The short answer is a resounding YES!
Here are the issues that have been identified by numerous studies. We are sure you can identify with these.
- TextBook Difficulty
As students move from a skills based curriculum (primary) to a predominantly content based curriculum (secondary), the main instructional resources tend to be content area text books. Because of the textbook design, many of these resources place heavy demands on even the best readers. The inability of students to extract meaning from this content and the pace of instruction required to cover all the content result in huge comprehension issues. This has resulted in the call for the introduction of comprehension strategy instruction at the secondary school level.
- The Secondary Teacher Skill Set
Unfortunately, effective comprehension strategy instruction is not usually part of the secondary school teacher's instructional tool kit. That is more than likely not what you signed up for!
Even if you had the skill set for this, you are already time poor when it comes to meeting course / content requirements. The reality is that comprehension strategy instruction requires considerable teacher preparation time and considerable student practice to achieve fluency, all of which are going to impact your normal content delivery!
Our entry level solution to this is a simple 10 minute routine that can be introduced at the beginning of any curriculum lesson as an energiser activity or as an opportunity to review important content from a previous lesson. Once the teacher understands and can implement the routine quickly and efficiently, no preparation time is required apart from selecting a piece of text for the exercise.
The routine forces the students to do two very important things
1. Unpack the literal meaning of the words at a sentence level. You will be surprised at what they are NOT doing.
2. Acknowledge roadblocks (usually vocabulary) that get in the way of fully understanding the author's message, and then know what to do to unlock that roadblock.
Once the students are secure with this habit (and you the teacher are quick and efficient with your implementation) layers of additional cognitive complexity can be added. Stage 5 "Text Analysis" is the most beneficial for Secondary students followed by Stage 6: Text Evaluation.
The course also provides training in small group comprehension instruction which may be more suited to the role of the literacy support teachers in your school.
OUR POINT OF DIFFERENCE
Most approaches to comprehension instruction revolve around equipping the learner with many strategies (intentional actions students can use during reading to guide their thinking) which the student then selects from and applies to problem solve comprehension issues.
Our approach is aimed at a more automatic, subconscious level. We focus on 'training the brain' into an active reading habit which results in a more automated processing of the information being read WHILE the learner is reading. We have our own research which identifies significant improvements in student understanding and retention of information as a result of this approach.
WHO IS THIS FOR?
All secondary students will benefit from this comprehension skill instruction and practice.
- High ability students who are intuitively efficient readers will sharpen their ability to process and hold onto text.
- Mainstream students who are good decoders but weak comprehenders make rapid progress once they are introduced to unpacking sentences.
- Lower achievers with reasonable decoding ability gain newfound confidence and are motivated to read more.
- Students who have been using our SharpReading approach during the primary years certainly benefit from this ongoing practice.
If you have students who are still grappling with decoding issues then we suggest you look at our Struggling Older Reader ONLiNE Course.