By Leigh Buettler, M.S.Ed., Director of Professional Learning
When I taught 6th grade, my reading comprehension lessons looked a lot like this: I’d find a text – maybe something from Scholastic or NewsELA – have students read the text in pairs, and then have them work on answering questions by writing a claim and giving evidence to support their claim. I would include at least a couple higher-order thinking questions, and maybe students would have to create a postcard, poster, or cartoon depicting some of their understanding. And then we would be done and move on to a totally new, unrelated text the next day, doing similar activities, or targeting a specific “skill,” like how to find the main idea or the theme of a text.
If I could go back and re-teach all of those lessons to all of my students, I would. What I was doing wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great. If I knew then what I know now, I could have truly helped students comprehend what they were reading in a much more targeted and efficient way.
Now I know that there are specific actions I can take before, during, and after reading any passage to set students up for success, engagement, and thorough understanding of what it is they’re reading. I can focus on teaching strategies that are easily generalizable for students, so that they can grow and refine their metacognitive skills for use in any content area and beyond.
If you’re interested in learning more, register for Reading Comprehension: What, Why, and How webinar that provides an overview of reading comprehension and some practical tools and takeaways you can incorporate in your instruction. You can also explore and use this reading comprehension planning template, which you could use with any text. In the webinar, I explore how to best use this planning template and provide an example of a completed template using an excerpt from The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.
If you’re interested in deepening your knowledge of reading comprehension and the inner workings of the mind, Melissa Farrall is facilitating a Reading Comprehension and Executive Functioning workshop on May 21st, 2024. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the role of executive function in decoding and comprehension. We know that students need to decode and attach meaning to words they read. But they also need to be able to utilize metacognitive skills and their working memory to be able to interpret, connect with, and deeply understand any given text. In this workshop, you’ll learn about the processes that comprise executive function, how they are measured, and how they relate to reading comprehension.
Reading comprehension is the ultimate goal we have for our students. These professional learning opportunities and resources can help clarify reading comprehension and how best to tailor our instruction to allow students the opportunity to practice strategies that result in thorough comprehension. They are the sort of resources that I wish I had as a 6th grade teacher.
Thank you for reading and thank you for all that you do for your students, every day.