Teaching Reading Comprehension

Instructors want to produce students who can use reading strategies in order to maximize their comprehension of text, identify relevant as well as non-relevant information, and tolerate less than word-by-word comprehension. In order to accomplish this goal, instructors should concentrate on the process of reading and not on its product. Instructors should raise students' awareness of reading as a skill requiring active engagement and explicitly teaching reading strategies. Thus, they will help students develop the ability as well as the confidence to handle communication situations they may encounter outside the classroom.

Reading is an interactive process going on between the reader and the text, leading to comprehension. The text presents letters, words, sentences and paragraphs encoding meaning and the reader uses knowledge, skills and strategies to determine what that meaning is. Reading as an activity has a purpose. The purpose or purposes for reading guide a person's selection of texts. The purpose for reading and the type of text, in turn, determine the specific knowledge, skills and strategies to be applied by readers in order to achieve comprehension.

Thus, reading comprehension is much more than decoding. Reading comprehension is a result of the reader's knowledge of which skills and strategies are appropriate for the type of text and the understanding of how to apply them and accomplish the reading purpose.

The appropriate approach to reading comprehension is also determined by the purpose for reading. The traditional approach to teaching reading views learning to read in a language as a means of accessing the literature written in that language. In this approach, reading materials for lower level learners are only sentences and paragraphs generated by instructors and textbook writers. The authentic materials being read are only the works of great authors, representing "higher" forms of culture and they are reserved for upper level students because they have the language skills they need to read them.

The communicative approach to language teaching, however, provides different understanding of the role of reading as well as the types of text that can be used in instruction. The only way to develop communicative competence is by reading everyday materials, including train schedules, newspaper articles, and travel and tourism Web sites. As a result, instruction in reading and reading practices have become essential parts of language teaching at every level.

Instruction in reading strategies is an integral part of the use of reading activities when teaching a language. Instructors should teach students how to use strategies before, during and after reading in order to help them become effective readers. They should ask students to think and talk about the way they read in their native language in order to develop their awareness of the reading process and reading strategies. Instructors should also give students some choice of reading material in order to encourage them to read to learn.

In class, instructors should show students strategies that work best for the reading purpose and type of text and explain to them how and why they should use the strategies. In addition to practicing reading strategies in class, they should also be asked to practice them outside of class in their reading assignments. Instructors should encourage students to be conscious of what they are doing while completing reading assignments. Students should also be encouraged to evaluate their comprehension and self-report their use of strategies.

Instructors should build comprehension checks into reading assignments both in class and outside of class and periodically review how and when particular strategies should be used. The development of reading skills and the use of reading strategies should be encouraged by the use of the target language when the instructor conveys instructions and course-related information in written form, such as office hours, homework assignments and test content.

To help students develop communicative competence in reading, instructors must choose reading activities that resemble real-life reading tasks involving meaningful communication. Therefore, reading activities must be authentic in three ways. The reading material should be authentic and the kind of material that students will need and want to be able to read when studying abroad, traveling or using the language in other contexts outside the classroom. The reading purpose must also be authentic in order for students to read for reasons that make sense and have relevance to them. The reading approach must be authentic and students should read a text in a way that matches the reading purpose, the type of text and the way people normally read.

Teaching Reading Comprehension: Selected full-text books and articles

Reading with Meaning: Teaching Comprehension in the Primary Grades
Debbie Miller.
Stenhouse Publishers, 2002
Reading Comprehensive Instruction for Secondary Students: Challenges for Struggling Students and Teachers
Mastropieri, Margo A.; Scruggs, Thomas E.; Graetz, Janet E.
Learning Disability Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 2, Spring 2003
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Motivating Reading Comprehension: Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction
John T. Guthrie; Allan Wigfield; Kathleen C. Perencevich.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004
Beginning Reading: A Balanced Approach to Reading Instruction in the First Three Years
Yola Center.
Allen & Unwin, 2005
Reading History: Strategies to Improve Comprehension and Connections in Social Studies Classes
Janet Allen; Christine Landaker.
Oxford University Press, 2004
Handbook of Reading Research
P. David Pearson.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 20 "Research on Teaching Reading Comprehension"
Research-Based Methods of Reading Instruction for English Language Learners, Grades K-4
Sylvia Linan-Thompson; Sharon Vaughn.
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2007
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Comprehension"
Explicit Reading Comprehension Instruction in Elementary Classrooms: Teacher Use of Reading Comprehension Strategies
Ness, Molly.
Journal of Research in Childhood Education, Vol. 25, No. 1, January-March 2011
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Increasing Reading Comprehension through the Explicit Teaching of Reading Strategies: Is There a Difference among the Genders?
Prado, Ludivina; Plourde, Lee A.
Reading Improvement, Vol. 48, No. 1, Spring 2011
Using Repeated Reading to Improve Reading Speed and Comprehension in Students with Visual Impairments
Savaiano, Mackenzie E.; Hatton, Deborah D.
Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, Vol. 107, No. 2, March-April 2013
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
A Book for Two: Explicitly Taught Reading Comprehension Strategies Paired with Peer Tutoring Can Boost Reading Skills for Elementary School Students
Van Keer, Hilde; Vanderlinde, Ruben.
Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 94, No. 8, May 2013
Using Story-Grammar Instruction and Picture Books to Increase Reading Comprehension
Bui, Yvonne Nguyen.
Academic Exchange Quarterly, Vol. 6, No. 2, Summer 2002
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Fostering the Development of Vocabulary Knowledge and Reading Comprehension Though Contextually-Based Multiple Meaning Vocabulary Instruction
Nelson, J. Ron; Stage, Scott A.
Education & Treatment of Children, Vol. 30, No. 1, February 2007
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
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