Reading is something that many students love throughout their time in school and after they finish school. Reading is a great way to help keep your mind engaged and continue learning new things, even after you have completed school. It is essential to be able to comprehend what you are reading so you are better able to absorb and process the information. Reading comprehension is a skill that many students struggle with, so we hope that in this article, we can give you some tips and tricks to help yourself or your students understand the importance of reading comprehension and find some strategies to improve their reading comprehension.
What is Reading Comprehension, and Why is It Important?
Reading comprehension is the ability to read the text and understand what information the text is trying to convey to you. If the text you are reading is trying to teach you something, good reading comprehension would be being able to reteach the information to someone else after you finish reading the text.
Understanding what you read will make the material that you are reading much more helpful for you as you progress through your schooling. Unfortunately, a large amount of teaching and learning is based in large part on the ability to comprehend what you are reading, so falling behind in your reading comprehension abilities can really harm your ability to keep up with your schoolwork.
If you find yourself reading materials and then not saying anything about what you just read, you may be reading without comprehending what you are reading. This is a significant problem since reading the words that are written on a page and knowing what they mean is only the first step towards being good at reading.
What are the Five Reading Comprehension Strategies?
There are other reading comprehension strategies out there, but these are the five main reading comprehension strategies that most others are based around.
Reading to answer questions.
One way to help students improve their reading comprehension in elementary, middle, or high school is by having them read to answer specific questions. Reading to answer questions forces the reader to think about their reading and recall some information from the text that they were reading. Having students read the questions before they start reading the text is a great way to have them start thinking about the material before they even start reading the first sentence.
Utilizing context clues to predict
Understanding what topic the reading is about and using that to help guide how you think about the reading is a great skill to develop. This allows readers to utilize context clues surrounding the reading, such as the cover of the book or the other assignments that go along with the reading, to help guide them in their comprehension of the material.
Visualizing what you are reading
Creating a visual representation of the information you are reading is a great way to help your brain comprehend the material. Since each person thinks about information slightly differently, it can be super helpful for each person reading a text to create their own visual graphic to help them process the material covered. Visualizing what you are reading could take the form of something like a chart or diagram, but this is a great place to get creative and add in projects to help students improve their reading comprehension abilities.
Identifying the main ideas or themes
Being able to state what the main themes or ideas are after reading any material is a great way to immediately start processing the information. Since it can be super easy to let details slip your mind, trying to focus on only the main themes covered in the reading can frequently make the task of comprehending all of what you are reading much more manageable.
Summarizing your reading
Having someone verbally or in written form summarize the reading into their own words after they finish reading is a great way to help students process the material. Being able to understand something in one set of words and think about it enough to be able to restate it in totally new words is a skill that takes a lot of practice. This is a great skill to work into reading lessons for any age group since it is a skill that can always be improved upon.
What Causes Reading Comprehension Problems?
Reading comprehension problems can be caused by various things, and it can often be hard to pinpoint exactly why students are struggling with reading comprehension. Some of the main reasons students may struggle with reading comprehension are home-life related or simply a lack of interest or focus.
If a student’s home life is chaotic or unable to receive the care they need or dedicate much time to school, their reading comprehension ability can suffer. Like with most skills at school, kids from different socio-economic backgrounds have different experiences developing academic skills. Unfortunately, there are still significant issues with access to education and educational materials that will take time to work through. Still, lack of time or resources to dedicate to developing one’s reading comprehension skills is a huge reason why students may fall behind.
Another big reason students may start to fall behind in their reading comprehension skills is their lack of motivation or focus. For some students, if they don’t feel invested in the material, they are unlikely to want to put in the time to practice skills such as reading comprehension. For other students, learning difficulties can greatly impact their ability to comprehend reading materials at a grade level that is expected of them or to focus for a long enough amount of time to complete the reading.
One thing to note about judging a student’s reading comprehension ability in comparison to their classmates is that this is a skill that tends to be evaluated by a standardized test of some sort. While there isn’t a great answer as to how to get rid of standardized tests as a means of comparing students, it is worth noting that some students struggle more with this style of test-taking, and that may be why they appear to be struggling with skills such as reading comprehension.
What Are Some Activities to Improve Reading Comprehension?
Although there are various activities that you can utilize in a classroom to help your students improve their reading comprehension, many of these activities revolve around the idea of creating a representation of the information you are asking them to comprehend. For many students, simply reading information is not enough for them to be able to comprehend it.
Each person learns differently and processes information differently, so allowing students to process the material you are asking them to read in their own way can lead to much better reading comprehension. These activities are also great for students who may be really good at reading but have poor comprehension skills of the material that they have read.
The best activity is to have students create some visual representation of the material they have just read. Creating a visual representation could mean taking notes, filling in a chart, or making a timeline or flow-chart to help them process and understand the information. Some students may find that processing the information verbally is better than visually for them, so they could create a poem to perform or do a film or even a podcast.
This activity can be completely personalized to different learning styles. This means that you could utilize this style of activity for a large classroom of students and have each student use a different method that works best for them to help them comprehend the reading better. Making sure that activities work for all major learning styles is a great way to help keep kids engaged, especially when it can be something that can sound super dry and boring, such as working on reading comprehension.
3 Strategies to Improve Reading Comprehension
Here are some great strategies to incorporate into your schoolwork or your student’s school work that can help to develop reading comprehension skills. There are many more strategies that you can use to help improve reading comprehension, but these are the big three skills. Many other skills to help improve reading comprehension fall under one of these more extensive, umbrella-like skills.
Read, read, and read some more.
As simple as it sounds, reading more is the best way to help improve your reading comprehension. This doesn’t mean that all of the reading you do or your students should focus on comprehension or learning specific information. Just getting students reading can help them to start making the connections that they need to in order to improve their skills.
This reading could be a fun reading book or an exhibit at a museum. It can be anything that a student reads that allows them to engage with the text in some capacity. Encouraging students to read outside of the assigned classroom reading is a great way to give them the tools to start working on their reading comprehension skills independently.
Ask lots of questions.
Encouraging students to ask questions when they don’t understand something or are unable to comprehend something is a great way to create a growth mindset. Asking questions is a neat way to stimulate conversations that can help some students process the information they are reading and ultimately lead to better reading comprehension.
Creating a culture of asking questions and pushing students to explore their readings through conversations can also make classwork and classroom assignments feel less like school and can even help get all students engaged. Reading comprehension is a skill that can be taught, but it is also a skill that can take time to develop, so giving students the space to ask questions and be confused can be really beneficial in helping them develop that skill.
Understand what type of learner you are
Understanding how you learn best or how your students learn best is key to improving reading comprehension skills. Many of the activities that we have suggested in this article work best for either kinesthetic, auditory, or visual learners, so giving students a choice of how best to process information can help them take control of their learning and encourage them to improve their reading comprehension skills.
Learning what style of learner you are or learning how to teach to various learning styles, depending on if you are a student or teacher, is one of the best things you can do to help any student develop any skill. Since all of our minds process information differently, it is important to find the right way to help each student interpret what is going on.
Wrapping Things Up: Strategies to Improve Reading Comprehension
There are tons of ways that you can help students improve their reading comprehension ability, but the key is to find the right strategy and match it to the right person. Every person is different and every person processes information differently based on their brain chemistry and life experiences. This means that there is no one approach that will work to help every student improve their reading comprehension. This article should give you a large enough variety of ways to improve your reading comprehension abilities that you can find something that works for everyone.