2 Why teach comprehension? Teaching words alone is not enough!The ability to read words is necessary for comprehension, but not sufficientComprehension uses complicated cognitive processes that take time and practice
3 Text Model Building a structure for comprehension External building materialsTextPicturesInternal building materialsBackground knowledgeWord knowledgeComprehension strategiesComprehension is an interactive process of building understanding
4 Comprehension breakdowns Breakdowns in comprehension happen when:background knowledge is inconsistent with author’s expectationvocabulary knowledge is inconsistent with author’s expectationchild has limited knowledge of English languagechild has few strategies to make processes work togetherGood News: Each breakdown area can be taught!How stories workHow to make inferencesStrategies to build on text model
5 How to teach comprehension Name strategiesTeach kids when and where to use themInappropriate use of strategies are a waste of cognitive energyGoal: Help kids develop a text modelStart early!Kindergarteners can learn to use text information to understand what they read
6 PICTURE acronym A tool to remember comprehension strategies Predict – guess what will happen nextImagine – visualize, create a mental imageClarify – make sure your text model makes senseTry – ask yourself ‘how’ and ‘why’ questionsUse – use what you know, background knowledgeReview – summarize during and after readingEvaluate – Did this text meet my purposes? How is it connected to other texts?
7 Comprehension-focused classroom Lots of languagetalking as well as readingconversations about booksTeachers model thinkingask questions as they readencourage questions from studentsHigh quality literaturecomplex books and charactersYou can’t teach comprehension quietly!
8 Connecting across grade levels PICTURE acronym can be applied to all different age groupsCORE program materials offers strategies for use across grades
9 4th Grade challengeWhy do comprehension scores decrease after 4th grade?Text is more complex and demandingKids are reading in areas with little background knowledgeReading to build background knowledgeMay have word recognition problems or fluency problems
10 What can elementary teachers do? Make sure kids can decode easily and wellGive kids practice so they can read fluentlySupport development of:VocabularyConcept knowledgeComprehension strategiesProvide chances to interact with teachers, text, and peers
11 Assessment Ask questions! Ask child to tell you what they understood from the textChildren with dyslexiaAssessment covers a spectrum of language skills, from decoding to comprehensionDyslexics generally have higher vocabulary and comprehension ability than decoding ability
12 Video: Understanding Themes Community School 200, Harlem, NYTheme SchemeFocuses on underlying theme of storyHelps kids understand messages, lessonsRelates themes to other stories and real life**video information
13 Helping kids make connections Build coherent representationConnect parts of textAsk kids how pieces of information fit togetherRead, then talk about itAsk “How does that connect with what we read before?”
14 Vocabulary and comprehension Teaching vocabulary for literacyTeach little kids big wordsAllow kids to practice reading words they already know and words they don’t know (literary words)Kids learn literary words from books, not from everyday conversation – even in highly educated householdsMake words the focus of instructional time everydayExplaining a definition is not enoughDiscuss good and better examples of uses of a sophisticated word (example: “reluctant”)
15 Which words do you teach first? No hierarchy for word knowledgeKids can learn complex words early onOne rule:Must be able to explain word using concrete, simple terms
16 Ramifications of low vocabulary Knowledge of word meaning and comprehension is almost the same thingIf you have a good vocabulary, you will likely be good at comprehensionSolutions:Teach big words to little kidsKeep kids engaged with good literature and inspired teaching
17 Children with learning disabilities Take instruction to a sensory levelHelp child experience the word through imageryCreate a picture of the word’s meaning
18 Video: Students Take Charge Frank Love Elementary School, Seattle, WAReciprocal TeachingPrepares kids to run discussions, taking turns as leadersAsk questions, generate a good discussionSummarize, find the main ideaPredict outcomes**video info
19 Importance of mental images Good readers “make movies” in their heads when they readDual coding theory: reading involves interpreting verbal and nonverbal codesInterplay between verbal and nonverbal codes gives text meaningIndividual differences alter ability to get meaning from textWeak decoders have difficulty with verbal codeWeak comprehenders have difficulty with nonverbal code
20 How can teachers improve mental imagery? Start with mental image of word, then a phrase, then a sentenceHelp kids connect images into a connected whole, not just separate imagesHarder for kids with weak vocabularyResearch base:National Reading Panel Report of 2000 cited mental imagery as helpful
21 Mental imagery for ELLs Research project in Pueblo, Colorado25,000 childrenLow socioeconomic statusHigh percent minorityLow-achieving on state testsAfter 8 years of lessons on imagery and verbal processes, Pueblo out-performed the state
22 Characteristics of successful schools For comprehension:Large capacity for collaboration; opportunity for teachers to work together to discuss and practice techniquesFor vocabulary:Willingness to go beyond traditional “look it up and write a sentence” approach to teaching vocabularyIntroduces hard words in interesting ways
23 Impact of federal funding Reading First money brings new resources to low SES schoolsCommercial reading programs that define and highlight comprehension strategiesClassroom libraries – better books!Institute for Educational Sciences supports research in comprehension
24 Using writing to improve comprehension Writing is an extension of readingExpression is a way to interact with textUtilizes vocabulary, decoding, and mental imageryStudents’ writing should create a mental image for readerDemands use of adjectives‘Structure words’ to make writing richer
25 Teaching comprehension to ELLs Define issuesEnglish labels for words they know in native language?Difficulty with everyday conversation in new language?Opportunity to teach older kids (4th grade +) sophisticated words – ELL and native English speakersSame teaching methods, some unique challenges
26 What can we learn from brain studies? Studies are starting to focus on reading comprehensionRecent fMRI studies show that parts of the brain relate to mental imageryHyperlexia: flip side of dyslexiaHave strong decoding skills and weak comprehensionOften on the autism spectrumAutismStudies show autistic children may be able to read individual words, but have difficulty accessing neural connectors to understand what they read
27 Comprehension assessment Does written evaluation show what kids understand?Difficult to test whether kids have built a text modelLikely to underestimate comprehension of novice writers and spellers when evaluated in written formWritten test is an important way, but not the only way
28 What can parents do? Volunteer Read to children and talk about what’s going on, ask questions
29 Final thoughts Nanci Bell: Comprehension is now getting attention it deservesHopeful that we will find new information about sensory components of comprehensionSharon Walpole:Both decoding and comprehension are critically important to readingBoth can be taughtIsabel Beck:Use big words!
30 visit www.readingrockets.org Thanks for watching!For more information,visit
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