Monitoring Comprehension is Key

May 16, 2016

Does the following scenario sound familiar?

 

A child reads to you from a book decoding every word beautifully.  You ask him to pause for a minute and tell you his thinking about what he just read.  You notice a confused gaze that says, “I have no clue.” This response is quite common for early readers and/or struggling readers.  Therefore, one of the most important strategies we can teach our young readers is Monitoring Comprehension. Learning that understanding is the goal of real reading is foundational.   After decades of research in this area, one thing we know for sure is that we can and should explicitly teach young readers the strategies proficient readers use to make meaning.  We also know that teaching them to track their own thinking as they read is at the core of monitoring comprehension.  Considering this strategy in an everyday context helps me understand it better.  We monitor our gardens.  We monitor a sleeping baby.  We monitor our health or finances.  Monitoring simply means we are aware of the condition of, pay attention to, and are in charge of something or someone.  This is exactly what expert readers do when monitoring through text. 

 

When monitoring comprehension, good readers recognize the point when understanding breaks down.   This is the first step in deciding what to do to fix the problem.  In my experience, the metaphor of “driving a car” is one that children can imagine and seems to make sense to them.  Good drivers take charge of the wheel with an awareness of what they are doing and where they are going, paying attention to signs along the way.  Occasionally, all drivers get lost or hit a bump in the road.  When this happens, they figure out how to adjust and get back on track.   This could mean adjusting speed or tapping into a navigation app on the phone for directions.  Like driving, we can teach early readers how to stop along the way to check for understanding.  We can teach them how to recognize the signs when they have lost meaning.  And finally, we can teach them “fix-up strategies” such a rereading or slowing down to get back on the road to comprehension. 

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Training Spotlight

1st-3rd grade educators worked together to learn engaging ways to develop number sense. Students will develop fact fluency while playing games that use their number sense strategies. By learning their facts in this way, students are not merely memorizing, but rather learning to work with numbers flexibly.  “Low achievers are often low achievers not because they know less but because they don’t use numbers flexibly – they have been set on the wrong path, often from an early age, of trying to memorize methods instead of interacting with numbers flexibly.” Jo Boaler,  Stanford University, 2009

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