not an initiator)  Language contains the complex formulations inherent to expressing the “non-present” (“there and then”) sets of connected sentences sets of connected sentences specialized syntactic forms specialized syntactic forms consolidating the varied sentences into consolidating the varied sentences into a “main idea” a “main idea”

10 The Complexity of Connected Text It was kitten’s first full moon. When she saw it, she thought, There’s a bowl of milk in the sky. And she wanted it. Kitten's First Full Moon Kitten's First Full Moon  Kevin Henkes Kevin Henkes

11 The Perceptual Complexity of “Simple” Content One or more characters that are simultaneously in two places One or more characters that are simultaneously in two places (Separate placements in space are deemed equivalent to separate placements in time) (Separate placements in space are deemed equivalent to separate placements in time)

12 Another complexity: Use of the past tense to describe a “current” scene

13 Another Example It was kitten’s first full moon. When she saw it, she thought, There’s a bowl of milk in the sky. And she wanted it. Kitten's First Full Moon Kitten's First Full Moon  Kevin Henkes Kevin Henkes

14 Making Comprehension Comprehensible Incorporating the essential features of stories while keeping the material simple Incorporating the essential features of stories while keeping the material simple  Retain sequences, but keep them as short as possible as short as possible  Retain sets of sentences but keep them within child’s level of production keep them within child’s level of production  Make the sentences as redundant as possible possible

15 Who Is The Program For? Children Children  4 years & older who regularly produce, via speaking or writing, sentences of 4 or more words.  who show the willingness & ability to cooperate with an adult on a regular basis for periods of 10 to 15 minutes  who may or may not be able to read

16 Design of the Program Step 1 Skills Assessment     if Module I if Module II if Module I if Module II Step 2 Level A (Module I) Level A (Module II)     Level B (Module I) Level B (Module II) Level B (Module I) Level B (Module II)

17 Assessing a Child’s Language Skill This is a lady. This is her house. She is at the door. She wants to go in. She has a key. She will use the key. She will open the door.

18 Assessing a Child’s Language Skill This man has a lot of tools. All the tools are hanging on the wall. Now he is reaching for one of the tools. He wants a scissors because he needs to cut something. Right now, he is reaching for the scissors. When he gets the scissors, he will use them. He will use the scissors to cut some plants.

19 The Sequence of the Story Teaching Process  The first step: Present the verbal material (in the present tense)—require child to imitate each sentence Present the verbal material (in the present tense)—require child to imitate each sentence

20 A Sample Level A Story Module I-Page I Here is an animal He is hungry. He wants to find food. He sees a hole in a tree. There is fruit in the hole. He wants to get the fruit.

21 A Sample Level A Story Module I-Page 2 He puts his tongue out. Fruit is on his tongue. He can eat the fruit. The animal is happy. He has food to eat.

22 A Sample Level A Story Module II-Page 1 This animal is very hungry. He is hoping to find some food. He has been searching for a long time But he has not found any food. Then he sees a hole in the bottom of a tree. In the hole, he sees some pieces of fruit. He likes to eat fruit and he wants to get to it.

23 A Sample Group A Story Module II-Page 2 The animal pushed his tongue into the hole. By doing that he got food on his tongue. Now he is going to bring his tongue back. Then he will eat the food he picked up. The animal is happy because he found what he wants.

24 The Sequence of the Story Teaching Process  Present the verbal material (in the present tense)—require child to imitate each sentence  The second step: Present a short summary of the story (in the past tense) –then repeat leaving out key words that the child has to fill in (cloze procedure) Present a short summary of the story (in the past tense) –then repeat leaving out key words that the child has to fill in (cloze procedure)

25 Starting the Summary Process Module I Module I i. An animal saw food in a hole and he ate the food. ii. An animal saw food in a _______________ _______________ and he ate the ____________. Module II i. An animal found some food in a hole and he ate the food. ii. An animal found some food in a ________________ and he ate the ____________________.

26 The Sequence of the Story Teaching Process  Present the verbal material (in the present tense)—require child to imitate each sentence  Present a short summary of the story (in the past tense) –then repeat leaving out key words that the child has to fill in (cloze procedure)  The third step: Request the complete summary from the child Request the complete summary from the child

27 Requesting the Complete Summary Criteria Criteria (i) past tense (i) past tense (ii) cover the key points (ii) cover the key points Animal saw (found, got to) food (that was) in a hole (place, tree) Animal (he, it) ate (chewed) food

28 The Value of Stories It is the retelling of events for the purposes of communication—it is at the heart of much conversation It is the retelling of events for the purposes of communication—it is at the heart of much conversation It represents the ability to convey, in a meaningful, coherent account, events that have transpired (“meaningful action patterns carried out by a range of “beings” over time) It represents the ability to convey, in a meaningful, coherent account, events that have transpired (“meaningful action patterns carried out by a range of “beings” over time) It represents the ability to comprehend accounts told by others (in person, or via books) It represents the ability to comprehend accounts told by others (in person, or via books)

29 For Further Information Email info@stepstostories.com


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