Finding the main idea or understanding what you read is one link in a chain of reading skills, and each skill relies on and supports one another. To comprehend text, students must first be able to understand the phonological components of language (that sounds are represented by letters), then they must be able to decode words and read fluently. They also must have a familiarity with the concepts and vocabulary within a given reading. Students who have strong reading comprehension skills are often able to:
Students with a specific learning disability (SLD), such as dyslexia, may struggle with comprehending what they read because of weaknesses with the phonological components of language. They often must dedicate so much mental energy to decoding words that they do not have enough left to understand what they are reading. Students who struggle to understand what they read often:
How to Support Reading Comprehension in the Classroom
As students progress through grades, it is the expectation that they are no longer “learning to read” but “reading to learn.” For students with an SLD like dyslexia, this shift in curriculum can be challenging; however, educators can structure reading exercises and units to help support students.
“Learning to recognize text structure and to apply strategies to identify and generate topics, main ideas, and supporting details is essential to developing comprehension skills.”
— Patricia W. Newhall, Study Skills: Research-Based Teaching Strategies
As with most language-based instruction, if teachers break reading comprehension tasks into a system of steps that build understanding, students can more easily re-allocate cognitive energy to the task of understanding what they read.
To support students’ understanding of text, teachers can introduce and practice prerequisite comprehension skills:
Learn a multi-sensory activity and print out worksheets to help students find the main ideaDownload
For more information on finding the topic or using thematic vocabulary, explore these materials:
Outreach offers a variety of online courses that include practical, effective strategies for educators to implement in their classrooms.
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