Reading Comprehension Strategy with NLP
May 9th, 2013 by Tony Barlow
WHAT IS READING COMPREHENSION ?
Understanding what you are reading or 'reading comprehension' is another skill that some students pick up and others don't.
Schools do a pretty good job in the early stages of learning to read by teaching the students to recognize the sounds of the letters but how to comprehend / understand what they are reading is not taught.
Understanding what you are reading and answering questions on it is something that is in constant use throughout your school life and is a crucial skill from early on.
It is assumed that if the student is recognizing and able to read the words that they can understand / comprehend what they are reading. This is not the case.
READING COMPREHENSION HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH RECOGNIZING WORDS !
Let me make a clear separation between recognizing a word and understanding the meaning of a word. These are two different things. Using NLP to look inside the thought process tells us this.
Recognizing a word
Being able to read a word simply means that when you see the word on the page the sound of the word pops into your mind. When you see the word 'scissors' its associated neurologically to the sound 'scissors'.
Understanding the meaning of a word
Understanding the meaning of a word is something different. If you understand the meaning of the word scissors, in addition to the sound of the word popping into your mind you will also have some kind of mental representation of what 'scissors' actually are like a picture in your mind of some actual scissors.
Let's do an experiment. Notice what pops into your mind when you read the following word:
A picture of a banana just popped up in your mind right ? or perhaps a taste, smell, sound of cutting into a banana.
How about 'happy' (An image of happy events, happy people, a feeling of happiness pops into your mind)
This is how you understand words on a page they are associated to some kind of mental representation (Picture, sound, feeling, taste or smell) inside your mind.
Try this word 'pteridophyte'. Chances are nothing popped up into your mind, you probably don't understand the meaning of this word.
THE 2 MAIN REASONS STUDENTS STRUGGLE WITH READING COMPREHENSION
In most educational systems (all that I have come across) reading comprehension is not taught, it is just assumed that it will occur naturally.
Some students do o.k. when there are pictures in the book to look at, but in later grades the pictures go away and struggles start to happen.
Reason #1 - The student is just 'saying the words' to themselves while reading and not making any kind of 'mental movie' of what they are reading. When you compare this to a student with excellent comprehension skills they always create a vivid 'mental movie' of the reading material.
Reason #2 - The student is missing words in their vocabulary. So when they are reading, even if they have been taught to make a 'mental movie'. There are big gaps in the movie because some of the words do not bring up any associated experience inside their mind. In this case I teach them a the vocabulary strategy and build up the database of words that they know.
HOW TO TEACH AN EFFECTIVE READING COMPREHENSION STRATEGY
To teach students how to make a 'mental movie' of what they are reading I will generally do the following.
I will first read something to the student and have them sit there with their eyes closed and instruct them in how to make a mental movie.
For example I might read the first line of a text "Most people know what a giraffe looks like" (Imagine you are in a cinema and up on the screen you can see a giraffe)
"Giraffes eat treetop leaves" (Imagine the giraffe in the movie eating treetop leaves, hear the munching sound, see the giraffe eating etc)
I would go into more detail as to exactly how I want them to make the movie but this is the basic strategy. When we come to a word that the student doesn't recognize I teach them the meaning using the vocabulary strategy.
I encourage the student to put pictures, sounds, feelings, tastes and smells into the movie. Often I will have them imagine whats happening in the text, as if its actually happening to them. I'll have them go 'inside' the movie and have an experience.
Students love this strategy (This is what all people who love to read do by the way) and find it a lot more fun than just saying the words to themselves.
Within a short time they are understanding and are able to answer questions on what they are reading quite easily.
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