Comprehension in the Primary Classroom: A Reflection of Best Practices
by Chase Young
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Frederick Durrenmatt once said, “human life is beyond comprehension.” Although this may be true about life, it is untrue about reading. Reading comprehension begins far before a child is school aged. Reading aloud to young children greatly increases their comprehension strategies, and instills literate concepts within the minds of pre-readers.  Not all students carry this valuable experience in their first backpacks, however it can be explicitly taught using simple and effective methods. Students should be guided through pre-, during, and post-reading strategies using well organized texts, prior knowledge, and exhibit an attention to task through a variety of methods (Laureate Education, 2001). 

The most important insight into reading comprehension may be explained by the following metaphor. The text must be broken before the light of meaning can clearly shine through cracks. The breaking of the text begins before the book is opened. The task must be presented, predictions must be made in order to give a purpose of confirming or rejecting them, and questions should be generated by the students and for the students. An effective strategy is the Directed Reading-Thinking Activity (DR-TA). The modeling of the strategy can be done with a Directed Listening-Thinking Activity (DL-TA). The need for constant metacognition inspired by tasks presented by the teacher is a powerful tool to internalize reading comprehension in a young learner (Laureate Education, 2001). 

The next important insight came in the form of a teacher responsibility. Modeling good reading behaviors is an extremely important task for the teacher. Constantly thinking aloud, and utilizing the strategies that need to be evident in young readers will greatly increase their ability to comprehend text and mimic proficient reading (Tompkins, 2006). In light of the new insights, teaching can include some form an introduction that includes pre-reading strategies, a task for students during their reading, and a time for reflection and synthesis after the reading is complete. 

Anticipation of a potential problematic and recurring situations often helps teachers prepare for the disaster, and use the anticipated issue to generate a plan of action. Integrating comprehension strategies into all literate processes  in the classroom may be an untamable ambition. However, most tasks should already include the necessary steps to promote comprehension when reading. Carefully sneaking in DR-TA’s, SQ3R, KWL’s, and other researched strategies may be time consuming and possibly erroneous in some activities. The goal is constant monitoring of comprehension; therefore, every opportunity should include a comprehension friendly model (Laureate Education, 2001). 

References

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2001). Strategies for literacy instruction, part 2 [Educational video]. Los Angeles: Author.

Tompkins, G. E. (2006). Literacy for the 21st century: A balanced approach (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.



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