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The Essence of Reading Comprehension - Read Like a Detective
Author: John Kruidenier

A new set of reading comprehension standards has recently been developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. According to these standards, adopted by over 40 states, students should be able to “read closely to determine what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.” For Louisa Moats, member of the work group that formulated the standards, this means that the children we teach must learn to “read like a detective.”

The detective work required for the skilled comprehension of a text, according to the core standards, involves determining central ideas or themes, analyzing events that occur in a text, interpreting words and phrases, analyzing text structures such as sentences, paragraphs, and sections, assessing points of view, applying what we know, understanding and evaluating arguments, and working independently.

Good readers can apply many of these investigative tasks automatically and certainly know how to consciously apply them when necessary. Most reading teachers are aware of specific comprehension strategies that can be taught to their students.

To successfully teach these strategies, teachers must understand how and why they are effective. Reading comprehension is a complex process and teachers need to know the essential components of this process as well as common road blocks that can arise and cause difficulties for their students.

The key to effective instruction is for teachers to read the text before presenting it to students,summarize the ideas, segment the text and formulate questions about it, identify problematic language such as difficult vocabulary or sentence structures, plan how background knowledge will be activated and built, and plan how the text can be reread for specific purposes.

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