Teach Reading Explicitly


Reading is complex and unnatural. The ability to read is not innate and requires systematic and explicit teaching. It is not something that can be left to chance. Unlike oral language skills, reading proficiency will not just naturally develop. We can’t hope that somehow students will just ‘get it’.  If students aren’t given direct reading instruction and provided strategies, there is little chance they will become good readers. Teachers need to be mindful of the texts and stories we choose to use in class. We sometimes take for granted the ability to read. We forget that for some students, reading (something that comes so naturally to us) can be a real struggle for them. It can cause serious anxiety and stress. Students who struggle with reading will often shut down when the text is too difficult and beyond their level of comprehension. They will become defiant or say that reading is boring. They will look for every excuse not to engage with the text. To ensure this doesn’t happen, we have to provide our students with the necessary skills. Some simple reading competencies we can teach students are:

1) Skimming – the ability to get a broad overview of what a text is about as quickly as possible
2) Scanning – the ability to pick out key information from a text
3) Zooming – the ability to focus on the meanings of individual words and phrases and their relevance to a text

To become a skilled reader, students need to master the following:

A) Word Recognition

Phonological awareness (recognizing chunks of words – the syllables and phonemes from which words are constructed)
Decoding (the process of turning symbols into sounds)
Sight recognition of familiar words

B) Language Comprehension

Background knowledge (facts/concepts in text which writers assume readers will know)
Vocabulary (especially academic and subject-specific words)
Language structures (understanding of grammar, syntax, semantics etc.)
Verbal reasoning (recognizing and understanding inferences, metaphors etc.)
Genre knowledge (understanding of print and genre conventions)

Comprehension Websites (Click on the link)

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