Tuesday, February 17, 2015

4 Clues a Student Can't Read for Understanding

For the Love of Reading

Here are 4 easy tips to help determine if a reading level is appropriate for a child.

1) The Five Finger Rule

Perhaps the easiest one is what teachers refer to as the “five finger rule.” To use this rule, have the child read two pages from a reading novel (or the equivalent amount of text in a textbook or article) while holding up a hand with all five fingers stretched out. Ask the child to read silently, and tell him that whenever he encounters a word he doesn’t understand, then he should put down one finger. If he has made an “angry fist” by the time he has completed the two pages, then the book is too challenging and he will need to read at a lower level.
...Students who attempt to read material in which they don’t understand 10% of a combination of the vocabulary and sentence structure will not be able to comprehend the piece as a whole.
2) Pausing while Reading

Studies consistently show that students who attempt to read material in which they don’t understand 10% of a combination of the vocabulary and sentence structure will not be able to comprehend the piece as a whole. Now, this doesn’t mean that if you attempt to read a challenging piece of material outside of your discipline that you won’t comprehend the piece as a whole; your literacy skills are developed enough that you have sufficient reading strategies to allow you to see the confusing words as meaningful symbols. You can infer the intended meaning of the word from context. If your younger students are pausing regularly in their reading, not understanding vocabulary, or stumbling over words, then the comprehension of the entire piece has likely been lost. 

3) Finding Math Word Problems Challenging in 4th Grade

If you have a student struggling with word problems in math, the problem is likely a reading comprehension problem and not a math problem. Students first tend to encounter challenges with word problems in 4th grade. Unfortunately, what happens is that too few school retain 3rd grade students who have not displayed the level of literacy required to move onto the more complex sentence structures they encounter in 4th grade. As a result, these students who may display a degree of competency with language—they read without stumbling and can pronounce their words—can’t necessarily translate that literacy competency into actual comprehension of the word problem.

4) When AP and College Students are Making Poor Grades

If your higher level—high school and college—students are struggling with their honors and even AP classes, it may be that they simply don’t understand what they’re reading. Though these same students will tell you that they either a) don’t have homework, or b) have homework, but it’s only simple reading, they are giving you a key warning sign that they are finding comprehension of the dense textbooks challenging. While they may be able to read with fluency—without pausing or stumbling over words—they likely don’t have the strategies developed to tackle this difficult material in their textbooks. These same students will listen to their teacher and take notes, but that interaction with the material can’t replace their own engagement with the textbook for comprehension and—particularly for the AP students—for preparation for their exams.

If this sounds like your student, then it’s time to step back from enrichment tutoring and pull out the textbook. Your student won’t be too happy with you at first because he likely finds the textbook intimidating; it challenges his understanding of his own competence. However, once he’s learned to apply effective textbook reading strategies, you’ll have a taught him a skill that he’ll find forever useful.

 For reading comprehension strategies, check out Reading Rockets. This site is a wealth of resources, strategies, and information on helping struggling readers.

Photo Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/katerha/8435321969

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