Chapter 25: Map it out!
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Comprehension means understanding. When a child says each word of a sentence aloud while reading, it can seem as if she has mastered reading at that level. But reading each individual word is not enough. She needs to understand what the whole sentence means. And she needs to know how that sentence adds information about the whole story she is reading.
The struggling reader
Comprehension can be especially difficult for the struggling reader. Sometimes a child works so hard at reading and pronouncing each word as she makes her way through a sentence that it’s hard for her to even remember all the words she has read. In the struggle to say each word, the meaning of the sentence as a whole can be completely lost.
There are ways that you, as a parent, can help your struggling reader master comprehension skills. Here are a few things to try the next time you are reading with your child. You can start by using these techniques when you are reading a story to her. It will introduce her to the idea that each sentence and paragraph in a story adds details that are important to know. Later, when she is practicing reading aloud to you, you can use the same techniques to further improve her comprehension skills.
- Pinpoint the problem – While reading, point out difficult words or words you’re pretty sure your child doesn’t know yet. Ask her if she can guess what they mean by listening to the other words in the sentence. Reread the sentence – or even the whole paragraph – if she’s having trouble making a guess. If she’s right, pour on the praise! If not, then simply give her the correct answer and move on.
- Bring in a pinch hitter – If your child understands the meaning of a tricky word but still seems to struggle with understanding the whole sentence it is in, try substituting a simpler word. For example, turn “We appreciated the gift” into “We liked the gift.”
- Make a map – Have your child create a “story map” as you read a story together. After reading the first page or two, ask her to draw a little picture that shows what has happened in the story so far. Every few pages – or whenever one scene ends and a new one begins – stop and let her add another picture to her map. She can even use a dotted line and arrows that lead from one scene to the next – just like on a treasure map!
- Sum it up – While you’re reading together, stop from time to time and ask your child to summarize what she has just read. Depending on her age and reading level, you can ask her to summarize one sentence, one paragraph or a whole page. If she is missing crucial information, say something like, “Hmm. I think we missed something.” Then, reread the section with the missing information, and see if she picks up the missing ideas the second time through.
- In last night’s episode … – A bedtime story makes a great opportunity to work on summarizing. If the two of you are reading a chapter book, before you start the next section each evening, ask your child to tell you what has happened in the story so far.
- Predict the future – Another technique that most kids really love is asking them to predict what will happen next. They are usually excited to talk about what they think is going to happen and just as excited to keep reading to see if they’re right.