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Oral language and written language are essential skills that are needed for comprehension. Comprehension is defined as an understanding of oral and written language. In order for a child to comprehend what they are reading, several factors must come into play. Reading and decoding the words effortlessly without errors is the main step toward comprehension.
When a child is reading text, they are experiencing phonemic awareness by sounding out the words in their mind. Writing is the next step toward comprehension.
Writing goes hand in hand with reading. When a child is writing, they are also sounding out the words in their mind. Adults play a huge role in how children develop oral language skills. Automatic language is part of our everyday routines and children learn by “listening and speaking, phonological awareness and alphabetic knowledge, print awareness, comprehension, and writing” (Virginia.gov, n.d.). When students are learning to read and write, they do so simultaneously. It used to be thought that students should learn how to read first and then learn how to write.
However, research has shown that learning to write while learning to read is important and vital in the development of reading (Pearson, D. 2007). A student needs to be able to read and write fluently in order to comprehend the material.
In order to comprehend academic language, which is what students will use in school, there are certain concepts that a student must learn. Students need to learn syntax which is how words are formed to be able to create sentences void of errors.
Students need to semantics which is defined as the meaning of language. Students should be able to cognitively understand and think about what they are reading. They also need to know how to use the language which is known as pragmatics. Through the use of various resources, students build up their vocabulary and strengthen their abilities to read fluently. “…the larger the reader’s vocabulary (either oral or print), the easier it is to make sense of the text” (National Institute,.n.d.). At this point, they will learn text structure and how sentences are strewn together.
Of course, this all depends on what genre of text they are attempting to read and how complex the text in regards to the grade specific text they are reading. Being able to comprehend what one is reading all depends on what mood the student is in at the time. The student should be motivated and interested in the reading material. They need to understand the purpose of the reading; is it for enjoyment or for a school assignment? All of these are key factors that lead to comprehension. Another element of comprehension is cognitive targets. Cognitive targets are defined as the way a person comprehends or thinks about what is being read.
The targets are locate and recall, integrate and interpret, and critique and evaluate. Locate and recall refers to locating or recalling something specific, such as the main idea, about the text they have read. Integrate and interpret refers to how a student can explain or compare what they have read. Critique and evaluate refers to how a student exams the text or evaluates certain parts of the text. Students practice these cognitive targets in both literary and informational texts. Examples of literary text include poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. “Informational texts include three broad categories: exposition; argumentation and persuasive text; and procedural text and documents texts” (NAEP).
There are specific forms of instruction to improve comprehension and are most effective when taught together if possible. Comprehension monitoring is when a person is aware that they understand what is being read. Cooperative learning is when a group of students learn to read together. Graphic and semantic organizers are tools that readers use to represent material so that it is easier to comprehend. Question generation and question answering is when a reader asks themselves questions about the text and answers questions from the teacher.
Story structure is when students are able to remember the main part of the story and answer questions about the story. Summarization is when a student reads text material and is able to generalize the entire text into a shorter passage. According to the article, Writing to Read, “instructional recommendations have shown clear results for improving students’ reading” (Graham S., Hebert. M., 2010). When these are other instructional methods are implemented into the reading process, comprehension can be very effective. This is especially true if these methods are built on top of an already developed language, strong background knowledge, and a high vocabulary.
When teaching students comprehension through oral language and writing, teachers need to incorporate English language learners into their curriculum. English language learners may have linguistic issues and cultural background issues that are not only preventing comprehension, but also preventing reading and writing to begin with. As a teacher, it is crucial to first assess the ELL’s reading status to find out exactly where they are in the reading process. If so, what strategies can be implemented to better teacher the ELL’s. Also, a teacher needs to assess whether the student’s cultural background is preventing them from understanding the language.
If this is the case, the teacher needs to learn the student’s background in order to assess where they are coming from academically. Not unlike native English learners, socioeconomic background can have an effect on how an ELL student is doing in school. According to the article, Cultural and Linguistic Impact, Patricia C. Salazar explains, “A student who comes from an educated middle-class family will have a different approach to learning than one who comes from a war-torn region of the world where food is scarce, and tragedy and trauma are daily occurrences” (Salazar, PC. 2009). Teaching an ELL student how to develop oral and written language will come from a successful assessment of the student.
In order for a student to be successful at comprehension, oral language and written language skills must be mastered first. Reading is enhanced by written language and writing is enhanced by oral language. To facilitate a child’s learning, parents and teachers should provide as many resources as possible to accomplish this. In order to comprehend oral and written language, the student needs to be motivated and be reading grade specific text in order for the student to retain what they are reading.
Cognitive targets are useful in facilitating comprehension and used regularly. Teachers also use different forms of instruction when teaching students how to build oral and written language. Finally, when teaching English language learners how to develop oral and written language, it is imperative that the teacher first learn of any linguistic or background issues and adjust their curriculum accordingly. It is crucial that educators teach students how to develop oral and written language in order to be successful academically.
Graham, S. & Hebert, M. (2010). Writing to Read: Evidence for how Writing can Improve Reading. Vanderbilt University. Carnegie Corporation, NY. Retrieved from: http://carnegie.org/fileadmin/Media/Publications/WritingToRead_01.pdf
Language Development. (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://languagedevelopment.tripod.com/id11.html
Language and Literacy Language. (n.d.). Retrieved from: and Literacy http://www.dss.virginia.gov/files/division/cc/provider_training_development/intro_page/publications/milestones/milestones_individually/05.pdf
National Center for Education Statistics. (n.d.). National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Retrieved from: http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/reading/whatmeasure.asp
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). What Works in Comprehension Instruction. Retrieved from: http://www.readingrockets.org/article/105/
Pearson, D.P. (2007). Reading Researcher Advocates Strengthening Literacy Programs Through Reading-Writing Synergy. Retrieved from: https://portal.flsouthern.edu/ICS/icsfs/reading_writing_synergy.pdf?target=7fde5bd4-34ca-4c2a-9b7b-3cf7f64718b8
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