Deepening text understanding


Reading comprehension improves the more that readers work with the text. For example, we often ask readers to develop summary statements of paragraphs or topics that they've read. That "summarizing" activity is an example of working with text in a manner that's different from just "reading."

In the National Academy of Science's report on Improving Adult Literacy Instruction, the competing challenge is explained that learners are asked to complete two tasks: learning a comprehension strategy or decoding strategy or develop fluency and also to develop a deeper understanding of the text.

How do you balance those challenges for your learners? I can imagine that multiple readings of the same text could be completed with a shift in purposes for each reading. What's your sense of how such an approach works? Are you explicit in your instruction to the learners as they approach a new text or apply a new comprehension (or other reading component) strategy?

My own experience is that I may reread text several times to get the gestalt. That approach though takes time and usually the instructional time is so limited. We want to be efficient. Maybe during this summer time programming, you can share approaches that you found effective or didn't work quite as well as intended.

Kind regards,
Reading and writing COP moderator


Hi, In an earlier comment, the discussion focused on strategies to help learners engage with the textual material with the intent of their developing a deeper understanding and greater comprehension.

In the National Research Council's summary document Supporting Learning and Motivation (July 2012), the focus was on improving literacy instruction.  Keeping with the theme of techniques to improve comprehension, the text suggested that instructors encourage learners to construct ideas from multiple viewpoints and different perspectives. 

The thought was that learners would improve their understanding and cognitive flexibility by using the concepts in multiple contexts. "When interventions help learners interconnect facts, rules, skills, procedures, plans, and deep conceptual principles, their cognitive flexibility increases" and transfer improves.

One example technique offered was encouraging readers to take the perspective of one of the story's characters. That sounds doable for various narratives and plays. 

Does that approach or something similar help your learners engage with the text? Engage with each other? How about encouraging learners to take a position and even debate viewpoints?

And then how do you handle expository texts? Poetry?

Probably wise to have several techniques for engaging learners, especially in heterogeneous groupings.

Do you use this or similar approaches? What seems to be the critical elements for engaging learners or benefiting from the experience? Again, we always have to look for practices that make the best use of the limited time that's available. 

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Reading and writing COP moderator