Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why Do Some Children Struggle To Comprehend What They Read?

Thank you to our Room 7 teacher here at Muritai School for passing on this information from The Handy Resources blog (

We Move too Quickly from Decoding to Critical Thinking

The assumption is made that because our readers can ‘read’ we can move from ‘Learning to Read’ to ‘Reading to Learn’. This is particularly evident in our inquiry based curriculum which focuses on self-directed learning. Unfortunately, our students don’t have the tools to process text. The result for the kids (and the teachers) – frustration, disengagement, and a ‘cut and paste’ mentality.

The development of reading skills goes beyond the mechanics of decoding – getting the words right. Students need to be explicitly taught comprehension strategies so that they can construct meaning, which then frees them for the critical thinking required by truly self-directed inquiry learning.

How to make a start teaching your students to construct meaning:
Take a sentence or a paragraph from a story and model the thinking aloud that you do when you construct meaning ‘as you read’.
  1. Do this one sentence at a time.
  2. Use “I think that means...” as a sentence starter.
  3. Encourage your students to have a go. (“I think that means...” is very safe because you can’t be wrong).
You will be surprised at what they come up with – the occasional gem of insight but more often than not the misinterpretation of text that you thought they understood because they could ‘read’ it.

So it could go like this ... “All his life Ben had hated vegetables. I think that means that the boy or the man in the story had never been able to eat vegetables. They made him sick“; or “I think that means that every time this person Ben saw a vegetable he wanted to destroy it.”

Suddenly you have an interesting new window into how your students process sentences....

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