Slide 1: This webinar focuses on ways to build reading comprehension by considering three building blocks. It presents strategies that paraprofessionals can use to help students strengthen these three building blocks of reading comprehension. My name is Kevin Daberkow. I am an educational researcher working for WordFarmers Associates. WordFarmers is producing modules for paraprofessional educators on behalf of the Ohio Partnership for Excellence in Paraprofessional Preparation at the University of Dayton School of Education and Health Sciences Grant Center.
Slide 2: As you learned in the previous unit, the three building blocks for helping students understand what they read are vocabulary knowledge, inference skills, and the ability to use features of text.
Slide 3: Some of the strategies can be used most effectively before students read a selection, some during students’ reading of a selection, and others after students have read the selection.
Slide 4: As a paraprofessional, you may be asked to work with students to prepare them for a challenging reading assignment, to assist them in reading the assignment, or to help assess their understanding of the assignment after they’ve read it. In general, the pre-reading and during-reading strategies you use will support students’ current knowledge and skills in order to help them comprehend reading selections. Post-reading strategies provide structure to guide students’ reflections about what they have read.
Slide 5: Almost all pre-reading activities are designed to improve students’ comprehension by providing background information that links new words and information in the reading to words and information students already know. One way of creating this link is to engage students in a brief discussion about the subject of the reading, asking what they already know about the subject. The discussion provides context, or background, for the reading. This context can help the students figure out the meaning of new words and make more accurate inferences as they do the assigned reading. Such discussions help students build vocabulary related to the text to be read even when the vocabulary isn’t taught explicitly.
Slide 6: Teachers and paraprofessionals can ask students to talk about their understanding of a concept that relates to a reading passage. For example, if a story focuses on life in a big city, the teacher or paraprofessional might ask the students to share what they know about cities. This information can then be organized into a concept map, showing the features of cities, the names of cities, the functions of cities, and so on.
Slide 7: Concept mapping is sometimes called “clustering.” It is such an important approach that it’s useful to consider another example. What might a concept map look like for a reading passage about the invention of the airplane? In the middle of the map, the teacher or paraprofessional might write, “invention of the airplane” because it is the central idea. Asked what comes to mind when they think about the invention of the airplane, students might say, “the Wright brothers,” “Kitty Hawk,” “pilots,” propellers,” “engines,” and “travel.” Similar ideas would be written close together on the concept map. “Propellers” and “engines” are both parts of planes, so they would be clustered together, for example, and the “Wright brothers” and “pilots” would be close together. In the end, the map might look like what’s depicted on this slide.
Slide 8: Some pre-reading strategies teach vocabulary more explicitly than a concept map does. These more explicit strategies identify important words in the passage that are likely to be new to students. Their purpose is to help students learn the meaning of these unfamiliar words. But simply telling them the definitions is unlikely to be effective.
Slide 9: One approach you could use in helping students learn the definition of a new word is to use pictures, real objects, or real life experiences to help students infer the meaning. You could, for example, teach one meaning of the verb “transport” as used in a geography book, by showing pictures of a train carrying loads of coal, a truck carrying logs, and a ship full of people, and asking students to try to figure out what is common to all the pictures. An even better way to teach vocabulary than pictures is to use real objects and real experiences, but that approach is often not practical. A basic principle to keep in mind is to make the definition as experiential and concrete as you can without too great a sacrifice of time.
Slide 10: Another approach starts with some pre-reading activities and follows up with some post-reading activities. This approach involves the use of what are called “KWL charts.” A KWL chart uses questions to help students focus attention on the content of a reading passage. The “K” in “KWL” stands for the word “know,” which is part of the question, “What do you already know about the subject of a text to be read?” The “W” stands for the word, “want,” in the question, “What do you want to know about the subject?” And the “L” stands for the word “learn,” in the question, “What did you learn from reading about the subject?” Notice that with KWL charts, students answer the first two questions before they read the passage and the last question after they have read the passage.
Slide 11: KWL charts are often constructed to include three columns, with the letters “K,” “W,” and “L” as headers. Students complete the first two columns of the chart before the reading assignment. They complete the third column after they have read the assignment.
