One of the metaphors that I often use when I’m training is that of a toolbox. And as a result we often talk about the tools that go in your teaching toolbox.
This idea of toolbox extends to the work that you do with your learners as well. As an educator you should be helping your learners develop the right tools they need for their toolbox. An educator’s toolbox has teaching tools. A learner’s toolbox needs to have learning tools.
Some of the best tools you can help your learners with are the tools they need to read more effectively. These are sometimes called reading comprehension strategies.
So… what we should all be trying to create in each learner is a Great Comprehender [queue Freddy Mercury singing…]
There’s nothing mysterious about comprehension strategies (if you’re a good reader) and they’re totally teachable (if you have learners who aren’t good readers).
Let’s look at a couple of different adult readers:
- Poor Comprehender – Step 1: John struggles with reading material for his course. His only strategy when reading new material is to start at the top. When he gets to the bottom he doesn’t understand what he’s read. So he starts again and keeps going top to bottom. In terms of the Reading Progressions that we use in the adult sector, he’s step 1.
- Good Comprehender – Step 3 or 4: Mary has a few more clues about what’s she’s doing when she’s reading. She knows what to do when her understanding starts to break down. For example, she’ll put her hand up and ask the tutor a question. Also, when she reads she generally has a question in her mind about what she’s reading. Sometimes this is a specific question, and at other times it just a sense of “Am I understanding?” running in the back of her mind. In terms of the Reading Progressions, Mary is likely to be a step 3 or 4.
- Great Comprehender – Step 6: Sam is really clued up about his own learning and reading. He thinks a lot about what he’s reading and actively and self consciously uses a wide range of strategies including just reading the first word of every sentence, predicting what’s coming next in the text, and googling new or difficult words. Sam also regularly draws on his knowledge about the world, both from his experience and other things he’s read. John’s most likely a step 5 or 6 on the Reading Progressions.
More on this shortly…
[hat tip: Damon Whitten for inspiration on this]