I’m prepping for an upcoming presentation on teaching comprehension and what’s new in the research and I am realizing that I have to change my perspective a bit to provide my clients and their students with the “best case scenario” comprehension instruction.

Yes me, changing my perspective – it’s a strange thing!

Here’s how:

I realize that we have to focus equally on strategy work and fix-up work. Struggling readers have little to no control over what they’re reading and rarely understand that they are struggling when they are! Good comprehension instruction will help students figure out “Wow! I am having trouble understanding this.” or “I really need to go back and do some work with the text because I’m not getting this.”

Identifying that I’m in trouble in the first step in fixing it. I am struck by the idea that much of comprehension instruction is “here’s what it looks like when it’s done right” and not nearly enough, “here’s how you know you’re in trouble and here are a few things to do about it:”. We have to teach student that metacognitive awareness as much as the metacognitive control.

Also, teaching students to use strategies is ONE APPROACH in teaching students to comprehend – we have to go much deeper than the rote memorization of strategies and spend more and more time in discussion and modeling of what good readers do when they are comprehending and when they aren’t.

I have to work with teachers to become loose and fluid during comprehension instruction: have a goal for the instruction in mind, but use the myriad opportunities that authentically arise during the course of reading expository or narrative text to teach how to identify comprehension problems and how to fix them up.

Now for those who know me and know my near-obsession with explicit instruction, I’m not backing off of the teach/model/practice/apply foundation of teaching, I’m just coming to realize that grappling authentically with text IS PART OF the guided practice and application portion of the explicit teaching plan – some of it cannot be planned, but excellent teachers are prepared to respond to what comes up over the course of instruction.

It’s messy, straggly and much life real-life reading – it doesn’t always happen seamlessly the first time through, even for the best readers.

What do YOU think? Leave a comment below about what your experience is as you teach comprehension, what works for you, what doesn’t and what it all looks like in the classroom.