Monday, March 15, 2010

Facilitating Comprehension

After reading Chapter Nine, “Facilitating Students’ Comprehension: Text Factors”, of Gail E. Tompkins book - Literacy for the 21st Century: A Balanced Approach, 5th Edition, I’m realizing that one of the MOST important factors of facilitating comprehension with students is simply getting them to engage with the text on a personal level. What I mean is that students need to understand what they are reading…they need to understand what kind of book they are reading (Genre), is it fiction or non-fiction/informational, what kind of audience is the book geared towards, and they need to understand the patterns that present themselves in these texts. When a student has an understanding of these basic text factors, then they are able to develop a deeper connection with what they are reading. Rather than focus on information t hat isn’t important (such as trying to sound out words, stumbling over syntax, etc.) students can focus their attention to the plot, characters, and the conflict/resolution. By taking out the guess-work in their reading activities, we (the teachers) can enhance the level of understanding our students achieve. On page 311 of our textbook, Tompkins states an important finding…“Researchers have documented that when teachers teach students about text factors, their comprehension increases” (Tompkins, p. 311).

Another important point I’d like to make is this…as I said before, by providing our students the opportunity to develop a connection with what they are reading and what they are DOING (as in the subsequent activity) we can instill a sense of meaningful learning within our students. In the first section of this chapter, I read about Mr. Abrams and his fourth grade classroom. One aspect of his story that stuck out to me was when he discussed how he AND his students developed a rubric (TOGETHER) to assess the books they made. I thought that was a really beneficial activity. It creates an environment of collaboration that can really motivate students…and when students are motivated to work hard, they will engage and comprehend on a deeper level.

I’m currently in a fourth grade classroom and I am constantly seeing my Cooperating Teacher (CT) discuss comprehension strategies with this class. It may not be explicit; for instance, he does not say: “When you are trying to comprehend what you are reading, you should notice the text factors”. Rather, he asks questions during shared reading to get students thinking… “What is the author trying to do? How did that make you feel? What do you think is about to happen? What genre is this? Why?”

Not only does my CT guide student thinking to enhance comprehension, but he also does a really good job of incorporating reading/writing and think-alouds into nearly every subject he teaches throughout the day. While I do give him props for that, I do think that he could incorporate a more collaborative feel to his classroom. If students felt that they had more of a hand in their day to day lessons then I think they would work harder and therefore, engage with the material.

I think this was a GREAT chapter to read. The information given is something that I think I will continue to look back on.

1 comment:

  1. Does your CT give the students any specific strategies to use for comprehension. I know that my CT has sticky notes at their tables at all time and they are asked to place sticky notes on things that they have learned or important facts. Does your teacher teach comprehension in any other way than just asking thinking questions? I think that little ideas like sticky notes tend to help the students that are quiet in the classroom.