The discussion centered on how to help adult readers monitor their comprehension and provide them with some strategies to use when they realize they do not understand what they are reading. Susan McShane kicked off the discussion by saying it is probably best to introduce comprehension monitoring to learners with something that makes sense to them and isn’t too complicated, such as restating (putting what they have read in their own words) and coding text (beginning perhaps with just underlining unknown words and placing question marks next to statements or phrases they do not understand). List subscribers agreed with Susan’s statements and described their experiences with these two strategies.
Other reading comprehension strategies, such as thinking aloud when reading, using reciprocal teaching, identifying main ideas, making predictions and previewing text also were discussed.
A couple of important concepts appeared because of the discussion. One was the importance of teacher modeling of comprehension strategies. Instructors should think about their own comprehension monitoring strategies-what they do as they read a difficult passage. Becoming aware of their own strategies would help them model these strategies for their adult learners.
Another important concept was that of explicit instruction in comprehension strategies. When learners are taught strategies through modeling and practice, they will gain strategies that they can use independently when they are not in a classroom situation.
The discussion clearly pointed to the fact that the reading components (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension) do not work in isolation, but are intertwined and depend on each other to work most effectively. Subscribers and guest moderators both agreed that you can’t talk about comprehension strategies without considering vocabulary and fluency. List subscribers agreed, as well, that you can’t assess just a learner’s comprehension and have a clear reading profile. The other components need to be considered in assessing reading ability, also.