Comprehension Activity Ideas

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In her video lecture on Including Student with Disabilities through Enhancing Reading Comprehension, Professor Sharon Vaughn discusses some strategies her research has shown to be effective for developing comprehension.

She identifies 4 key components of an effective intervention for older students: Word study (i.e., systematic instruction in decoding), Fluency with text (focusing on key words and main ideas), Stretch text (content focused – usually from other subject areas – that is usually outside the student’s current independent reading ability), Self-regulation and Essential words (learning words essential to understanding text – usually from other subject areas).

Vaughan discussed some very useful strategies that could easily be applied to any reading activity you are currently using.

DIMS (Does it make sense) – around the 22 minute mark

  • Take a passage (no more than a paragraph and could just be a single sentence) from any text your students are reading (Vaughn suggests that you use text from other subject areas such as science, history, etc.).
  • In some, but not all, of the texts change one or at the most two words.
  • After reading the text, students need to decide whether or not the text makes sense.
  • If it doesn’t make sense, then the word that makes it nonsensical needs to be identified and then changed so the passage does make sense.

Self-Monitoring – around the 27 minute mark

  • After reading a provided text, students need to rate how well they understood the text:

    Not very well                                 Okay                                  Very Well

  • After each comprehension question they need to rate how confident they are that they have the correct answer. They can write a Y next to those questions they are confident are correct and an N next to those questions they are not 100% confident they have correct.
  • An important part of this exercise is for students to make links between their perceived understanding of the text and the number of questions answered correctly. They also need to look at how many times they were confident an answer was correct and it wasn’t and vice versa.

Teaching Essential Words – around the 29 minute mark

  • An important component of understanding text is understanding the vocabulary used in the text.
  • Vaughan argues that prior to teaching the concepts in any subject area, key vocabulary needs to be introduced. 
  • The steps in introducing the key vocabulary:
    • Find a relevant picture.
    • Find related words (could be synonyms or the same base word with different prefixes or suffixes).
    • Provide an example of how the word would be used in a sentence.
    • Provide a non-example (a sentence in which the word is not used correctly).
    • With a partner, students talk about the word in their own words and perhaps how it could be used in relation to their own life.
    • Prompt students to look for the word in the text that is being used and then discuss how the word is used in the text.
  • Remember: An important component of teaching vocabulary is teaching students how to decode unknown words, identifying morphemes and then applying this knowledge to other similar words.

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