Strategies to Increase Reading Comprehension
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The idea for this handbook came from my experiences in the classroom when I was student teaching at Pioneer High School. My two classes of British Literature presented me with the unique challenge of making literature written by a "bunch of old, white, dead men" come alive. The students in my class not only brought their unique personalities to my classroom, they also brought in a host of preconceived notions about British Literature and culture. The first week of school was spent trying to convince my students that British culture did not consist of a bunch of old, white men who sat around wearing stiffly starched white shirts while sipping tea as they discussed the highlights of yesterday's cricket game. Slowly, the students learned that British culture is, indeed, diverse both economically and ethnically. After presenting a holistic view of British culture, we began our study of literature. As I watched my students struggle to understand Beowulf, a seemingly simple text, I knew that I would have my work cut out for me. I naively assumed that my students would posses the skills they needed to read and comprehend texts. At first, I felt lost. At no point, did I ever think that the most important part of my job would be teaching students how to read and interpret texts. I quickly discovered that like any other skill, developing reading comprehension in my students would take patience, practice and time. When the study of our first unit on Beowulf and Anglo-Saxon poetry puzzled and frustrated my students, I had to find an alternate methods to teach the texts. I quickly learned the majority of my students were active learners that processed information by engaging in hands on activities. At first, I simply could not figure out how to make reading an active process. This dilemma led me to try alternative teaching methods that focused on actively engaging students with the text. My love of literature and commitment to my students led me to the idea of creating a handbook that would teach me how to make the process of reading a skill that all students could master. When I left my students, they were on their way to becoming skilled readers. As I continue my teaching career, I want to add new and different techniques to this manual. I have learned that there is no one, correct way to teach a student to read and understand a text. Instead, you must incorporate a variety of strategies that will appeal to various learning styles.