Posts Tagged 'comprehension'

Vocabulary ideas

This past week was full of questions about how to study vocabulary for words you can not find associations to.  Vocabulary can be such a huge part of comprehension.  Here are a few ideas I have in mind.  

1. Word pictures

2. Foldables


4.Greek and Latin Roots

5. Background information


1.  Word pictures are great for those visual artistic kids.  By drawing a picture that represents the word, they remember it.  Visual learners will remember the picture when they see the word.  Other kiddos might do well with acting words out.  Create a game of charades with vocabulary words.  Take turns acting words out.  These kiddos that this work for are usually kinesthetic learners and will remember the words by how they were interpreted in action. 

2. FoldablesDinah Zike is the big name in foldables, however they have been around every since I can remember.  I love using this one in my classes by asking kiddos to set up their foldable before we start with the words.  A foldable is a sheet of paper folded so that a word can be on top and by lifting the fold, the description or definition or picture is revealed.  During a lesson, I might have students stop at points to draw a picture or write a definition of their word.  To see an example of a foldable, go here:

3. Prefixes and Suffixes– Learn the list of prefixes and suffixes.  These are great for figuring out unknown words.  Even create a foldable to learn these. Talk about a cheat sheet.  These can be that cheat sheet you always wanted.

4. Greek and Latin Roots- Roots can be the most fun.  Take different greek or latin roots and combine them with prefixes or suffixes to make silly words that do not make any sense.  While someone can spend years learning these, it is worth your efforts and time. Go here to see a full list:

5. Background information– Probably the most important part of learning vocabulary for Science or Social Studies is understanding the background information.  What is the setting of this vocabulary? Are we talking about the civil war?  Do we understand what the setting was like for the civil war?  It is only then that we may understand some of the vocabulary that originated from the time period. Don’t isolate vocabulary words.  Make them meaningful and a part of a bigger picture. If you don’t, they won’t stick. We all want them to stick…forever.




Need tutoring for your Struggling Reader (maybe dyslexic) and/or Mathematicians

Recently a teacher I have worked with as an online teacher for the past 5 years began her own tutoring services online using the essential requirements for struggling readers. She has extensive knowledge as a teacher of special education students specifically working with students with learning disabilities including dyslexic, dysgraphia and autism. I am most excited about her expertise with Barton Reading and Spelling (specialized program for dyslexic children).

Her tutoring services are offered online in an interactive, engaging environment that your child can participate in completely from their own home. Now, you may say, how can she help virtually? This is our expertise as online teachers. I do not get anything for recommending her to you, I am sharing because there are so many struggling students out there that just don’t have access to a specialized tutor. In the online environment, the students move tiles around, use a webcam, talk over the internet in the classroom and even write on the board themselves.  Check out Kids of the King Tutoring services and prices (which are completely economical). Check out these pictures of setups in her room.

Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 2.58.06 PM

On this board, students can grab items off of the shelf, place them in their basket to buy and give the correct amount of money to the cashier.  They can also practice  making change by grabbing the money and giving it to the customer.


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On this board, students can practice reading a clock  by moving the hands to the correct times given.






Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 3.01.09 PMOn this board, students can move tiles around and practice phonetic skills.  This is a one of the early levels of reading skills development.

Notetaking Strategies (Part 4) Mind-mapping

Mind mapping

This type of notetaking has been expanded to mean many things.  In this case we are focusing on using it for notes. It is strong and memorable strategy but takes time to become good at it.  Tony Buzan developed mind maps and you can go to this link to check him out.  There are resources and samples to see.  Here are my thoughts on it and my way of teaching it. The main point is to use pictures and key words for helping you remember concepts.  A mind map is made for each concept a student is learning or exploring but that concept can have subtopics within it.  If the concept changes completely, this is a new mind map. 

Here are the steps:

1. Gather a variety of colors of markers, crayons or colored pens or pencils.

2. Start in the center of a blank sheet of paper, preferably one without lines. Provide the main idea in the middle.  This can be a word or picture or a combination of a picture with a word.

2. Work outward from the main topic.  You would draw a line to a new subtopic out from the main idea.  . Continue that line with divisions or splits in the same color as long as the topic remains under that same subtopic.  Keep to images or key words only.  

3. Each time there is a new subtopic, it begins a new line from the main topic and you follow the same instructions as for step 2.  The lines for each subtopic should be color coded to make them easy to follow.

Some important things to keep in mind are that mind maps are meant to be quick reference and visual.  A mind map will stick to this list of ideas:


Key Words



Visual Memory-key words, use color, symbols, icons, arrows and grouping of words.

Note:  This strategy needs a great deal of modeling and working with the student to improve their mind mapping abilities along the way. 

