Tag Archives: reading

Reading Comprehension Strategies for Children

In this post, we will take a look at some strategies to support the development of reading skills in small children. Reading is such a fundamental skill that it is important that students are provided with opportunities to develop this important talent.

Let them See You Reading

In order to establish  a culture of reading in the home/school children need to see people reading. When something is common it naturally becomes an expectation in terms of behavior. Children need to know that reading is a part of being a member of a household/classroom and that everyone is expected to do this.

What is meant by reading is reading from a book. We can do lots of reading online but reading online establishes a culture of being online rather than reading a book. It is common to believe that how one reads makes no difference. However, this may not be true when applied o children.

Read with them

Nothing will inspire perseverance in learning something for a child than having an adult with them when they are struggling. It seems as if anything can be learned with support. Therefore, it is critical that parents/teachers read with children. The feedback and correction that they receive while reading one-on-one builds reading skills. Furthermore, Reading together provides accountability for young readers.

It is tempting to have a child go read only. However, given the naturally social nature of many children, coupled with their desire for attention, sending them off alone will simply make reading boring for many children.

Ask Questions

In order to develop comprehension, it is important to ask children questions about what they are reading. It is common for kids to read a text but not really know what it is about or what is going on. This can be especially true for abstract texts such as textbooks that usually lack a narrative that is found in a story.

Younger students who are learning to read, struggle so much with the mechanics of reading that they will neglect comprehension. These are just a few reasons why it is important to ask children questions when they are reading. Asking questions forces the child to be aware of what they are reading rather just on reading it. This is one example of developing thinking strategies

Answer Questions

As children get older, they often begin to have questions about what they are reading. Therefore, it is important to encourage children to ask questions and to be sure to provide answers to them.

It’s not necessary to answer the questions directly. For example, you can point the child back to the text to look for the answer or ask another question that might help them find the answer to their own question. One goal of teaching is to make students autonomous learners and this means that providing the answer to every question may not be beneficial.

Conclusion

Reading provides foundational skills for learning throughout life. Children need to be provided with opportunities to experience reading and interact with others in this learning experience.

Whole Language vs Phonics

Among educators who specialized in reading instruction there has been a long controversy over how to teach students to read. Generally, the two main schools of thought are phonics on one side and the whole language approach on the other side. In this post, we will look at both of these approaches as well as a compromise position.

Phonics

Phonics is an approach that has the students decode the words that they see by sounding out individual letters and letter combinations. By blending the individual sounds of a word together the students is able to read the word. This requires that the student know what sounds different letters make. Without this phonemic awareness there is no hope for reading.

The benefits of this is that it is clear if a student can do this or not. This makes it easy to provide the needed support in order to help the students. This means that it is easy to assess the students development. Another benefit of this approach is that it focuses on the smallest aspects of speech sound. This helps a child to keep track of one thing  at a time.
Problems with a phonic-based approach is that the importance of the context is lost because students only focus on sounding out the words rather than developing reading comprehension. This can lead to  students who can read and sound out well but have no idea what they read nor the meaning of the text. The idea of seeing the passage as a whole is lost.

Whole Language

Whole language is a literature based approach that emphasizes the relevancy for the student and culture. Activities used include oral reading, silent reading, journal writing, group activities, etc. Students do not focus on sounded out words but rather on knowing the whole word through a knowledge of the context. There is even allowance made for inventive spelling in which students make for  up their own words for spelling to avoid discouraging them through frequent correction of misspelled words.

An extreme example of whole language approach is when students are allowed to use substitute words in a text they are reading rather than the word the author wrote in the book. For example, if in the story the author mentions the word “pony” and the student does not understand this word. The student can substitute the word “horse with “pony” in the author’s story and this is considered okay by whole language approach standards.

Some benefits of this approach is that it is much more enjoyable in comparison to the phonics approach. Students begin reading immediately content that is relevant to their lives and interesting and their prior knowledge supposedly helps with understanding.

The drawbacks of whole language is that at times students struggle to generalize their reading skills to new contexts. In addition, the replacement of unknown to known words of the student with their own words can make it difficult for the teacher to understand where the students are struggling. If all students are doing this, it becomes difficult for them to communicate with each other about a commonly read text. This may be one reason why whole language has been reject over the pass 30 years with an emphasis on phonics.

Balance Approach

Currently, there is more of a push for a mixture of both methods. Phonics can be taught to enhance a bottom up approach while whole language is more of a use for bottom down approach to reading. By blending the two method it is possible to capture the strengths of both approaches without the corresponding weaknesses.

How this may look in the classroom may be relevant literature for the student with reading teaching that matches the needs of the students. If the student can reading without extensive phonemic awareness, training whole word might be more appropriate. When the student cannot read a word, phonics may be beneficial;.

Conclusion

It is better to match the system to the student than to match the student to the system. Whenever extreme positions are taken it helps some while hurting others. A teacher needs to have the flexibility to find the best tool for the context they are working in rather than based on what they were taught as students.