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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Comprehension Differentiation

Comprehension Differentiation

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Got any effective strategies or lessons to differentiate reading comprehension? My colleagues and I are looking for new ways for students to demonstrate their understanding of text without having to answer traditional comprehension/question assessments.

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Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

It sounds like you are looking for different ways to assess their understanding of the assigned reading- I hope I understood that correctly.
You can try everything from setting up a classroom blog where kids can answer open ended questions about the material; you could try asking them to choose a character and based on the material, and using supporting facts, describe the chacter's house/family/friends- something that shows what the character would be like in real life... A lot of it depends on the book/passage and what you want them to show you they know.

Are you looking for vocabulary? Basic understanding of the passages and meaning?

If you can give me some more specifics, I'd be happy to help you think of some alternative ways to assess understanding and then you can create a rubric easily (even through technology.com) for the assignment.

Paula Lee Bright's picture
Paula Lee Bright
Online reading teacher. Work w/kids who fell through the cracks-Skype

Teaching thinking skills for these kids is terribly crucial. I continue to work on learning to read, of course.

But at the same time, as the years pass, these folks get overlooked and are often left adrift. It's important to see that they remain an active part of group work. Use old-fashioned tapes, CDs, anything you can find to help them listen to text, and if possible give them a classmate to discuss the stuff with, prior to class talk.

Afterwards, find time in the day to have a meaningful moment of discussion on the topic individually, even if brief. Teacher time is super-important to these kids. They tend to treasure it, as they don't tend to get much in general.

If they emerge from our schools as non-readers/non-learners, they're pretty well condemned and left out of the educated community. Every bit of immersion/guidance they can get on how people talk, think and figure thing out will help propel them to a more hopeful future.

This is what I tell myself as I watch them leave our schools year after year, and can't sleep at night.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

I agree with Paula- audio books are huge for many kids. If your library doesn't have them available, there are many available through audible.com, and for free through Libravox, or The National Association for the Blind and Dyslexic.

Paula Lee Bright's picture
Paula Lee Bright
Online reading teacher. Work w/kids who fell through the cracks-Skype

Excellent resources. But honestly, I hook up every conceivable listening device I can find! Listen along w/books = more time with print in front of the eyes and matching words in ears.

To be honest, I once had a student who did nothing all day during quiet work other than listen to stories. He took part in everything we did, but when it was "alone" time--this was the only thing he could successfully do.

I'm pleased to tell you that he was reading at a third grade level when he left me.

I'm saddened to tell you that his 4th grade teacher didn't have a clue, and other than a half hour in my room each day, he got no teaching.

He slipped, of course, and was again a non-reader by the end of the year.

But he continued to come to my classroom for two more years, before he left for junior high.

To listen to stories.

I think stories may be an integral part of the basic makeup of humanity.

I condole myself with the thought that perhaps some of the lessons of the stories will stand him in good stead.

They sure can't hurt, eh?

Paula Lee Bright's picture
Paula Lee Bright
Online reading teacher. Work w/kids who fell through the cracks-Skype


Can you tell me more about this? I'm not familiar with it, but suspect I'd like to be!


Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

Hi Paula!
Sorry it's recording for the blind and dyslexic: http://www.rfbd.org/ They have a special format and you can even get an app on most smart phones for the books, but all the books (and textbooks) recorded are free- it's supported through the Dept. of Ed.

Libravox is a free podcast you can download or listen to off the site, where volunteer readers have recorded many out of copyright books. It's run by a dear friend of mine, Hugh McGuire, and I can put you in touch if you need to chat with him directly.

Audible.com has audio books you can purchase and download, and they even have school library programs, but this at a charge. We have a membership, so my kids choose a book each month as part of that- I think I pay $10 a month. We can then put the book on an ipod or even burn it to CD, and it stays in our library 'forever" so we can re-download it or burn it again to CD if needed.

The access to audiobooks has been great for us and for our kids- it's really helped them become enthusiastic about books, and it helped early on, bridge the gap between their reading level and interest level.

I also have some elementary data showing that some learners seem to retain information better when they hear it over reading- this may be a learning style issue, but as long as it works,does it really matter how the information got into their brains?

let me know if there's something else you need- hope I answered the question-


mindie flamholz's picture

For kids who are musically inclined, especially those who like rhythm, help them, that is, let them help you, write a rap. You can do this as a summary of a chapter...or book...even expository work..or a character or even a setting. You can have a refrain which separates the different sections of information. Kids who like to rhyme or keep a beat love this. Model it for them first and let them work in groups. It helps with processing information for comprehension and for memorizing information, as well. Let kids tap out the rhythm as someone/or a group recites the wrap. Even use drums or other percussion instruments. It's great, too, to connect this with poetry. Because it is.

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