I’ve spent a lot of hours in classrooms and in professional development sessions teaching educators how to improve comprehension instruction. One of the biggest a-has that I’ve had in recent years has been that a shift from formalized, memorized comprehension instruction is necessary in order to make students become swift and confidence comprehenders!
Now I’m not saying that we should not teach strategies or skills (like comparing and contrasting or prediction and inference), but I AM saying that HOW and, most importantly, WHY we’re teaching these things needs a good looking at.
Let’s start with the simplest and the most impactful: retell.
Yep, that’s it! RETELL!
What’s the big deal? Well the big deal is this: many times students struggle with more complex comprehension questions and techniques because they have failed to understand the basic evidence.
So, I would encourage you to play a little game called “What’s the evidence?”. Here’s how it goes…you ask a question regarding the text that you’re reading. When students respond, they have to root their response in evidence from the text. If they fail to link their response back to the text, then someone in the class (kindly) shouts “What’s the evidence?” and the responding student restates his/her response to include the evidence.
The point of all of this? Linking back to the text and citing evidence is a HABIT. The evidence from the text is required in order for students to be fluent comprehenders. All “fancy” comprehension stems from this.
If you take a look at this slide that we use in many of our presentations, you’ll notice that by teaching students to retell and then link back to the text (cite references) we are actually using a bunch of important comprehension strategies.
So, what does this look like in the classroom? It might sound something like this:
- Ladies and gentlemen as you share your responses with your partner, make sure you support your response in the text by saying something like, “I found that the author on page 12 pointed out…”
- Girl and boys, when you are completing your written responses, make sure that you link back to the facts/evidence from the selection by using this type of language: “When the author said XYZ that made me think that…”
Here’s our mantra about teaching comprehension: FANCY COMPREHENSION STRATEGIES DO NOT HAVE A LEG TO STAND ON IF THE BASIC RETELLING OF THE EVIDENCE IS MISSING.
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