Reading-comprehension remains one of the most important language skills and is found to be weaker than expected at various grade levels. If we see findings of various national and international assessments world-wide, this skill has raised some concerns. Remediating this skill weakness is also a challenge as the skill is dependent on acquisition of various skills. A research article by Wallace (2007) explains various methodologies to enhance comprehension by writing to learn.
Unlike how some teachers treat writing and reading comprehension as separate skills, it is essential to see them as an integrated progressive process where writing contributes in developing comprehension skill and in strengthening students’ skills at summarizing, thinking in-depth from multiple perspectives, activating and organizing thoughts, and creating interest through meaningful social interactions. There are four different strategies which a teacher can use in the class to ensure stronger comprehension across grades:
- About/ Point: This is a summarizing strategy that helps students to distinguish between main ideas and the supporting details. Summarizing involves thinking and writing processes which cannot be successfully done without comprehending the text. Students are given a text passage and are asked to tabulate main points and idea of the passage. This activity forces students to think through the text, understand the main idea of the text and understand the additional/ supporting details.
- Cubing: This strategy encourages readers to view information from different perspectives and enhance their comprehension capacity. The way cube has six sides, students are expected to analyse a given text/ passage (which should have enough depth and content) from six different perspectives- compare, analyze, apply, evaluate and satirize. The students are given a cube having the six sides marked with one perspective each. They can be asked to roll the cube and write on the one that comes on top. This is a complex strategy and not all students would be able to contribute for each perspective. However, when the activity is carried out in a group, sharing of their perspectives can make it more enriching. It can be also encouraging.
- Four square graphic organizer: This organizer can assist students in organizing information into appropriate categories and in establishing connections between them. This is a little extensive approach to comprehension and can be applicable for higher standards. The teacher can decide appropriate categories to focus on- starting from as basic as text summary and overview followed by brainstorming to something as advanced as including personal reactions to the text, drawing and inferring conclusions and writing text to self.
- Read, Respond, Revisit, Discuss: This strategy integrates writing, reading, social interaction and through that it helps fosters comprehension and building of ideas. According to some educational researchers, students improve comprehension when they are asked to write about what they have read. This allows them to explore, clarify and think deeply about the ideas and concepts they encounter in reading. Helping them build their personal opinion about a certain text, allows them not only to comprehend the text, but helps in metacognition processes and developing one’s own ideation process.
Though not recognized strongly by teachers, the connection between reading and writing is a very well accepted integrated process by educators. Unless these are interlinked and employed for learning, the skill of reading and comprehension is going to stay as a relatively weak skill. Till reading is treated as a separate skill by the teachers, students’ attention span would stay limited to decoding letters, words or sentences. Internalizing the main idea and having a comprehensive analysis of longer texts require students to read, re-read and comprehend the main idea of the passage against the supportive details used for building it up. The four strategies mentioned (Wallace, 2007) can not only enhance comprehension capacity, but can actually help develop good writers and thinkers through routine classroom practices.
By Gayatri Vaidya – Educational Specialist
(Member of Large Scale Assessment Team)
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