Monday, April 30, 2007

Comprehension Activites

This morning I wrote a little something about my thoughts on 'Teaching Comprehension' to a newsgroup I belong to. I then thought I'd make it my blog post and maybe soon get around to making a webpage for the other two strategies.

(Adrian B mounts his soapbox)

Hi All,

In my experience 'comprehension activities' often amount to worksheets that require students to 'find answers' on the page. (yes I know that all generalisations are evil).

I propose that teachers need to be aware of 3 main strategies that actually
teach children how to comprehend what they are reading and what they have read.

1. Reciprocal Teaching -
(you can download the cue cards here to make this an independent activity)

This is an excellent resource for teaching in information texts. It is a bit dry but if you discuss the metacognition behind it you get good results. The kids also like to 'race' who can find a fact/place/definition fastest between traditional atlases/ dictionaries etc and Google Earth Wikipedia etc

2. Three Level Questioning - I use the terms 'Here Questions' - you can put your finger on the part of the text where the answer is. ' Hidden Questions' where the answer is often hidden in the text but you will have to think about it a bit' NB 'Hidden' often involve inference - 'not stated but highly likely' and 'Head Questions' - the answer is in your head.

Found a pfd on a quick search
but there is a fair bit more to it.

Get the kids generating the questions for their classmates - I use, 'I want you to generate a Head question' etc and then have the children ask their question to the rest of the reading group.

3. My modifications to Visualising / Verbalising programs - fantastic for narrative texts - Mmmm, can't find a quick article - crux is - you discuss how visual images in your mind are much more powerful than text in your mind - explore how people visualise - some lucky people see whole movies in their mind. Continuous and in colour. Myself I see the images as brief flashes but in colour. It is said that some people see the images in black and white but this is getting less since the advent of colour TV and some people see know images at all but these are a very small minority. Discuss pulling up those images and using words to describe them.

Over the next few weeks I read for 15 minutes every morning and have the kids have their eyes closed with the intention of using clues from the text to build vivid images in their minds. I then spend 15 minutes discussing the images from chapter level, to page level to paragraph level all the way to sentence level.

Each day after the 15 minute reading I get the students into pairs and they must retell the mornings reading. I then get one pair to stand and do a paired story of the morning's reading. (this keeps them on their toes and stops them having a little sleep) I sometimes give different question stems that the groups have to make questions for.

(Adrian dismounts his soapbox and feels somewhat cleansed)


Adrian B

PS Make sure you ask, 'Am I teaching them how to comprehend or simply testing if they can find answers in a text?'

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