Friday, 14 August 2009

Literacy help needed: reading comprehension progression from Entry 1 to Entry 2

I have received the following request from a site user. If you can help please post a comment or, if you prefer, email and I will forward any messages to Sarah.

Dear Maggie

I wondered if you could post this query on your blog. I would really value any advice or help that any of your blog readers could give me.

I am a literacy tutor for a fifteen year old boy. He had a serious head injury as a baby and has experienced learning difficulties. He is also partially sighted.

When I started working with him at age thirteen, he still really could not read (he could synthesise cvc words very slowly) but, following a strong synthetic phonics approach, he has made significant progress since.

He now has word decoding skills equivalent to approximately age 10 but his reading comprehension is less that this (maybe age 7-8 equivalence). I have been trying to do a lot of reading comprehension work with him using adult literacy resources (as obviously this is more akin to his interest levels and I am hoping that he will be able to slot into the adult literacy programme at his sixth form college next year).

He copes really well with comprehension at Entry Level 1 but struggles with Entry Level 2. There seems to be a big increase in the amount of text to be read at EL2 compared with EL1. He does have some memory problems and so finds it difficult to remember information from several
paragraphs at a time. (He can usually find the answer if I tell him which paragraph/sentence it is in.) He also finds scanning text really hard (not sure if this is because of his partial sight) and is reluctant to re-read entire texts to find answers, preferring to guess instead!

I'm wondering if anyone had any thoughts or ideas as to how I could help him to progress towards Entry 2 comprehension levels?

Thank you so much



lynn savage said...

Hi Sarah. I have taught children and adults with aquired brain injury for 9 years. Sometimes with this type of injury the student needs to have the sea of words lessened in order to process them. I have used pieces of black card and cut windows out of them to just show the passage or even sentence that you are considering. Very often the sheer amount of letters on a page is too much for them to process as they often 'see' it as a whole rather than as bits of a page, so cutting down on this really helps. It's worth a try. Lynn

Wendell Dryden said...

"He... finds it difficult to remember information from several
paragraphs at a time. ...also finds scanning text really hard (not sure if this is because of his partial sight) and is reluctant to re-read entire texts to find answers, preferring to guess instead!"

Why "reluctant"? Is there a time constraint? Is it unpleasant? Does that same reluctance appear in dealing with the smaller number of words faced in a lower level? Is it related to subject matter?

My other wondering is about background knowledge. Is the guessing at all effective? Is he trying to deal with new words and new information at the same time? Is there a difference between, say, reading to find facts, and using inference (making predictions, drawing conclusions, reading between the lines)?

Apparently, I have no answers, only questions. But you sound like you know what you're doing already.

Best wishes,

Sarah said...

Thanks for your comments and help. I'm sorry not to have replied earlier but things have been a bit hectic trying to deal with a forthcoming house move!
Lynn - your thoughts are interesting. I have tried in the past to use reading rulers with him, but he doesn't like to use them. I think it may be something to do with not being different from his peers so I'm not too sure how he would reac to to windows. I have been working though on making sure paragraphs are quite short and stopping at the end of each paragraph and getting him to tell me a summary of the content before moving onto the next one. In a way this is like your idea of selecting a small part of the text as I have to photo-enlarge stuff anyway so there are rarely more than 2 paragraphs on a page.

Wendell - I think his reluctance to re-read is partly to do with the effort involved and partly not wanting to admit that he didn't understand. There is no time constraint involved, in fact I am actively encouraging him to do it.
He does find the mental effort of decoding and following content at the same time quite difficult. This is the skill that I want to encourage him to develop.

We rarely address questions that require inference etc, he can be wildly wrong in his "guesses" regarding information that is actually spelled out in the text, even when he has already read it through out loud to me, so we have stuck with factual questions for the time being.

Actually I think I have now seen a bit of improvement in the last few weeks. We have been using some of the comprehensions based on people and their families and occupations etc that are on this website (with very grateful thanks to Amanda Burgess who contributed them). I think the combination of easy to understand concepts ( names, ages, occupations) and my insistence on recapping after each paragraph has helped him to focus and he is able to answer these questions more independently than before.

I would still value any further thoughts or advice though that anyone may have. He has such a complex combination of brain injury, literacy problems, plus his emotional responses and his desire not to look different from his peers it is often hard to know exactly how to tackle things.

I have the rest of this academic year to work with him before he moves on to FE and I would really like to get as much improvement as possible in his reading fluency and his comprehension skills before then.

Anonymous said...

For a similar student wanting to take L2 Numeracy we found that reading the first question, then highlighting key words showed us that often there is a match first paragraph first question, second paragaph secon question etc, which can result in getting enough questions right to pass the exam. It also focussed us on the right bit of text so that when we recapped we went straight to the right bit of text to read.