Teaching Reading Comprehension And Comprehension

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In the late 1960s and 1970s, reading comprehension was taught by asking students various questions after reading a passage and noting their skills as to what they understood, how they followed directions and noted details. In 1978, Dolores Durkin observed a variety of teachers teaching reading instruction in both reading and social studies classrooms. She found that these teachers spent less than 1% of their time actually teaching children how to understand texts. Unfortunately over the years this has not improved much.

Durkin said teachers do not teach comprehension skills, but only “mention” or “question.” In other words in their comprehension they would use very meager vocab and just give enough detail to cause assumptions instead of conclusions. Basal reader teacher’s manuals were usually consulted for only two purposes: (a) to study the list of new vocabulary words and (b) to ask the comprehension questions following the reading of a selection. It was more like teachers were giving informal tests than actually tutoring reading comprehension.

In 1981, Durkin did another study of how comprehension instruction was taught from five nationally published basal reading series. Like her earlier study she found that Publishers, like teachers, also failed to understand the differences between teaching and testing reading comprehension. The Basal reader teachers’ manuals offered little or no help for teachers about how to teach children to comprehend text. Durkin

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