One thing that most of us take for granted is higher order thinking for reading and comprehension. The general assumption is that if a child can read, the meaning of the text is clear. However, this is increasingly not the case in a world where we are flooded with images and words with very little time to process them. It is too easy for children to accept that they do not understand all of the text and press on further into the book without bothering to comprehend what they have read.
Getting children to realize that they are missing too much information to progress can be a difficult and frustrating process. By implementing the right strategies in literacy activities and teaching children from a young age to want to learn everything there is to know on the page will greatly increase their higher order thinking for reading and comprehension.
It is easy to turn reading comprehension into regurgitation, but this does not require higher order thinking in reading; it requires only memorization. The first few questions are usually simple questions that are easy for a child to answer, such as what color is the jacket the main character was wearing, but these should tie into more complicated questions. For example, does the color foreshadow something that happens in the story? Does the jacket have a special meaning to the character?
Trying to get the child to predict what happens next or to suggest reasons why characters acted in a certain way help a child to consider what they have read. These kinds of questions go well beyond what the reading passage tells them, getting them to draw conclusions and ideas based on what they know.
Most of us stop working on our vocabulary long before we finish high school. However, developing a larger vocabulary teaches children not only new ways to express ideas, they learn about the different nuances of synonyms. Reading passages should always include at least a couple of words that a child is not likely to have encountered before reading them. Using the context clues, the child can learn to understand what the word means. It is also a good time to try to think of several synonyms or antonyms, and discuss the word in more detail.
Younger children will not have as many experiences to draw on for their reading comprehension. To get a child to start using higher order thinking in reading, you have to start them out slowly. Ask some of the more obvious questions so that they can focus on a few key areas. From there, the other half of the questions can push the child to think a little beyond what they have read.
You can focus on questions like, “How do you think that made the character feel?” for a passage where a character cried. That can be followed with a question about why the child thinks the character feels that way. You want to get children to think about cause and effect in the early stages. One of the last questions you can ask the child is to predict what will happen next.
As the child get accustomed to thinking outside of just what is presented in reading passages, you can start to make fewer questions that are easily answered. Focus on questions that require the child to infer what will happen and how the story will go because of this. You can expand beyond simply reading passages and books, moving into chapter books and more complicated stories so that the child can see how close their answer was to what actually happened. This kind of critical thinking pushes them to understand beyond the obvious and to understand the more complex aspects of a story. Encourage the child to use the new vocabulary words in answering questions, including vocabulary words that they learned earlier in the book.
Reading comprehension is a frequently overlooked skill, but it has some of the best potential for teaching children to apply analytical skills in a more entertaining and engaging way. Higher order thinking in reading provides a skill that can be applied to the child’s own life to understand how others think and act.
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