Strategies, Practice, and Differentiated Instruction in Reading Comprehension
Learning to comprehend text is perhaps the most essential skill that students learn in school. Reading with understanding is a key skill they will use for the remainder of their lives – whether they read for pleasure, for work, or to engage in civic life. Unfortunately, far too many students struggle to read and comprehend, and educators struggle with how to best help these students.
The market has become flooded with learning programs that purport to help educators teach their students to comprehend text. There are, however, significant differences in how these programs approach the task of teaching reading comprehension.
Teaching reading comprehension effectively is not easy. To begin with, reading comprehension is not a single skill, but a set of different skills and strategies. Secondly, most people simply do not know how to teach reading comprehension; instead, they resort to simply providing practice in it. Programs that only provide practice ask students to answer reading comprehension questions and perform tasks without systematically teaching them how. When students make an error, they receive feedback that their answer was incorrect, but that feedback is not enough to teach the student how to answer correctly the next time.
Tools that offer to teach strategies, but really provide mere tips and suggestions, also fall under this category. A tip or suggestion is not a strategy.
Programs that teach explicit strategies that students can apply across different situations are deemed strategy-based. Strategies must be matched to each student’s age and vocabulary. A program cannot teach an eight-year-old the strategy “predict what will happen next in the story” if the program has not first taught her how to make accurate predictions.
Of course, strategy-based programs need to offer a robust amount of practice, so that students can apply the strategies that they have been taught across a wide variety of texts, subject matter, and question types. Programs that teach explicit strategies for reading comprehension and also provide extensive practice have the potential to actually teach students to read critically and to comprehend what they read.
You can tell that a program is strategy-based when the students who go through it are able to verbalize the strategies and explain how they use them to answer questions about text.
Another point that comes up when talking about reading comprehension programs is that of differentiated instruction. While there are many meanings assigned to “differentiated instruction,” all of them point to the requirement that the program shows some degree of personalization to each student. Some differentiated instruction is differentiated only at the end of a lesson: the program evaluates whether the student is ready to move on to the next lesson or requires additional instruction. The program then either provides that additional instruction or directs the teacher to provide it. Other instruction is considered differentiated because it branches off in real time, as the student goes through the activities. In this real-time differentiated instruction, students’ weaknesses are caught and remedied as they occur, without waiting until students have made repeated errors throughout the lesson.
MimioReading comprehension suite provides your teachers with the tools they need to effectively teach reading comprehension. With both individual and group instruction your teachers are able to provide their students with differentiated instruction to meet the needs of each student.
Speak with a reading specialist to see if MimioReading is right for your school.