Saturday, September 16, 2017

4 Meaningful Ways to Practice Reading Comprehension

Reading can be such a wonderful experience and it's so important that students see reading for what it is.  In real life, we read for many reasons.  We read for enjoyment, we read for information, and sometimes we read when we don't want to because it's necessary.  However, we never read to earn points and win prizes. 

The intrinsic motivation to read is very important.  If the desire to read doesn't exist apart from earning points, learners lose interest and might have difficulty wanting to read later in their educational careers and outside of education. When a love for reading isn't developed early, it's difficult to find that love later in life. 

So, how do we help students learn to love reading? I think the first thing that we have to do is find ways to help students reflect on their reading in ways that are relevant and meaningful to them.  Reading a book and then taking a test does not necessarily mean that a student is reflecting and truly comprehending what was read.  It means that they have a good memory and can remember what they read shortly after doing so.

Because Genius Hour was a priority in my classroom, my students were responsible for documenting their own learning each day.  In doing so, I realized that very few of them knew what real reading comprehension actually looked like.  I would often see students visit a website, read the information, and then use that information to do something while working on their Genius Hour project.  When they were documenting their learning, very few of them would document that part of the process under ELAR.  I once asked a student why they didn't document that as learning and practicing reading comprehension.  Their response? "I didn't read something and then take a test, I read it and did what it said."  We then had a conversation about what reading comprehension really is.  Reading comprehension is simply reading something and truly understanding what was read.  When you can take that information and actually do something with it, you are practicing application.  Unfortunately, many classrooms are giving students a false understanding of reading comprehension by using point systems to represent "understanding" what was read. 

In order to create reflective readers, it's important that we explore different options and give students opportunities to show their understanding in a variety of ways.  Here are five meaningful ways for students to practice reading comprehension...

BookSnaps - Snapchat is the most popular app used by the generation of learners that we have in our classrooms right now.  It's easy to generalize and assume that our students are using this app to send inappropriate images, messages, and videos that will disappear.  The reality is that most kids like it because it's lots of fun and allows them to share things quickly without including a lot of words. 

BookSnaps give students an opportunity to use this tool to reflect on and share what they are reading.  They can instantly share their learning and make it visible for the world to see.  Tara Martin developed this idea and shares how to create a BookSnap in this video.

You can read more about BookSnaps here or check out #BookSnaps on Twitter.  This is such an easy way to make reading comprehension relevant and meaningful for today's learners and it's lots of fun too!

Augmented Reality Book Reviews  - Augmented reality is such a great way for students to share book reviews. Similar to QR codes, augmented reality allows for something to be scanned with a mobile device to reveal more information.  That information can be delivered as a photo or a video.  This technology gives learners an opportunity to "attach" book reviews to the covers of books so that other readers can access that information before choosing the book. 

Book reviews are very personal and require reflection.  Knowing what their peers thought about a specific book can help engage and create curiosity when books are being chosen.  Augmented reality allows them to use their phones or iPads to grab these reviews easily and quickly.  You can read more about how to create augmented book reviews here

Book Talks - Simply talking about a book and what they have read give students the opportunity to reflect and understand.  However,  it's often difficult to use valuable class time to just sit around and chat about what students are reading.  FlipGrid is a tool that allows students to respond and collaborate using video.  Using this tool, you can post specific questions about a book that your class is reading together.  You can also ask questions and allow them to respond regarding whatever book they are reading individually.  Students can also share videos as a way to recommend a book to their peers.  FlipGrid gives learners an opportunity to talk about what they are reading and respond to what other learners have shared.  In doing so, a culture of collaboration will begin to develop and student voice will become a priority.  Read about how one school used book talks on FlipGrid to connect globally with the 30-Second Book Talk Challenge

Comic Creation - Creativity is an important part of learning and asking students to create based on what they have learned allows them to process in order to understand.  Using tools like Pixton and Strip Designer, students can create a comic strip to summarize the book or story that was read.  They can design characters and settings that represent the mental images that they saw while reading and include the parts of the plot that they feel were most important.  After creating the comics, students should share them out with other students and maybe even the world.  It would be fun to create comics based on a novel study and then compare and contrast those comics to realize the importance of different perspectives.

There are so many other ways that students can practice reading comprehension.  These are just a few ideas that will make learning and understanding fun and meaningful for your students.  Take time to talk to your students about what comprehension is and why it is important.  Help them really grasp the why behind reading comprehension and then watch as they begin to recognize real opportunities to practice the skill in everyday situations.


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