Reporting from the Technology, Reading & Learning Diversity Conference, Anne Davis reflects on giving language to the process of comprehension; by defining and describing the process, students can better understand how best to develop their comprehension strategy. She writes:
• When you are deeply engaged the world around you disappears.
• We dwell in ideas. We need time to be silent, to listen to our own thinking to reflect purposefully on an idea.
• How much time do we give students? We have to give them time.
• Understanding does not happen unless we give them time to think deeply. We have to give them time.
• Students need a way to hold on to their thinking.
• We understand when we struggle because we so want to know.
• Talk is hugely important to the learning process.
• To understand is to remember because it is important for us to remember — need those emotional connections.
• Rigorous discourse with others.
• We are renaissance learners — we allow ourselves to meander through a wide range of topics and understand texts and generalize.
• We work to understand how ideas are related.
When we understand:
• We concentrate intensively — we are fervent, we lose ourselves in the experience of thought, we work intensively, the world disappears and we work hard to learn more, we choose to challenge ourselves.
In order to make the dimensions of understanding come alive, teachers should:
• Model — This translates into you sharing with your students about times you were intensely involved with learning and what triggered you to push those understandings further. Share the details. Did you happen to be studying something at the time that was an area in which you were passionately interested? What made you want to dig deeper? Did it lead you to more understandings?
• Talk about how to develop areas of passionate interest. Such passions don’t come automatically to all kids. Talk to your kids in individual and group meetings to help kids find areas that most interest them. Talk with them about how to pursue topics of passionate interest. How do you do it in your own life — how might they do it?
In a companion post, Anne describes strategies for making this dimension come alive in the classroom:
• Set aside some chunks of class time for focused, silent work in which students can concentrate on more deeply understanding one idea – when they have time to listen to themselves think and consider subtleties rather than rushing to memorize the next thing.
• Model how proficient readers frequently re-read and re-think portions of text – kids often think that re-reading means starting at the beginning and re-reading everything – show them how readers pick and choose among the portions of text they choose to explore more deeply.
• Teach kids about meta-cognition – thinking about one’s own thinking – and the seven most common meta-cognitive strategies.
Here’s a list of those strategies:
• Connecting the known to the new.
• Determining importance, learning the essence of text.
• Questioning, delving deeper into meaning.
• Using sensory images to enhance comprehension.
• Inferring, finding the intersection of meaning.
• Synthesizing, discovering the contour and substance of meaning.
• Solving reading problems Independently, empowering children to move from problem to resolution.