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Ideas and Recommendations from the Reading Comprehension Interest Group's First Year

By Heidi Schubert (Save the Children) and Patience Sowa (RTI International)

The Reading Comprehension Interest Group of the Global Reading Network has spent the last year discussing how to ensure children understand what they read. While initial group meetings focused on teaching reading comprehension strategies and the challenges with ensuring teachers learn to properly model these comprehension techniques, we touched on a range of topics including language factors, materials development, social-emotional learning connections, and assessment, which demonstrate how complex it can be to help children read with understanding.

Here is a sneak peak of some of our Year 1 Recommendations:

Teaching Reading Comprehension Strategies: 

  • Cbildren should be taught explicitly to use a wide variety of reading comprehension strategies (such as those described in this presentation), which should be applied to any new texts they read.  

Beyond Strategies -- Often Neglected Comprehension Factors:

  • Motivation: Teachers can give students a ‘reason to read’ by activating their background knowledge and choosing authentic texts which they will enjoy reading.
  • Social-emotional learning (SEL): Once teachers have internalized how to model reading comprehension strategies, the shift to focusing on SEL through stories is much easier. 

Designing Reading Comprehension Programs:

  • Integrating writing with reading lessons can also help to reinforce reading comprehension skills.
  • Comprehension skills should be developed alongside letter knowledge, phonological awareness, vocabulary, and fluency. To ensure time to focus on reading comprehension, NGOs must collaborate with governments to allocate more time for reading instruction each day and/or adapt the curriculum to allow for teaching of each core literacy component.

Teacher Training and Coaching:

  • Programs must ensure enough time during training for teachers, trainers, and coaches to help them develop and internalize instructional best practices. This includes time to practice how to model:
    • (1) Think alouds
    • (2) Interactive read alouds, and
    • (3) Giving children time to practice with feedback
  • Teachers should be trained in reading and writing instruction for all languages they will teach. Trainings should include the pedagogical vocabulary that will be needed for teaching academic content in relevant local languages.

Textbooks and Supplementary Reading Materials:

  • Ensure teachers’ guides, textbooks, and supplementary readers have meaningful content and pose questions at different levels of Bloom’s taxonomy so that they can be used to elicit deeper comprehension among students. This is important for all grade levels, but particularly so for children in the upper primary grades.

Assessment:

  • The ideal classroom observation forms should have a combination of quantitative and qualitative items that could be used both for project monitoring and for coaching.  The tools should explicitly consider specific reading comprehension and linguistic instructional strategies.
  • Formative assessment: Currently, there is a lack of reliable and valid measurement tools for some of the harder to measure factors in reading comprehension (motivation, self-efficacy, background knowledge, etc.) in LMICs. Therefore, building formative assessment of these areas into lesson plans, curricula, teacher training modules, and coaching expectations is essential.  See notes from our July meeting to find links to tools used in the U.S.
  • Develop and build into new project proposals quantitative assessment tools to measure improvements in students’ vocabulary and writing – as both contribute to comprehension.

Find the full list of recommendations here. Presentation materials, along with other blogs and resources links, are available here. To suggest a topic or speaker—or to join the group—send an email to hschubert@savechildren.org.