There are many computerized programs out there to assist in creating mind maps.  Personally I am a bit old fashioned when it comes to note-taking mind maps because finding the computer picture to fit the note sometimes just takes too much time.

Notetaking Strategies (Part 3) T-Notes

T- Notes

Please remember to read Part 1 on teaching someone how to take notes.  If you have not read those, please do not use any of the following information without reading it.

This strategies requires just a sheet of notebook paper. 

1. Prepare the sheet of paper. Fold the sheet of paper in half hot dog style, meaning vertically. Then draw a line where that fold was.

2. Find the main topic, a title for the notes. Write this at the top of the page on the title line if lined notebook paper.

3. Begin reading sections, when a new subtopic is introduced, you write on the left side of the line that subtopic.  Then on the right side of the line, right next to that subtopic, anything that comes across as important about that subtopic should be placed there in the student’s own words. 

4. Draw a line when a new subtopic is introduced and repeat the step above. 

*Note:  Sometimes it helps to use different colors for new sub-topics.  Making an entire topic one color until you move to the next sub-topic.  Also, you may always use pictures here in the place of words.

Notetaking Strategies (Part 2)-Sticky Notes

  Sticky Note Notes

This strategy entails having the student have lots of sticky notes.  Whatever size works for them and if they want lines or no lines, up to them.  The stared steps are not neccessary when reading a novel or story, only for content material like science, history, etc.

*Step 1:  Student glances though  and find subtitles and writes on individual sticky notes a phrase, one word or entire subtitle.

Step 2:  Begin reading, after reading a paragraph, page or section (depending on their level of reading comprehension and what can be retained) After each section, page or paragraph she is to write on the sticky note in own words main concept from that section or what happened in that section. 

Step 3:  Read next section, paragraph or page and repeat Step 2. 

The sticky notes above are actually stuck inside the book, preferably hanging off the edge and sticking out of the book.  These may remain in the book for a period of time or removed and placed inside a spiral notebook in order. Keeping them in the book, makes it easy to glance through sticky notes for a refresher on what was read yesterday and finding answers to comprehension questions.

Step 4: After the chapter, unit, section is read and complete, the student will want to remove the stickynotes and place them into a notebook in order.  This provides a quick summary of the entire material read in the student’s own words.   The student now has it all on a few pages.  It’s a beautiful thing.  A study guide is now ready for preparing for a test.

 *Please note that the notes written down can be done visually as pictures.  No one says the sticky notes have to have words on them.


Notetaking strategies (Part 1)

Recently, I have been working with some of my middle school/high school students on note taking strategies. It is sad really that when you walk into classrooms and ask teachers if they have taught their students how to take notes in their classroom about 9 out of every 10 I ask say, “No”.  The interesting part is that many of them require the students to take notes or they strongly encourage it and say, “You can use your notes for the test.” 

If a student does not know HOW to take the notes in a way that works for them, then the notetaking is useless.

We can not possibly expect students to be successful with taking notes without teaching it. It is important to remember that students need to take notes in a style that works for them.  They need to try a few different styles to find the right one for them. 

  It is essential that you teach them the strategy and not just give it to them and say, “Now do it.”

When using these you must practice this with them.

1. Model the strategy for them: This means read a section with them and you do it for them.  Before writing on each stickynote, say outloud what you are thinking.  This might be something like, “I think it was really important to know…”  You may also while reading, realize that you are already thinking about what needs to go on your notes. You read a sentence and say, wow! That’s important.  So say that out loud for them.  This is important.  Then go ahead if you feel the need and write that down on a note right then and then keep reading.  You can always add more paper or stickynotes.  You don’t have to fit it all on one. Include in your “thinking aloud” why you are choosing what you are choosing to write down.

2. Have them read the next section and discuss what they are choosing to write down.  Make sure they can say why they chose what they chose.

3.  If they really attached to the method and really get it, let them do several sections and then show it to you.  After a while, they are good to go, you don’t need to keep watching over how they are doing their notes.

4. If the strategy doesn’t stick and seem to be one they attach to Try Another One. 

I felt I should break the different strategies into different posts so please take the ideas here and apply them to the next few notetaking posts. I am only sharing a few strategies, there are many so don’t limit yourself to these. These posts include

Sticky Note Notes

T- Notes

Mind Mapping

My child can read fine, but doesn’t comprehend, could she be dyslexic?

Sad really, but a child that can read well and doesn’t understand is not a typcial child with dyslexia. Why would this parent think this? Well dyslexia is the term most often used for a child who struggles in reading. Why did I know this child wasn’t a dyslexic? I knew because I did some testing which showed she had good word recall, good understanding  of phonics and syllabication and therefore not dyslexic. We will call her Susie for purposes of discussion.

