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How to Teach Reading Comprehension

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  • 0:01 Overview of Reading…
  • 0:59 Before Reading
  • 1:58 During Reading
  • 3:24 After Reading
  • 4:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kamshia Childs

Dr. Childs has had a career in Education for thirteen years. She has 11 years of experience teaching grades 4-8, and presently works in Higher Education. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education, and a Master's and Doctoral degree in Curriculum and Instruction (Reading and Language Arts).

Teaching reading comprehension requires instilling in the learner the use of several strategies and skills. This lesson will focus on cognitive skills and notation strategies that will enhance reading comprehension.

Overview of Reading Comprehension

You might often encounter students that who read something, but it becomes quite evident that they have very little understanding of what they have read. Reading is a cross-curricular subject, and if you haven't mastered the understanding, it will make learning many subjects and gaining new knowledge difficult.

Reading comprehension is most commonly defined as the ability to understand the main points of what has been read. There is not a magic formula to teaching reading comprehension, as there are many ways, but it involves training the thought process of the mind and teaching specific strategies to use while reading.

This lesson will focus on how to improve reading comprehension before, during, and after reading takes place. Reading is a subject that students either really love or really hate, so let's try connecting reading comprehension skills to a metaphor that most students can relate to, a trip to the movie theater. Lets think of reading as our 'featured presentation'.

Before Reading

If a new television show is about to hit the small screen or a movie is soon to hit major theaters, chances are a lot of time was spent creating a trailer. Students should be taught to anticipate what they are about to read. They should be taught how to make their own preview/trailer in their minds.

This process of creating their own preview should involve seeking out several main features of a text. For example:

  • Preview and predict what the title is about
  • Look at major headings in a text or story
  • Identify anything with bold print (usually vocabulary)
  • Seek out any visuals and captions
  • Predict the main purpose of the text or story

When visiting a movie theater, movie previews play before the main movie, so do what is needed before - grab the popcorn and snacks - and move on to the featured presentation.

During Reading

The 'featured presentation' is what one goes to the movies for. The wait is over, and the show is about to begin.

There are several special things that people take note of while watching a new film. One is the characters; another is the plot. The mood of the movie allows a connection to the plot and its characters by capturing the viewers' emotions. When teaching comprehension of reading, always teach students to look for a connection to what they are reading - whether it be a certain character, setting, or other part of the text that the student can relate to.

It is also important to teach students to look for the main points or ideas in a piece of text. Ask questions such as:

  • What was the reoccurring theme throughout the text?
  • What patterns did you notice?
  • What were the main ideas presented?

Movies often have a message or agenda they want to push. And yes, so does literature. It is written with a main idea and a purpose. Teach students to analyze the characters by asking questions such as:

  • Who is the story is about?
  • What personality traits do characters exhibit?
  • What do characters do when plot-changing events occur?

For example, if the student is reading a book about 'Three Little Pigs', have the students note each character (3 pigs and the wolf) and then write down 2-3 traits about them. No character goes unnoticed in a movie, so why ignore characters or people who are in books or text?

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