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Help for Reading Comprehension – Fast ForWord Software

Geoff Nixon

By Geoff Nixon

Reading Comprehension Develops Sequentially

Help for reading comprehension  is not a simple undertaking, because reading comprehension – as defined at an 8th grade reading level – is complex and sophisticated.  It starts with literal reading comprehension, the ability to attach meaning to what is being read, progresses through thinking while reading and ends up at metacognition – the ability to think about your own thinking.

The Levels of Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension skills develop along a continuum that ranges from basic understanding to more advanced cognitive processes. This process can be divided into several levels:

  1. Literal comprehension: This is the most basic level of comprehension, where the reader understands exactly what is explicitly stated. e.
  2. Inferential comprehension: The reader makes inferences based on the information that is explicitly presented. This might involve predicting what will happen next, drawing conclusions about a character’s motivations in a story, or understanding cause-and-effect relationships.
  3. Evaluative comprehension: The reader makes judgements about the information. They might evaluate the credibility of a source, form an opinion about a character’s actions, or decide whether they agree or disagree with an argument.
  4. Analytical comprehension: Here, the reader begins to analyze the text or speech, breaking it down into parts for closer examination. This could involve identifying the author’s purpose, recognizing bias or point of view, or analyzing how different elements of a story (like plot, setting, and characters) work together.
  5. Appreciative comprehension: At this level, the reader or listener responds emotionally to the text or speech. They might feel sympathy for a character, enjoy the author’s use of humor, or be moved by a persuasive argument.
  6. Applied comprehension: Here, the reader or listener applies the information to their own life. They might connect the text or speech to their own experiences, use the information to solve a problem, or apply a concept to a new context.
  7. Metacognition: This is the highest level of comprehension, where the reader or listener thinks about their own thinking. They might reflect on how well they understood the text or speech, identify strategies that helped them understand it, or plan how to approach similar texts or speeches in the future.

Furthermore, comprehension is influenced by other cognitive abilities, such as working memory and attentiveness.  And behavioral and environmental factors such as background knowledge, life experience, vocabulary, language proficiency and motivation.

How Fast ForWord Builds  Reading Comprehension

Fast ForWord is a series of programs, each with 4-6 exercises each of which target different cognitive and reading skills.   Just as reading comprehension develops in a sequence, Fast ForWord exercises are sequential also. The main themes are:

  • Reading automaticity
  • Vocabulary
  • Thinking while reading
  • Metacognition

Reading Automaticity

Help for reading comprehension using Fast ForWord starts with the basics, making decoding automatic, This is an essential first, so that the brain is able to work on higher level comprehension and not be distracted by having to concentrate on reading.

Reading automaticity also helps the reading experience.  By making reading easier, effortless, a child is more likely to enjoy books, and the opening up of new worlds that books can deliver.

FInally, if reading is labored, reading is a chore that your child quite naturally will avoid, or put in the minimum required.  Once it is not a chore, once reading is easy and fun, then a child is likely to be a more regular reader, thereby putting in the reading time and practice needed to go from a good to great reader.

Vocabulary, Grammar and Spelling

When vocabulary is know and language conventions are familiar, reading continues unobstructed and comprehension sion follows.  However, if that knowledge is not in place, reading becomes a puzzle-solving exercise, which of course, hinders comprehension – not to mention detracting from the enjoyment of reading.

Fast ForWord has eye tracking and attentiveness exercises that use common vocabulary words. It also has spelling exercises that start with phonetically orthodox words (most words), then moves to spelling rules, then spelling exceptions.

It also has exercises that use similar sentences that describe a picture, where grammar and/or the order of words impacts meaning.

Thinking While Reading

This is help for reading comprehension is often most needed.  Many children who have reading problems are often able to get by early on. The are able to memorize enough words to appear to be reading fine when reading out loud.  And literal reading comprehension can also be managed – albeit in a labored way.

However, in 4th or 5th grade, when a child is asked to think while reading – to make inferences, evaluate, analyze, appreciate or apply  – it all falls apart.  A child who needs to concentrate to read has no bandwidth to think while reading.

As mentioned above, early on Fast ForWord helps remove that burden of labored reading by strengthening language processing skills and making reading more automatic. Then in later programs, students are confronted with tasks that require thinking while reading.  For instance, there’s a word categorization exercise – the student needs to read 4 words and find the one that best fits a highlighted category. This is thinking while reading, the key to developing higher level reading comprehension.

Metacognition

Reading with metacognition involves actively thinking about one’s own thought process while reading.  This is a high school level skill that takes a lot of reading experience and it the key that unlocks academic success in college. It’s essentially being aware of how you are understanding and interpreting the text, monitoring your own comprehension, and making adjustments as needed.

Fast ForWord has high level comprehension exercises that encourage students to question what they have just read, i.e., to start using metacognitive strategies.  However, to be realistic, most metacognitive skills come from the user, from doing a lot of reading. And so Fast ForWord’s major contribution here is to make reading easier so that student will put in the reading miles.

Does your child need help for reading comprehension?

If any of the above resonates with you, that could be describing where your child is falling short, please contact us. We provide Fast ForWord at home with remote monitoring, coaching and support.  More on how Gemm works here.

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