The first step to helping struggling learners improve their reading comprehension is understanding these six essential truths about reading.
1. Reading is the active search for sensible meaning from understandable clues.
2. Reading and reading comprehension are synonymous. Reading occurs only when meaning is being sought and found. So saying words, while necessary, is not reading — it is merely saying words.
3. Reading is a logical process. Reading (comprehension) depends upon the reader actively searching for understandable clues, then deciding what the author might mean when enough clues seem to point in a particular direction. Instruction that shows learners how to think logically and flexibly in response to understandable clues is the instruction that improves students' reading abilities fairly rapidly.
4. When learners read for real purposes of their own, they welcome knowing how to figure out meaning more effectively and efficiently. This is the best teaching moment because students are trying to understand. They also see immediately that when they use logical thinking they can understand the author better.
5. Written language is language. Language is ambiguous. That is why proficient readers actively hunt for understandable clues, gather them together, and logically infer the author’s probable meanings.
6. Guide students through the logical thinking processes with written language. Learners want to know how to read well. Model your own logical strategies that you employ as you read. Then give students practice using logic to understand written language better. This can be done with engaging logical exercises, which highlight how to:
- infer the meaning of unfamiliar words.
- infer the function of the unfamiliar names of people, places and things.
- articulate the different ideas embedded within long and complex sentences.
- infer the author’s major and minor premises in nonfiction.
- infer the author’s themes, points of view, or philosophy in fiction.
…to name but a few.
These engaging lessons in logic are showcased in Joan Lazar and Christine Vogel's Now I Get It! Teaching Struggling Readers to Make Sense of What They Read. The lessons have been developed and refined over time based upon insights from miscue analysis and the authors' work with striving readers. A quick experience with each kind of lesson is usually enough to put readers on the road to higher comprehension. It is best to show a particular lesson when the need arises. Your students will be grateful that you have shown them how to more effectively think their way through written language because all students want to read well.