Slide 12: For example, if the students were assigned a history reading about the Great Wall of China, a KWL activity would give them an opportunity to think about what they already know about the Great Wall. Some students may know that the Great Wall is thousands of miles long. Others may know that it was built to keep out invaders. A student may have heard that the Great Wall can be seen from the moon and may want to know if that’s true. Another student might want to know how high the Great Wall is. After reading the passage, students report briefly on their new knowledge about the Great Wall.
Slide 13: The pre-reading strategies mentioned so far help students build vocabulary and improve their skills in making accurate inferences about what they read. Some pre-reading strategies focus on features of the text. One such strategy is the “text walk-through.” With this approach, you might sit next to a student and preview the material he or she will be reading. As the student looks over the reading selection with you, you call attention to headings and subheadings, captions of photographs, charts and graphs, and other important features of the text. A “walk-through” discussion of these features and their purposes can help students make better use of text features in comprehending the reading selection.
Slide 14: In addition to pre-reading strategies, there are also strategies that help students understand written material while they are reading it. One of the most important methods for structuring students’ experience during reading is to ask them to use a process called “close reading.” Close reading requires careful reading and re-reading of the passage to discover its implications and to understand techniques that the author used to help readers’ make relevant inferences. Some educators think of close reading as having the student read like a detective, looking for clues.
Slide 15: Questions to structure close reading often ask about choices the author made. They call attention to how the author crafted the passage. For example, a close-reading question might ask students to consider the names of the characters and what the names show about how the author wants to present each of the characters. Or a close-reading question might ask about why an author repeats a certain phrase or uses a particular style of language.
Slide 16: One of the most common during-reading strategies is to have each student keep a reader’s journal. In their individual journals, students write notes about what they’re learning or about what they like or dislike about the reading selection.
Slide 17: Taking notes in a journal or in some other way can help students succeed with close reading as well as with reading of a less analytical kind.
Slide 18: Many students prefer to talk about what they’re reading, rather than to write about it. In particular students for whom writing is a tedious, time-consuming chore may prefer to talk about what they have read. With these students, written reflections may not be a good way to gauge what they are learning from the materials they are reading. A more accurate assessment and more through reflection on the material may be achieved through oral activities such as being interviewed about what they read or by giving a talk about the reading to the class or to a small group of students.
Slide 19: One of the most effective after-reading techniques is to have students discuss the reading selection with each other, or in conference with a teacher, paraprofessional, or tutor. Classroom book clubs or book circles can add to students’ interest in reading assignments and, consequently, to more careful attention to the reading material.
Slide 20: Paraprofessionals can help students learn from what they read by supporting students through pre-reading, during-reading, and after-reading activities. For example, when students are responding to questions, projects, or other activities related to what they are reading, the paraprofessional can assist by checking to see if they need encouragement, suggestions, or resources.
Slide 21: Although most of the strategies described in this unit can be used with either silent-reading or oral-reading assignments, they’re used more often with silent reading because years of practice in silent reading are needed in order for students to learn advanced reading skills.
Slide 22: Recognizing the importance of silent reading, some schools offer opportunities for students to read independently during a specific part of each school day or, at least, several times a week. This approach is called “sustained silent reading.” With this approach, students select reading material that is interesting to them and that they can read independently with good comprehension. Everyone in the class, or, in some cases, everyone in the school, reads for a certain period of time. Because of this repeated practice, many students become more skillful readers and, as their reading improves, may also come to value reading more highly.
Slide 23: During sustained silent reading, you might be asked to monitor one or more students’ reading. Monitoring usually involves giving students opportunities to talk about what they’re reading—perhaps asking questions to encourage their engagement with the reading passage or their recall of details presented in it. By interacting with students about what they are reading, you and other members of the instructional team help ensure that students understand and enjoy the reading materials they select.
Slide 24: Even excellent readers can improve their comprehension and fluency through reading practice. And the kinds of pre-reading, during-reading, and post-reading strategies described in this unit magnify the benefits of that practice. With support from scaffolding activities that strengthen vocabulary, inference skills, and the ability to use text conventions, most students will become competent readers. They will understand what they read and be able to use reading as the basis for further learning.