It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted learning for students across the nation and all over the world. The presence of a cohesive learning experience was few and far between as school districts pivoted into uncharted territory.
Reading comprehension levels were one of the many crucial areas of literacy development that experienced a drop in performance levels. As classrooms have been returning to in-person instruction, how can teachers readjust to the new norm given the setbacks caused by the pandemic?
On this week’s episode of Literacy Matters with Cheryl Lundy-Swift, we sit down with Michelle Paster, the executive director and founder of LearningWorks, to address the need for remediation and explore strategies to improve student reading comprehension. With over 25 years of experience working with children with diagnosed learning disabilities and behavioral difficulties, Paster shares with us her knowledge and lends a helping hand to educators in need.
What is reading comprehension?
Before we can answer that, we have to take a closer look at what exactly is “reading”. The two main components of reading are decoding and comprehension. Decoding refers to the fundamental mechanic of looking at letters or a combination of letters and then being able to verbally express them.
Comprehension is the mental and emotional extension of decoding. This is where students begin to ingest, visualize, and explore the material at hand. Whereas decoding is an objective skill, comprehension is subjective in that each student will comprehend text according to their personal experiences and beliefs.
From Abstract to Improvement
“One-size-fits-all classrooms work for some students, but then we lose a lot of kids in different ways.”
Each student is unique in how they learn and the way they learn. As much as educators can apply an umbrella approach to their instruction, teachers must take the time to connect with students on a micro level to gauge individual performance.
With comprehension, it’s imperative that students understand what they read just as much as they understand how to read. Without interpreting the material and internalizing the content, students are reading just to read and losing out on growth.
Visualizing Reading Comprehension Success
Children can be imaginative powerhouses when given the right support and environment. Paster recommends incorporating activities that tap into that creative spark as students engage with their readings.
Have students ask questions, draw pictures, and have conversations about the book. Explore the story, characters, and themes that students love. Extend beyond the ink on the page and the pixels on the screen by asking “who, what, where, when, and why.”
When students are constantly questioning and consistently pushing the boundaries of the reading material, they refine their reading abilities and become stronger communicators as a result. If you see that your students have been struggling with reading comprehension or meaning-making, take a step back and give them opportunities to flex their imagination.
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