As children transition from learning to read into learning from reading it is important to teach them how to think about what they are reading. This is called metacognition. When we read without metacognition we are just spouting off words without meaning. Without meaning, there is no comprehension.
When I teach this to my students I use a stick figure called Bob. (What all 3rd-grade children love to call any made-up character.) I draw the giant stick figure and put a bunch of blank stickie notes in a thought bubble above his head. We talk about what your brain focuses on when we listen and read. When you’re focused on what happens in the story you are being a real reader, a thinking reader. When your brain goes “Squirrel” it has stopped paying attention.
When we’re focused on the squirrel we are no longer paying attention to what we are reading.
How to help children check for this
We do squirrel checks in my class. If you can get to the end of the page or paragraph and share with someone what you read, you were being a thinker. If you can’t your brain must’ve seen a squirrel. No worries though. Just go back and reread.
What should I think about while I’m reading?
There are several different areas of thought our brains flow in and out of while we’re reading. We’re making connections, inference, visualizing, predicting, questioning, and summarizing. These are the main strategies taught when students are learning comprehension. As adult readers, we are doing these things all at once. As a child learning reading comprehension, we focus on one at a time.
Look for my next post as I will be focusing on a different comprehension strategy each week in February.