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Helping Struggling Readers Improve Comprehension*
 
Course Description
    

This workshop focuses on supporting the academic development of students who are competent decoders but who struggle to understand the meaning of what they read. Participants will explore the different types of comprehension difficulties students may face and will be introduced to a number of research-based strategies to improve reading comprehension skills. Instructional strategies will focus on building vocabulary skills, using teacher modeling, having students work collaboratively, and building comprehension-monitoring skills. As a final project, participants will design and implement a lesson plan focused on improving students' reading comprehension with the intent that this project will be implemented with students.

*This course is open to all certified WV educators and paraprofessional who are assigned as a full-time classroom aide.
 

 
Course Syllabus
    

Helping Struggling Readers Improve Comprehension

Workshop Overview

This workshop focuses on supporting the academic development of students who are competent decoders but who struggle to understand the meaning of what they read. Participants will explore the different types of comprehension difficulties students may face and will be introduced to a number of research-based strategies to improve reading comprehension skills. Instructional strategies will focus on building vocabulary skills, using teacher modeling, having students work collaboratively, and building comprehension-monitoring skills. As a final project, participants will design and implement a lesson plan focused on improving students’ reading comprehension.

Goals

During this workshop, participants will learn skills and strategies to:

  • identify the different kinds of comprehension difficulties students may experience,
  • use indirect and direct instruction techniques to teach vocabulary to struggling readers,
  • understand and apply techniques for improving student comprehension through teacher modeling, peer-to-peer work, and independent reading, and
  • help struggling readers become more engaged with text, more independent as readers, and more proficient at finding ways to monitor their reading.

Alignment to Standards

This workshop meets the standards for Content, Instructional Design, and Technology as defined in the National Standards of Quality for Online Courses, published by the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL).

This workshop provides teachers with an opportunity to meet the Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership standard as defined in the National Educational Technology Standards and Performance Indicators for Teachers, published by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).

Intended Audience

This workshop is designed for K-8 teachers and content specialists. Participants are expected to have regular access to computers, and demonstrate proficiency with email and web-browsers.

Workshop Outline

Session One: Why Students Struggle

In Session One, participants will unpack the elements of reading comprehension and identify the kinds of comprehension problems students can have. Considering the readings and podcast in this session, they will identify some research-based strategies for teaching reading comprehension, and will think about the importance of ongoing assessment during the reading process. After reviewing the final project for this workshop, participants will join their colleagues in an online discussion to share strategies for working with struggling comprehenders in their classrooms.

Session Two: Vocabulary to Strengthen Comprehension

While struggling comprehenders can decode and pronounce words, they often may not know the meaning of these words. In this session participants will focus on the fundamental component of comprehension vocabulary, first by reading about strategies for teaching vocabulary, and then by listening to a podcast that explores the link between vocabulary and reading comprehension. They will also review some practical classroom strategies for teaching vocabulary and discuss methods for helping students grasp terms and words that are unique to a specific content area.

Session Three: Questioning and Monitoring

Good readers actively engage with the text, identify a purpose for reading, connect what they know with what is in the text, and monitor their own reading behavior. For struggling comprehenders to improve their success in reading, they need to develop these skills too. In this session participants will explore how to use questioning strategies that can help readers make meaning of the texts they are reading. They will also learn about monitoring strategies that readers can use to recognize when they are reading successfully, and when they need support. In this session’s discussion, participants will consider issues of comprehension and analysis as they think about how to implement strategies into their instruction.

Session Four: Think Alouds and Reciprocal Teaching

Struggling comprehenders often find the reading comprehension process to be mystifying, and are not sure how to make sense of the text that they are reading. In this session, participants will examine teacher modeling strategies as effective instructional approaches. Specifically, they will focus on reciprocal teaching and think aloud techniques that can provide students with clear approaches to understanding text. As they complete the activities in this session, they will think about the possible impact of both types of strategies in their classrooms.

Session Five: Graphic Organizers and Writing

Writing activities can provide clarification for students, allow them to reflect on what they have read, and help them to develop a deeper understanding of text. In this session, the strategy focus is on graphic organizers and writing activities to strengthen student comprehension and complement guided reading assignments. Participants will read about the benefits of graphic organizers and other writing strategies before experimenting with some online tools that allow students to organize their thoughts in dynamic ways. In this session’s discussion forum, participants will discuss the role of technology-based organizers in the classroom, and how these tools can be paired with offline ones.

Session Six: Incorporating New Techniques

A number of different strategies for helping students improve their reading comprehension have been introduced throughout this workshop. In Session Six, participants will review some of the research on reading instruction, and will think about how they can use reading comprehension strategies to support all the students in their class. Participants will then prepare a lesson plan and share their ideas in the discussion board.

Specific questions about assessment, expectations, or requirements should be directed to the facilitator of this workshop.

ETLO recommends that the following criteria be used to determine successful completion of this workshop:

  • Participation in all session discussion forums;
  • Completion of the workshop’s final project, submitted to the facilitator and/or posted in the appropriate discussion forum; and
  • Completion of the orientation and final workshop surveys.

Discussion Participation
Participants are required to post a minimum of three substantial postings, including one that begins a new thread and at least two that respond to an existing thread, in all session discussion forums.

Participants will be evaluated on the frequency and quality of their discussion board participation. Postings will be reviewed based on their relevance, demonstrated understanding of course concepts, examples cited, overall quality, degree to which they extend the discussion, and tone. These criteria are discussed further in the Discussion Board Expectations.

Workshop Activities
Participants are expected to complete the workshop readings and activities as posted in each of the session assignment pages. Activities may include exploring websites related to workshop content, watching online video clips, using specific technology applications, solving problems, and working on the final project.

Final Project
As a final project, participants will complete a unit plan for a writing assignment, including writing prompts and activities for both narrative and expository writing, a revision plan, and plans for student conferencing.

Participants are expected to work independently on the final project throughout the workshop and should submit a completed final project to the facilitator before the end of the final session of this workshop. A set of Final Project Guidelines is available as a resource for facilitators and participants.

Workshop Surveys
Participants are expected to complete an orientation survey before the end of Session One of the workshop, and a Final Survey during the final workshop session.