Teaching reading comprehension
Gets boost from, gives boost to writing
Teaching reading comprehension is just one aspect of literacy that
falls to us who teach within the English-communications framework.
We also teach oral communication, writing, and a host of related
skills that allow people to learn.
To serve our students welland live to tell the talewe
- Make each skill we teach reinforce the others.
- Make each skill we teach help us achieve all our curricular
- Integrate the content we teach with the skills we teach.
The more you integrate the various content areas of your curriculum
through literacy coaching,
the better students' learning outcomes are likely to be.
On this Reading Comprehension thread, I'll deal with how reading
can be made to help writers and how writing can be made to help
Teaching reading comprehension is most effective when you teach
strategies for reading nonfiction prose. Expository prose is required
reading and required writing for everyone.
Students are less likely to fight you about learning skills for
reading they must use outside English class than they are about
reading Macbeth, for example.
If you can have students practice reading comprehension strategies
on topics they have to learn in your class, you can give
more instruction per class than if you were teaching reading
comprehension using material unrelated to your class.
You'll find good, short expository pieces suitable for middle and
high school students on ELA topics such as grammar, etymology, punctuation,
oral language, nonverbal communication, and usage.
Not only are those topics appropriate content for ELA, but there
are many examples to choose from. On a given topic, you can find
examples written at various levels of reading difficulty.
Writing skills develop reading skills
Teaching students to summarize
their reading (or having student teams discover
summarizing) helps students learn to look for and see how writing
Until students are competent writers, however, reading good writing
does little to develop their writing ability. But if students read
and write in the same genre, instruction
in writing improves reading.
When they read published nonfiction, readers who have learned the
thesis and support structure
will know, for example, where in to look for the thesis statement
and the topic sentences of body paragraphs.
They will also know how to pick out main
points from their supporting evidence.
Of course, being able to pick out ideas in reading is only a small
part of reading. You want students to remember ideas so they can
think about them and use them later in other contexts.
One way to encourage students to learn and reflect is by having
them write informally about what they read. A reading
journal may be just the tool.
Don't just take my word for it
In 2010, (two years after I first published this web page) the
Carnegie Corporation of New York released a report showing that
writing improves reading.
Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading
was written by Steve Graham and Michael Hebert of Vanderbilt University.
The 74-page report is available free in downloadable PDF format
In an interview, author Howard Margolis tells what writing teachers
need to know about reading
Vocabulary for reader-writers
Students need to develop their vocabularies in order to become
better readers and better writers. Techniques for teaching vocabulary
that produce high SAT scores are only minimally useful.
Teaching vocabulary within the context of teaching reading comprehension
with authentic texts is more likely to produce the reading-writing
vocabulary students will require in the workplace.
The following set of pages will help you teach vocabulary to teens
and adults within the context of the ELA classroom.