Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Which came first, comprehension or fluency?

The way in which I comprehend and interpret text may be quite different from that of my peers. Thompkin's discusses the differences in comprehension by noting the 'Reader Factors.' The overall goal of literacy instruction is to build comprehension - and in building comprehension, understanding the other elements of literature begin to fall into place. However, in our classroom discussions, we were asked to determine which element came first in development: comprehension or fluency? 

It is quite apparent that without adequate fluency, comprehension can not flourish. Thompkin's explains fluency relates to comprehension, "Children have adequate cognitive resources available to understand what they are reading when they read quickly, expressively, and with little effort," pg 200. In my own placement, my coordinating teacher emphasises with all her students the importance of fluency. In guided reading groups, the students chorally read a given text, and their peers help students pronounce and understand any unfamiliar words. This builds the student's fluency as well as their ability to understand the text and make inferences, conclusions , and personal connections to the text. 

Students who are struggling to read, are (more often than not) lacking the ability to make personal text to self, text to text and text to world connections. They may come across a slew of unfamiliar words, and without proper context clues - be unable to comprehend the material. This sequence of 'passing over' unfamiliar words or passages of the text disables the student to fully comprehend the material before them. 

To facilitate all students success in reading comprehension, my CT engages the students in various comprehension strategies. First, the students predict what will occur in the story - either through illustrations, cover analysis of the book, or referencing previous readings. This facilitates comprehension by setting a purpose for reading and engages the students in the reading experience (pg 203 Thompkins). While engaging in predicting, the students are also visualizing, connecting and questioning the text for further clues to help them understand the text. The students are:
  • Making mental images to remember the text 
  • Relating their prior knowledge to the text
  • Asking questions, clarifying confusions within the text and making inferences (Thompkins pg 203) 
By activating the above strategies, students are better equipped to identify the main ideas of the text. This is especially important for students are are English as a Second Language Learners, to not only build community among students (sharing information and engaging in discussions), but also build readers confidence in reading by giving them a foundation to build meaning of the text from. Students with various learning abilities can also benefit from these scaffolding strategies. Students can generate lists of important facts, ideas or questions they may have about the text. By reviewing these strategies with students, they can then modify and apply these strategies to their future encounters with text in the various subject matters (for science, and social studies - identifying key points, supporting facts... ect). 

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