Factors Affecting Reading Comprehension in Elementary Students

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  • 0:00 Comprehension Basics &…
  • 1:50 Reader's Characteristics
  • 2:30 Text Features
  • 3:07 Academic Language Challenges
  • 4:18 Strategies for Teachers
  • 5:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde
An important aspect in literacy is understanding what is being read, or comprehension. What kinds of things impact a student's ability to comprehend? This lesson will identify these factors and show teachers how to help student readers' comprehension.

Comprehension Basics

What's the point of reading unless you understand what you read? Students need to comprehend, or understand, what they read in order to learn about the subjects they study, and comprehension depends on several factors. Readers bring their skills and background knowledge about the topic with them. They need to remember and make sense of what they're reading, connecting the new understanding to the old. This can be a tricky process.

Mrs. King is a volunteer tutor at her local elementary school. She noticed that although some students are great at oral reading, they struggle with comprehension. Why do some readers comprehend easily and others struggle? And, what can she do to help?

Let's take a look at factors that impact comprehension, including ways in which reading takes place, the reader's specific characteristics, and properties of the text itself. Then we'll consider some of the challenges presented by academic language. Finally, we'll explore some strategies teachers can use to help student readers' comprehension.

Understanding Context

One factor that impacts reading comprehension is the context in which reading occurs, or where and how it takes place. There are two ways to look at the context in terms of reading comprehension:

Where reading occurs: Think about your favorite place to read. Are you more successful in a crowded, noisy coffee house or in a cozy spot in your room? Mrs. King recognizes that often students are asked to read at school in noisy places, which may negatively impact their ability to understand.

Social context: Sometimes readers are asked to read independently, at their seats or in a quiet spot. Other times they read as part of a social grouping, such as circle time or choral reading. Mrs. King notices that sometimes when children read out loud with her they understand more than when they read by themselves.

Reader's Characteristics

Mrs. King knows some students are more into reading than others. These reader characteristics, or things that make readers unique, impact comprehension.

Ability to concentrate: Some students are better able to sit and concentrate while others are squirmy.

Background knowledge: Some readers have more schema, or background knowledge about topics and are better able to make connections with text.

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