What Is It?
Teaching students to monitor their own reading is one of the best ways a teacher can help improve student comprehension. Using the "inner language" of speech, effective readers ask themselves questions such as: Does this make sense? What may happen next? How does this connect to something I already know? These metacognitive strategies can keep students actively engaged in their reading.
Implications for ELLs
English language learners (ELLs) spend a great part of their time and energy trying to understand the oral and written English that surrounds them. ELLs benefit from learning how to ask themselves and other people questions that focus on finding and clarifying the information they need. Helpful strategies for ELLs include: rereading, skimming, scanning, and consulting resources to obtain clarification. Explicit modeling and instruction helps students to monitor their comprehension by verbalizing their understandings and pinpointing areas of confusion or missing information. Beginners in English and those who have not yet learned to read in their primary languages will need more modeling and clear explanations of the strategies in order to understand and use them.
Strategies for Supporting ELLs
Teachers of English language learners (ELLs) keep in mind that limited English word knowledge is an important, but not the only, reason that ELLs may have difficulty understanding what they read. Many stories are difficult for ELLs to understand because the authors have written for an audience that shares background knowledge of American culture, history, and customs.
Effective teachers use, explain, demonstrate, and revisit comprehension strategies throughout the school year. Students who may not be ready to understand a strategy early in the school year may be able to understand and use the strategy when it is explained and modeled again a few months later.
To engage students in their reading, teachers model and explain questioning strategies that send students back to the text to look for story elements such as character (Who?), setting (Where? When?), and problem (What's the matter?). For informational text comprehension, teachers model graphic organizers appropriate to the subject matter, such as the one below.
Glimpse of the Classroom
Zach, a second grader, and Mrs. R. are sitting side-by-side at the reading table.
Mrs. R. says, "This is a book that has some really tricky language in it, but I've already introduced it to you, so you should be able to read it. What's the one thing that you always want to make sure of when you read?"
"The book has to make sense," Zach responds. Zach has said earlier that when he reads and gets it, reading is fun.
He starts to read aloud:
The next page of text presents a problem for Zach. It reads:
Zach is stuck on the words Ha-ha-ha.
Mrs. R. points to the quotation marks. "What do you know about these marks, Zach?"
Now the word laughed is presenting a problem for him. Being a strategic reader, he substitutes the word blank for laughed and re-reads the sentence.
"Mmmmm. What makes sense?" Mrs. R. asks.
Even at this young age, Zach has realized that you need to read for meaning and monitor what you read. If it doesn't make sense, you need to go back and use a fix-up strategy to make the passage read correctly. He goes on to read the rest of the text without committing a miscue.
Questions to Think About