What is Comprehension?
Comprehension always involves thinking and is synonymous with understanding. Comprehension always focuses on gaining the message intended by the author.
Visualization to Help Comprehension
While working with a fifth grader, I encouraged him to “see pictures” and “run movies” while reading. To which the young boy replied with astonishment, “You mean I’m supposed to think about what I am reading?” Visualizing does not come intuitively to all children. The good news is that visualization—comprehension can be taught.
Ways to Explain Visualizing
One method begins by sharing colorful objects that can be handled as well as seen. After allowing children to see, touch and describe the items, ask children to close their eyes and “see” items on the “magic screens behind their eyes.” Most children will be able to recall and describe what they “see” with eyes closed. If more clarity is needed, ask children, “Do you remember what you saw? Can you remember how it looked?” When teaching visualization, use words related to vision and seeing.Graduate from solid objects that can be handled to objects at a distance such as pets, their mothers, or a favorite toy. Explain to the children that their descriptions come from mental pictures—visions that exist in their heads.
There is no need to cover pictures in a story when teaching visualization. In fact, the pictures will add clarity to students who rely on visual clues as well as for ELL students. The challenge is to see the characters or ideas in motion.
Another powerful method of explaining visualization involves asking children to describe favorite movie or television programs. After a child describes a favorite action, point out that it was not necessary to go to the theater. Say, “It’s like there is a magic screen behind your eyes.”
Background for TV Recall
A psychologist created a method to help his 14-year old son improve comprehension. Knowing his son loved to play baseball, he seated the teenager in front of a blank television set and began to read a baseball story to him. The father instructed his son to pretend he was watching the story on television.
After a brief time, he announced a commercial break and asked his son to tell him what he had seen on his imaginary television. The son recalled everything he had pretended to see as his father read to him. Gradually, the father increased the amount read between commercial breaks. Ultimately, his son was able to use the television analogy when he read the words for himself. Read the steps below.
Steps to TV Recall
Ask children to pretend to view television as you read to them. In doing so, you place all of their energy on listening and comprehending.
- Set a purpose to create mental pictures while listening.
- Read a short section and announce a commercial break.
- Ask the children what they saw on their imaginary television sets.
- Continue reading and gradually lengthen the time between breaks.
- After practicing many times, tell children that they can run their imaginary televisions even when they read the words themselves.
Anderson, David, and S. O’Neal, C. David. “Dyslexia and Related Disorders” Texas Education Agency. Sept. 1998.
Crawley, S. “Remediating Reading Difficulties.” New York: McGraw Hill. 2012.
Frandsen, Barbara. “Slaying the Dragons: 21st Century Literacy.” Author House. 2012.