Reading comprehension difficulties
There are three main reasons why children will fail to progress in reading comprehension:
- inefficient word-level reading skills
- poor oral language skills
- lack of print experience and/or negative attitudes to reading.
When trying to understand a particular child’s difficulty, teachers should ask themselves a simple set of questions, as follows. Is the child able to:
- read the text at the independent or easy level
- complete the task when listening but not when reading
- understand and follow the instructions given
- complete the task at a more simple level or with an easier text
- demonstrate a concept or strategy but not be able to explain it adequately
- complete part of the task but not be able to orchestrate a final full answer
- complete the task at a slower rate
- complete the task when provided with a model or supported step by step
- detect where an error has been made?
Note: ‘task’ is used in the above list to cover a wide range of possibilities, from understanding a simple set of instructions to understanding a complex theme running through a novel. It does not imply only comprehension exercises.
More specifically, in order to set up teaching targets, the following set of questions should be applied.
- Which part of the task is the child not able to complete accurately?
- What are the small steps needed to complete the task: can the child complete any of the steps?
- What vocabulary might the child need to complete the task: has the child got the appropriate vocabulary?
Teachers then need to match teaching strategies to identified areas for development. For example, a child who is failing to recognise another person’s feelings in the text could be supported by completing an emotions graph for the character. In this way children can be encouraged to acquire a range of known comprehension building strategies that they can then apply when they experience a failure in comprehension. This supports them in becoming strategic and intentional learners.