When I read the title of Chapter 11, it immediately caught my attention. Reading comprehension has been my main focus throughout this course on struggling readers and writers. The introduction alone brought different points to my attention that I hadn’t even really considered so far, so I knew this chapter was going to be informative, helpful, and interesting as well.
I never thought about how I as a reader foster comprehension. What I didn’t consider was when I am reading a textbook and studying for a class. How do I remember what I have just read, especially if the content is dry and boring? Usually I highlight, or underline things I believe will be important to remember. I also write things down and make my own little study guide from time to time.
Comprehension is something that many children struggle with. It appears to be a common problem among readers of all ages. There are many different factors that attribute to poor comprehension. A lack of background knowledge is a huge reason. When a child is reading something that is essentially foreign to them, how are they supposed to remember it? It can be hard enough to remember most things that you read, let alone something you know virtually nothing about. It is important to keep this in mind when evaluating comprehension skills, and selecting pieces that you have control other. Foster the reading selection towards the desires and needs of your students. When students encounter something, they place it in a schema, or their brain. Later on when they see something associated with that word or concept, they are able to draw that from their schema. The more things children have encountered and placed in a spot in their brain, the easier it will be for them to remember. It is important to really develop these schemas.
A couple techniques that I have used to far in my fieldwork include making graphic organizers to put together what they just read. Every time we read a story, I always casually ask them what we just read about. If it is a longer story, I ask at a couple different points throughout the story, since it can be a lot for them to remember. I am always surprised by the minute details that they remember from the story. It’s correct, though! They just sometimes miss some of the more major points. All in all, you have to do what works best for the different students. Help them to organize and recall information in the way that comes most easy for them.
In chapter 10, Gunning states that vocabulary deficiency is the primary cause of academic failure for disadvantaged students in grades 3-12. This just saddened me. Fortunately, there is a solution. These children have simply not acquired as many words because they haven’t had the opportunity to read as much. Imagine being thrown into a book when you don’t read at all at home. How would you feel looking at the foreign words on the page? That’s how the kids feel, and teachers need to immerse them and really help them out.
There are four different stages of word knowledge:
- I never saw it before.
- I’ve heard of it, but I don’t know what it means.
- I recognize it in context—it has something to do with…
- I know it.
When assessing a child, you must know what stage they are at in order to get an accurate reading. There are also some assessments that can help you decipher which level they are at. It is also important that you teach only what the children need to know. If they already know something, there is no need to teach it again. This could cause them to tune out, and really miss the important stuff!
Vocabulary is a HUGE part of any curriculum, and I think it is something that I will certainly emphasize in my classroom someday. One way to help struggling kids is to have a class word wall for everyone. If someone is stumped by a word, we can add it to the word wall, talk about it, and figure out how to spell it or what it means. It’s a great way to make these words readily available for kids to use on a day to day basis.
When working individually with students, it’s important to make goals with them. Give them something to work towards. Some kids need that sort of motivation to really get them going, whether it’s intrinsic or extrinsic. As I mentioned before, it’s also important to build off of what they already know. Relate to the students’ lives and make them interested. Make it memorable for them. Things will stick better when there is interest involved. Graphic organizers of all kinds can also be helpful when building vocabulary. Finally, there is no better way to increase vocabulary than by immersing the students in text. The more they experience it, the easier it will come as well. Keep in mind the best interest of the students, and make sure you still make it interesting and fun! There is no reason any child should fail anything.
I am currently enrolled in a college course about the English language. We have done a lot of work on morphemes, specifically letter sounds. Being in this class, we had to break down words, discarding a morpheme every time. If we didn’t know what a word meant, certain morphemes, such as prefixes or suffixes, helped get us a step closer to the accurate definition. How cool that even at the college level, I am still using elementary techniques in a sense to figure out words. These concepts might seem so simple, but in reality, they are a necessity in order to achieve full knowledge of reading words.
While this is on a totally different scale, I can relate, and I can also attest to the importance of having knowledge of roots and basic phonetics. The concept of syllables is something that can be learned at a very young age. There are activities you can do that help understand that, such as simply holding your chin when you say words, and knowing that every time you feel it move, that is generally another syllable. This can be a good place to assess children, as some have trouble with multisyllabic words. If the sound is only prevalent in multisyllabic words, it may be unfamiliar for them, causing them to struggle. I have seen evidence of this in the early observations of my case study child. In larger words, she knows some of the sounds, but appears to be guessing on the rest of the word. This is certainly something I hope to expand on with her.
What makes syllables interesting is that they often fall into patterns. You can give a child a list of many words that emphasizes their weak syllable point in reading, so they can really work on that and see where these sounds are found. There are many other strategies that can be used to teach syllables. The most important thing is to not give students the answers. Encourage them along, giving them stepping stones if necessary. Let them figure it out on their own. Help can obviously be adjusted as needed.
Teaching morphemic elements is something that should be taught based on what the children already know. Take certain morphemes, prefixes, or suffixes that the children already know, and put them on the word wall. If in your reading and writing they come across something they are unsure of, you can add it to the wall. Encourage them to search for syllables like this and figure them out. Making connections is an important part of reading. It might be good to ask, “What parts of this word do you recognize?” The more familiar they become with these words, the easier it will be to pick them out in words, and be able to branch off and find new words.
Phonics is something that I have grown extremely interested in throughout my college career. Decoding, sounds, and words in general are just so amazing. Even though I know a great deal about these things, I still encounter words every so often that I don’t know, and I must use the early skills I learned to try and decipher them. Now imagine being a young reader trying to decode simple words. If you haven’t mastered this skill, this could be a difficult situation. It is important to really learn and instill the basics in young children so they can continue to use it throughout their lives.
In Gunning’s Chapter 8, he listed and described the phases in learning to read words. Being an early childhood minor, I find the early years of literacy development especially interesting. The prealphabetic phase is first, where children don’t even really know what they are reading. They simply know these words or signs because they are high frequency or memorize the words in some way. Pictures can also be used to help them guess the words. While this can be a helpful technique, it can lead to faulty assessment and really not make for an accurate grasp on where the child is in the reading category. For example, the child might know a sign says “Subway” just because they’ve been to the restaurant so many times. In their reading, they are really making no letter-sound connections.
Next is alphabetic, when they start to use these relationships to decode words. Words are becoming more familiar to them, and they can use the knowledge that they have to decode simple words. This makes it easier for the children to learn. Sounds are typically viewed all individually; the kids look at them separately and put them all together to form a word. This differs from the final phase, consolidated alphabetic, as they start to see units in words. They put sounds together in chunks before they form the whole word. They gain even more knowledge about strange sounds, like double vowels, and spelling comes easier to them.
Another thing I found interesting and helpful was the use of pictures next to letter sounds. It’s a good way for children to visualize and understand what certain sounds occur in certain words. They can use these devices to help them. This reminded me of an example my mom shared with me from her classroom. She has a student in her classroom that is extremely speech delayed and talks at about the same level as a two year old. Their class has been working on letter sounds, and there is a video or website of some sort that has an action that goes along with each letter sound. For example, the [k] sound showed someone doing karate. When she was being assessed on her knowledge of these sounds, she did the action with every single one, and got nearly all of them right. It was an effective device that worked really well for her, and she knew how to portray what she wanted to say. This is a perfect example of finding something that works best for certain students.