Examining the Three Most Research-Validated Reading Comprehension Approaches
Reading comprehension is a challenge for many students. Reading comprehension is not a standalone skill, nor can it be acquired without repetition or practice. Educators continue to find ways to address reading difficulties.
Teacher Read-Aloud is a method used to teach students different elements of reading. Students learn from this method through the teacher’s voice. While listening, students learn to decode punctuation and use tone, pitch, and inflection correctly for different characters and moods. Differentiating reading with varying structures of text and leveled readings teaches students how to decipher meanings of words and phrases in context, how to create different connections with the text, why there is such variety in story-telling techniques and the purpose of different writing styles.
When using read-alouds, varying texts also give students a chance to see stories in different formats. When changing story types, students are able to comprehend the story from different perspectives because they are actively using their skills rather than participating in rote activities. Active engagement from the teacher makes students are more likely to engage in conversation and ask questions pertaining to the work to further their comprehension of the story and its elements.
The Think-Aloud Model gives students a chance to think as they read. In doing so, students learn that reading is a process and sometimes takes more than one reading to comprehend an idea. Students practice rereading sentences to find context clues quietly while the teacher reads the story to the class. Think-Alouds give students the opportunity to slow down their reading pace in order to grasp concepts. While using this approach, students learn to stop at different points in the reading to make sense of the information presented. Allowing students to ask necessary questions allows them to assess their understanding of the story.
High 5 Model
The High 5 Model breaks reading into different steps; before, during, and after. The steps occur in the following sequence: Accessing Prior Knowledge, Questioning, Analyzing Text Structure, Visualization, and Summarizing.
Prompting students to access prior knowledge creates a relationship with the reading even before they come in contact with the content. The knowledge can be from personal experiences, other school subjects, and can include emotions about specific topics. When accessing prior knowledge, students may also acknowledge that their previous understanding of a topic was incorrect or incomplete. Being aware gives students the opportunity to improve or change their understanding of an idea.
Questioning ideas and concepts gives students the opportunity to digest new material or manipulate existing knowledge into new understandings. Questioning also encourages students to go beyond the required reading to find out more about a topic. When students question a piece of writing, they analyze the different elements of the work from its theme, use of figurative language, or incorporation of primary sources. Students engage with the reading and dissect each piece to create a full understanding.
Analyzing text structure shows students how to follow patterns and decipher the meaning to different words and phrases in a given context. For example, the adage “killing two birds with one stone” may be figurative or literal depending on the type of text structure. In a fictional reading, this would mean achieving two goals with one action, whereas in a survivalist guide, this may be literal. If the student cannot decipher between the different text structures, he may interpret the information in the wrong context.
Visualization is not limited to mere pictures. Visualization can include picturing a concept map, cause and effect chart, or connections between characters. Readers are able to create their idea of what the story is attempting to convey whether the content is realistic or fictional. Visualization can also be concrete or abstract depending on the work. In either case, accessing the ability to see ideas in the form of diagrams or pictures creates a more meaningful understanding of the text.
Summarizing provides a way for students to eliminate unnecessary details of a story while focusing on relevant key ideas. Summaries can be in the form of student-created projects, visual presentations, written explanation, or video recordings to showcase the purpose of the reading. In order to summarize a piece of work, a student needs to have a good understanding of what occurred in the reading and the elements that helped convey underlying messages and themes.
Each model provides different tools and strategies to help students comprehend different texts. None of the strategies work for everyone. For some students, one strategy will work well and for another student, a combination of each strategy will work just as well. Finding the right strategy (or strategies) will take time, but once a student finds success, he will continue to use the method for the future and refine his skills even further.