There are a number of strategies for teaching reading comprehension available to the homeschooling parent. When working with a small number of students, as in a homeschool situation, it is easier to see when a student is having problems with comprehension and consequently, it is easier to figure out a solution.
Several Strategies for Teaching Reading Comprehension
No matter what homeschooling method you use you can integrate a variety of ways to increase reading comprehension from the earliest grades. You should use different ways to teach comprehension to keep your student both interested and progressing in this skill.
Narration is a tool most often associated with the Charlotte Mason method. It is one of the best ways to help your child remember what has been read. Narration can be used at any age or reading level.
At the very earliest stages, you read a paragraph or two to your child, and have him tell it back to you. This can be lots of fun, and isn't much different than your child telling you about the latest movie he saw or cartoon he watched. Choose a few paragraphs from the book you are reading and read aloud, slowly and carefully. When you are done, allow your child to tell you what the passages were about and what he remembers from them without any prompting from you. The first few times he may only remember one thing. Be patient. This can take a few tries, and the smallest progress should be commended.
Once your child can read on his own, you will do the same thing with paragraphs from the reading assignments he has. Have him read a paragraph or two, and tell you what he remembers. Again, it is important that you don't prompt him but allow him to process what he has read in his own way. Over time, comprehension levels will increase dramatically and your child may well remember 80 percent or more of what he reads because he is learning to focus.
Exploring the Material
Another strategy for reading comprehension that can be especially helpful in the older grades is to have your child keep a journal about what he is reading for history or science. Before he begins a chapter, have him write down everything he knows about the subject. Next, he should write down the things he hopes to learn in the reading.
Finally, have him write down a list of the things he actually learned from the chapter. Keep it simple and allow him to write notes rather than perfectly crafted sentences. At this point, your focus needs to be on what he remembers rather than his grammar.
Graphic Organizers are helpful tools for children who learn visually. You may also know them as mind maps. They can take many forms depending on the grade level, the reason you are creating one and personal preference.
- Series of Events Chain - This map helps the student break down his reading chronologically into a series of events. The first event is listed on top with an arrow pointing down to the next event that happened in the story and so on.
- Spider Map or Cloud Chart - Taking many forms, the spider map is helpful for sorting information. A central theme is written in a large cloud in the center of a piece of paper. Spokes come out of the cloud to attach to clouds with supporting information. This can get quite complex as reading level and understanding increase, but cloud charts can be used as early as fourth grade.
- Cycle Map - A cycle map is used to chart the cycle of something; a water cycle, life cycle or other cyclic series of events.
One of the most basic methods for teaching reading comprehension, and the one used in most conventional curriculums like A Beka, is to have the student answer several questions about the material after reading it. Most reading curriculums use this system.
The only drawback to this is that it does not allow for individual thought, one of the major benefits of homeschooling your child. You are teaching him to find the information that the book says he should find rather than allowing him to personalize what he has read and decide for himself what the important facts are.
Use Simple Materials
Finally, when working on comprehension skills, keep the reading at one or two grade levels below your students reading ability. This will enable him to focus on getting the most information without having to decode challenging words or sentence structures.
No matter which strategies for teaching reading comprehension you use be consistent with it and record the progress made regularly. Allow your student to read for pleasure without having to answer questions about it so that he does not get burnt out on reading all together.
Reading comprehension is largely a matter of maturity and practice. Be patient and you will see improvement over time.