Why reading comprehension worksheets don’t help children who have difficulty understanding what they read

reading comprehension
When a child obviously doesn’t understand the meaning of the texts they are reading, many people naturally think that more written work on reading comprehension is required. Out come the reading comprehension books and worksheets.

More of the same rarely works in this situation, however, and there is now more text (on the worksheets) to read and interpret. If a child is already disengaged with reading, they will often become even more disengaged. This is hardly a recipe for success.

It’s very likely that this child has not been taught reading comprehension strategies. These are completely different from the word-decoding strategies that are taught to help children work out words. Reading comprehension strategies are much easier and faster to teach, and children invariably ENJOY learning them.

If you have a child who is struggling with reading comprehension, the first thing to do is find out what reading comprehension strategies they have been taught. If the answer is ‘None! We just get worksheets’, it’s time for you to take action and teach them yourself. You will be pleasantly surprised at how engaging they are and how quickly they work.

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The difference between letter names and letter sounds

A back-to-school presentation to help you prevent confusion.

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Interview: How do I motivate my child to learn?

Catherine from Nurture Works talks with Alison Roundtree, Education Consultant from LEARN WA, to explore this frequently asked question.

C Thanks for coming in today, Ali, to talk about this.
A My pleasure.

C Firstly, why is ‘How do I motivate my child to learn?’ such a commonly asked question? What’s happened to our kids?
A Belonging or fitting in is really important at school. The idea that ‘academic learning is dumb’ is frequently portrayed through various media and this is very easily picked up on by kids who are not ‘top of the class’ material or kids who have missed out on crucial learning building blocks. Because they are often not within the ballpark of the brilliant, they often choose to join the ranks of the disengaged. They feel the need to belong somewhere, and they are not aware that there are other choices. It’s not generally explained to kids that

  •  it’s ok to be who you are as long as you’re trying to ‘grow’ or progress
  •  everyone is better at some things than others
  •  many people are confused about things they realise they should know, and they would like to do better but don’t know how to go about it
  •  everyone is on their own learning journey and it’s a personal thing you can learn to control
  •  you can use your mind as a tool or a weapon…your choice

C What do you mean by ‘You can use your mind as a tool or a weapon?
A I mean the way you think really affects the way you perform. You can train kids to think positively rather than negatively.

C How can parents know for sure that there really is a problem?
A They’ve probably seen negative and/or avoidance behaviour in relation to certain areas of the child’s education. They should also ask themselves whether the child is progressing at a realistic rate or not. These are two reliable indicators of a real problem.
They should most definitely ask the child how they feel about their learning. And there’s a way to do this and a way not to. A calm and serious approach is essential. Tone of voice is everything.
And of course, they should ask the teacher/teachers involved about specific areas of concern.

C So how can a parent begin to tackle the problem?
A They can model the behaviour they want the child to exhibit. If they want a motivated learner, they must show the child by example how to be a motivated learner. This can be in relation to anything the parent wants to learn about or improve in themselves.

C What if the child is resistant to this modelling?
A They must teach the child explicitly about positive feedback and practise this with the whole family. Positive feedback includes asking questions that help people grow. This need not be in relation to school…probably will be more meaningful to the child if not about school, at first.

C What do you mean by ‘more meaningful if not about school’?
A I mean a child who is ‘switched off’ learning is more easily re-engaged if their re-structuring lessons happen in relation to something they are passionate about and good at. If there’s something they are confident with at school, the questions could be about that. It just depends.

C What if a child will not try to improve?
A All kids (and adults) want to be successful. It’s part of human nature. An unmotivated student has been presented with learning experiences that are either too easy or too difficult.
If the child is presented with suitable work… ie something they feel they can achieve with a little bit of effort (5% challenge)… and their achievement is acknowledged, positive changes will start to occur immediately.

C How can a parent make sure a breakthrough develops into a long-term change?
A By teaching the child how to give and receive positive feedback. That is crucial. My books are all based around re-motivating students, and give all the details right down to what to say and how to say it.

C Why are you developing these tools for parents?
A I’ve worked with students, parents, teachers, school psychologists and school administrators in relation to teaching, learning and assessment and improving learning outcomes for students. The most important discovery I’ve made is that parents want to do the right thing but very rarely have access to the information they need.

C What’s the single most important thing parents should do to help get their child motivated to learn?
A Learn how to give and receive positive feedback, set achievable goals and ensure the child can experience success. That’s three…they’re all essential…and can easily be learned by a motivated parent.