Those of you who have followed this blog or any of my stuff over the years, know the importance I place on the development of decoding skills and reading fluency.
In fact, I have viewed the mastering of decoding as a possibly the central task or hurdle for a child to get over in their early school years (see My Decoding Hurdle Obsession: https://shutdownlearner.com/my-decoding-hurdle-obsession/ ).
I’ve also been in the business long enough to see important movements in education and educational psychology fall by the wayside and be relegated to the Attic of Forgotten Educational Initiatives & Research.
I see Reading Comprehension as having been placed up in the Attic.
For years (approximately the mid 1980’s into the mid-1990s), comprehension as a research topic in cognitive psychology and as an educational initiative was red hot. A number of universities around the country were awarded millions of dollars in grant money to study the processes involved with reading comprehension and to find ways to enhance a child’s ability to understand text. There were lots of teacher training initiatives, too, designed to enhance teachers’ skills in teaching comprehension.
I thought of the research and these initiatives the other day when I evaluated a child, young Luke, a 9 year old fourth grader.
Luke’s testing did not show any of the usual “dyslexia” concerns, such as difficulty with phonemic awareness, phonics or fluency, but when it came to responding to questions Luke was genuinely puzzled. Particularly, challenging for Luke were answering questions that involved inferences, or what I call the “hmm, let me think about it” type of responses (vs. straightforward and factual).
Within the testing, Luke read a story about a treasure hunt. The story talked about how one child sent a lantern signal to another child who was out in a rowboat that it was ok to row ashore. When Luke was asked why the signal was given, he looked at me blankly and could further no guesses, stating, “It didn’t say why.”
That it didn’t say “why” explicitly was true, but one could infer it from the story.
By contrast, another kid I tested recently, gave a great answer to the same question showing full understanding, by saying, “It was to give the ‘all clear’ signal.”
Wow, what a great inference.
I refer to children who read reasonably fluently and who don’t show any great decoding difficulty as Type II Readers.
Just like Type I Readers (the ones with decoding and fluency difficulties), these kids also need direct and explicit instruction (along with a few other things in the mix.) We will be talking more about these specifically in up and coming blog posts.
The Attic of Forgotten Educational Initiatives & Research is really filled to the brim. You should go up there sometimes and blow off some of the dust and the cobwebs. You might find some things of interest.
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I tutor a high school student just like Luke. Very fluent reader, but just can’t get beyond the actual words on the page. Do you see connections in real life situations of the student not beng able to see or know what the next step should be in an assignment or task?
Absolutely. Especially with the Type II style kids I find that they have trouble making connections (e.g., perceiving cause and effect, predicting. etc) in their day-to-day interactions. Boy, that sounds like a good idea for a future blog topic!!!!! Thanks
Being in the classroom from 1981 until now, I agree with you totally. Your blogs are always interesting and informative!!
Thanks, Anne Marie. I really appreciate it.
What are your ratios Richard re these 2 types of children?
Hi Jo Anne:
Thanks for the question. I find the ration of Type I to Type I to be significantly tilted in the Type I direction. I’m not sure if this is a referral bias of some kind as the Type I kids are “squeakier wheels.” Very few Type II kids ever get referred for an evaluation. In my practice I would say Type II shows up maybe one time in 20 evaluations.
Thank You for your reply!
I had a reading clinic and previously a school catering to these kids in Toronto.
My findings were as you mentioned.Mainly,the type 1 dyslexic child needs the door opened to read,they understand everything and more when they get there , the other type of student is rare,I did meet them.
I found them more challenging to teach but when we taught them parts of speech and systematic writing while working on vocabulary we got good results.
Sounds on the money to me. Systematic writing, parts of speech and vocabulary would lead to good results. Not to many seem to be doing that these days. Not sure if you remember “Directed Reading Thinking Activities.” I don’t hear much about them anymore, but they certainly would be a great vehicle for teaching comprehension.
I see this all the time– Now that the focus has REALLY shifted to decoding and fluency– these kids are missing so much LANGUAGE! Comprehension and flexibility are lost. We have found we have to really work with kids to help them visualize — go back to fantasy and nursery rhymes. Thanks for recognizing that comprehension is sorely lacking– parents don’t recognize if either- as they are given lots of data on decoding.
Thanks for the nice comment…you are inspiring another blog on Comprehension. iI may use your words to help get me started.