WHAT IS COMPREHENSION?
Comprehension is the understanding and interpretation of text meaning. While reading entails a hierarchy of skills, comprehension is the ultimate objective. Readers do not understand text if they cannot read words fluently. The cognitive capacity of humans is limited. If students must allocate excessive thought to word analysis, little is left for comprehension. Thus, the first step toward developing comprehension skills is to teach students to decode well. Additionally, fluency and comprehension are improved when students have extensive vocabularies or if they receive direct vocabulary instruction for the words in the selection prior to reading.
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO ME: A CHILD’S PERSPECTIVE
When a child has a difficulty or frustration, they are usually unable to express what is causing this feeling. Instead they may say, “I hate this!”, “It’sstupid!”, or they may avoid the task all together. Those few children who are able to express themselves often tell me:
- I’m not sure what the most important parts of the book were.
- I couldn’t really create an image in my head of what was going on.
- I can’t remember what the story was about or who the important people were.
- I usually don’t understand what is happening in the story.
WHAT I SEE AT HOME: A PARENT’S PERSPECTIVE
Here are some clues for parents that a child may be having reading difficulties as a result of his or her comprehension:
- He/She can’t tell me what the characters looked like,or anything about where the story took place.
- When she tells me about the story, she tells me so many little details, that she never gets to the point.
- She can’t tell me why the characters acted the way they did in the story.
- He is not able to tell me the events of a story in order.
WHAT I SEE IN THE CLASSROOM: A TEACHER’S PERSPECTIVE
Here are some clues for teachers that a student may have difficulties as a result of his or her comprehension:
- He will often begin telling me about what happened in the story, but then get lost and tell me about unrelated events.
- She is often unable to predict what will happen next in a passage.
- He does not pick out the key facts from informational text.
- She cannot think of memories or people which might remind her of characters or events in a story.
- He cannot form mental images about the setting, characters and action in a story.
- She can tell you what happened at the end of the story, but cannot tell you the events that led up to the outcome.