In an ideal world, upper elementary and secondary teachers would spend very little, if any, time teaching students to read. Alas…many of us encounter less than ideal circumstances on a daily basis, so regardless of what grade you teach, it never hurts to have a few reading comprehension strategies in your back pocket. By using a few of these successful reading strategies—and avoiding a few common misconceptions—your students will get the information they need using tools they connect with.
Effective Reading Strategies: 5 Dos and Don'ts
- Do Give them Reading Time
It’s unfortunate that older students are given less time to read for pleasure—especially when you consider that studies repeatedly suggest that the more time students spend reading, the more skilled they become at it. If your school doesn't honor Sustained Silent Reading (SSR), it might be time to become an activist and bring it back. Studies show that reading just 20-minutes a day not only helps create more enthusiastic readers, but also positively impacts reading test scores.
- Don't Always Pick the Materials For Them
Dexterous readers with an instilled work ethic may not be deterred by the books you select for them, even if they aren’t necessarily books they would select for themselves. But for a struggling or unenthusiastic reader, having every book selected for them can stifle their interest in reading.
Consider offering students a choice of books that offer a range of perspectives, but still relate to your current lesson plans. Here’s something to consider: Research from Guthrie and Humenick suggests that children who get to choose at least one thing to read per day are not only more engaged, but see an increase in reading comprehension skills.
- Do Let them Read at Their Reading Level. If you have a struggling reader, even the most helpful reading guides and group reading comprehension strategies, can make them feel insecure and uninspired to learn. Once in a while, offer the entire class books, magazine articles, or comic-based resources which are slightly below their average reading level. The information can still be interesting and informative for accelerated readers and will be inclusive of your lower-level readers. The assessments will more accurately reflect students' learning achievements because the materials were accessible to everyone.
- Don't Put Them on the Spot. If students are mentally/emotionally "checked out" during class reading time, putting them on the spot—"Jodi, can you please tell the class what just happened?"—isn't going to inspire them to pay attention. Instead, one of the best reading comprehension strategies is to converse with them interactively throughout the story. Interrupt the reading to say, "Hm, I wonder how Scout knew that X was going to happen?" and encourage them to look backwards for foreshadowing. Modeling reading comprehension strategies can re-direct the mental wanderers without embarrassing them.
- Do Use Computer Programs Wisely. Computer programs which utilize reading comprehension strategies can be a nice touch. They help kinesthetic learners to physically engage with materials: Voice-overs may help focus auditory learners while graphics may help stimulate the visual learners. The downside is that students may tend to drift off, get lost when the computer can't help them with a problem, or bail on the assignment altogether. Make sure computer reading programs are carefully monitored and used sparingly for the best results.
Remember, at the end of the day, the important thing is that students are engaged with the learning process. Good reading comprehension strategies will ensure they do just that.