Susie came to me about 6 months back and was struggling to understand what she read. She knew how to read the words, she was just unable to put them together in her mind for understanding. This always really throws parents for a loop. They are lost. Their child can read and sometimes even really fast but after reading it, they can’t answer the questions. Some parents, if the child is reading silently assume they didn’t really read it. Some if reading orally, think they weren’t paying attention. This just isn’t true. This girl was truly trying, paying attention and doing the best she could. She didn’t have meaning attached to the words. The words were just words. The next common question is “how did this happen?”

Think of a time when you were reading and finished the page you were reading and went to the top of the next page suddenly realizing that you didn’t remember anything you just read. Your mind was tuned out to the meaning side of reading and was just going through the motions of the words. Your mind must be trained to attach meaning to words.

Susie is a sixth grade girl and her comprehension is at about a third grade level. Susie is one that everyone has seen as a good reader and because she sounded good, assumed that meaning was there. Susie was good at hiding the lack of comprehension by listening to those around her and learning what they said the reading was about. What Susie has needed is someone to be talking with her about the stories she has read.

Just learning to read words, isn’t enough. I’ll come back to the process we took to close the gap for Susie, but first let’s talk about the general strategy for what to do for someone with a true comprehension problem, not dyslexic. If you see that your child’s comprehension is weak (sometimes in specific subjects) do the following:

1. Go find an interesting story at a level they are able to comprehend. You can test this by having them read a page aloud and then tell you what the page was about. You want to be sure and request that the retelling is in sequence. If this isn’t attainable on the first try, then they need to reread thepage silently stopping at the end of each paragraph and telling you what that paragraph is about. This give a natural way of learning the concept of main idea.

2. As the comprehension improves, increase the number of paragraphs they read aloud until they are able to read an entire page and then tell the story in sequence.
*Note: You can teach some self-help skills here by providing your child some sticky notes to use in school where at the end of each paragraph (s) or page they make a note on the sticky of what took place or what the most important ideas on the page were. These make for excellent notes for studying later. Just pull them off and place them in a notebook for studying.

3. After being able to comprehend an entire page read orally, then they should move to reading the entire page silently and then recall what has taken place on the page.
4. If they are not able to tell a story in sequence after trying to read the whole page silently, go back to paragraphs at a time that are read silently and retell what wwas in each paragraph. This will want to be built on starting at 1 paragraph, then two, then three then a whole page at a time until the entire page is able to be read silently and recalled.

5. It is always a good idea when working on comprehension to stop at good times throughout a story to ask questions about what they expect will happen next and how a story will end. This helps focus the mind on the meaning of the story.

In Susie’s case, here was the action plan.

We started with mid-high second grade level material as she was testing at the third grade level, but I needed to build trust and confidence. We took the process above and followed it with a book she was interested in above. She only stayed at that level for about 3 weeks. We quickly moved up to the third grade level and with each few weeks moved up a level moving at the pace that worked for her. Moving up too quickly can cause a frustration level that is too high. Comprehension building takes consistency and commitment.

It is important to note that an essential skill in a tutor is for the tutor to train the parent what to do to tutor the child themselves, because the tutor only meets with the child so many times a week. Comprehension building must be worked on daily.
For Susie, the parent’s assignment was to have Susie read several pages per day orally from the books we were using to build comprehension and taught the parent to use the strategy above. Over the course of 6 months, we have moved from the second grade level material and now the assignment is for her mom to have her read several pages from her homework each day stopping every so often to check to make sure she has understood what she has read.
Susie is using a variety of note taking skills to help keep her focused on the meaning but will soon be reading silently most of the time, just keeping track of her own understanding. This is the ultimate goal.
What causes set backs? Many times everyone will start out on the right track to improve comprehension, but building this skills requires daily work. You can not skip days. Skipping 2 or 3 days in this process can take a child back an entire month of progress. This means that you can’t take weekends off or holidays and particularly Christmas Break. If so, you will be pulling your hair out come January. This doesn’t mean you have to do school work throughout the Christmas break, it just means have some high interest books or magazines that your child is interested in. Have something you read in the evening before bed. Yes, even middle schoolers like reading at bedtime. Take some of the time and have them follow the process for a couple of pages and then take some time for you to read allowed to them. At first they might buck the idea, but seriously, I have been working with middle schoolers for ten years and they absolutely love to be read to. Take advantage of the time though and stop to discuss what is going on in the story or what they think will happen next.

Need Tutoring: Check out my post on: Kids of the King Tutoring Services

Lynnette Crawley M.S. Ed

As an educational consultant, I work with families, students, adults, parents, teachers, schools and corporations in relationship to the many disabilities affecting their lives. Many times all anyone needs is a little coaching, direction or tools to close the gap between where they are and where they should be. Making progress is not good enough. We must be closing the gap. Email:

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