Help Your Kids Learn to Self-Check Reading Comprehension
Socrates is quoted as saying, “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.” One of my college friends had a poster on her wall that read, “Part of being smart is knowing what you’re dumb at.” Socrates was, not surprisingly, the more articulate of the two. However, my friend had the right idea. She knew that to learn, she needed to recognize what she didn’t know. She had to monitor her thoughts while she read to confirm that she understood the material—and to realize when she wasn’t “getting” it.
That awareness, the recognition that comprehension isn’t happening, is a critical step in the reading process. When a student is reading along smoothly, visualizing the actions and concepts in her head, and suddenly the movie in her mind goes blank, it’s time to stop and regroup. At that point, she can decide what will help her get that movie going again. Rereading, maybe, or refreshing her mind by activating prior knowledge can clarify the meaning so she can read on.
Too many students find themselves reading words—lots of words—and not truly understanding their meaning. These students can read entire sections of a textbook or novel and have no idea what they’ve just read. To successfully comprehend their reading, students need to actively monitor whether or not they’re getting it as they read—and when they’re not getting it, they should stop and evaluate what’s wrong.
As Learning Coach, you can teach your students how to self-monitor while reading. One way to cultivate this awareness is to advise your students to stop regularly and self-question. Stopping at the end of a paragraph or section and asking “I wonder…” questions helps generate thoughts about the material and assists the reader in processing the content, which encourages the mind to retain the new information. Ask students, “Did it make sense? Did all the information fit together?”
Coach your student to continue analyzing by zeroing in on the facts or statements in the reading selection that seemed out of order or out of context. This analysis strengthens students’ awareness of what they know and what they don’t know. When they’ve identified the missing link, they can reread and apply their comprehension strategies to fill it in.
I lost touch with my college friend, so I don’t know if her philosophy of being smart led her to graduate with honors or what her career path has been. Whatever she pursued, I’m sure she expanded her knowledge and comprehension by cultivating awareness of what she’d learned and what she needed to learn in order to fill in the blanks. And as Learning Coaches, you can help teach your students reading comprehension strategies to guide them along the path to becoming lifelong learners.
Learning Coaches, how do you monitor your students to make sure they understand what they are reading? Please leave a comment to help fill in the blanks.