Monitoring comprehension

Katya , 03-28-2016

Step 1: Tell a Story to Give Context for Today’s Lesson

Story about a struggling reader (10th grader Daniel) that changed my reading comprehension teaching forever.

In a rather irritating voice, Dan says “How am I supposed to know if I understand what I am reading or not?” Astonished I asked him to clarify what he means. “That’s what you are paid for, isn’t it? How am I supposed to know when I don’t get something? I’m just a kid.”

“Actually, Dan, you are asking me to be a mind reader, and no I am not get paid for that. Think about it, if you don’t even know when you are stuck, how am I supposed to know?”

Dan, like many readers, misunderstood my job. Even though I do my best to help him access understanding, but expecting me to monitor his comprehension is just impossible. He didn’t realize that it’s his job to be conscious of the thinking taking place inside his head. Dan is the only one who can truly know if understands something. He has known when he gets confused and how to help himself when he gets confused.

Step 2:Announce the topic of the session (Comprehension Monitoring and Signs of Confusion)and preview what we will do during the hour.

A lot of the times students don’t recognize confusion until you have to do something with the text like answer questions or write a summary. Not until they have to remember what they read, do they realize that they have an issue with comprehension. Most of them are NOT focused on what’s going on in their head as they read, they solely focus on decoding the words.

Those students:

Finish the text or assignment even though they have no idea what they are reading.

Hope that the confusing will go away.

Don’t expect to understand and accept their confusion.

Never stop to repair the confusion.

What do I do with these readers? Show them how to monitor their reading which helps them regain confidence and puts them back in control of reading.

If readers are unaware of their thinking, they will end up making the same mistakes over and over again.

Step 3: How Do I Know I’m Stuck?

When Dan was asking me “ How am I supposed to know where I am stuck?” he was really asking me for ways to identify his confusion.

There are six signals to look for when you read:

1) The voice inside of reader’s head isn’t interacting with the text.

Readers have 2 types of voices in their head as they read: one is reciting the text; the other has a converSAT® ion with the text. In a sense, it’s talking back to the words on the page. Sometimes it asks questions, sometimes it agrees or disagrees with the content. This voice interacts with ideas on the page. When readers only hear themselves saying the words, they are confused, bored and won’t remember what they have read.

2) The Camera inside the reader’s head shuts off.

Good readers have a video camera playing inside their head as they read. When the camera shuts off, and the reader can no longer get a visual image from the words, it’s an indication that the meaning has been interrupted.

3) The Reader’s mind begins to wander.

Good Readers can catch themselves when they are thinking about something unrelated to the text. Thinking about something far removed from the topic of the converSAT® ion is a sign that the reader must reconnect with their reading.

4) The Reader Can’t Remember what they have read.

Good Readers can usually retell some part of what they have read. If they can’t remember what they have read, it’s a sign that they need to go back and repair meaning.

5) Clarifying questions asked by the reader we not answered.

Good readers ask exact questions to clarify meaning. When those questions don’t get answered, it’s an indication that the reader needs more background knowledge or is not focused on the text.

6) The reader encounters the character and has no recollection when the character was introduced.

Good readers keep track of characters and know who they are. When the reader re-encounters a character and has no recollection who that character is, it is a signal that the reader wasn’t paying attention and needs to repair something that has caused meaning to break down.

Step 4: Practice

To become more conscious of whether you understand what you are reading we will do a monitoring exercise.

Tell a story about the Divine Comedy and Canto 34.

When I work with difficult texts like Dante’s Divine Comedy, it’s easier to teach the reading, but I prefer to reach the reader. Instead of just focusing on sounding out the words I encourage students to monitor their understanding. Stop and help yourself repair the understanding instead of continuing to read.

This assignment is testing your ability to identify confusion. I want you to read the text, find a confusing part, mark it, and describe what you don’t understand or why you lost meaning.

Here are some examples:

An unfamiliar word

Reference to a historic figure

Your mind wandered, and you caught yourself thinking of something unrelated to reading.


Sticky notes, yellow and pink highlighter, text.

We will be reading first two pages “Of Mice and Men” and as we read, we will highlight every word either in Pink or Yellow. If we understand something well enough to teach it to someone else, who didn’t understand it, we will highlight it in yellow. If we encounter something we don’t understand or get confused about, we will highlight it in Pink.

By the end of the exercise, compare the student’s paper and show your paper (prepared prior). Everyone’s places of confusion are different. There is no penalty for highlighting in Pink: good readers know when they are confused. There is no penalty for highlighting in yellow and misinterpreting; the only penalty is for not highlighting at all.

Step 5: Summary

What did we learn today?

Whose job is it to monitor comprehension?

Do good reader disguise or ignore their confusion?

What are some signals that can tell us that we are confused (6)?

The inner voice inside of the reader’s head stops it’s converSAT® ion with the text and the reader only hears his voice pronouncing words.

The Camera inside of the readers heads gets shut off, and the reader can no longer visualize what is happening as he reads.

The reader’s mind begins to wander, and he catches himself thinking about something far removed from the text.

The reader can not remember or retell what he has read.

The reader is not getting his clarifying questions answered.

Characters are re-appearing in the text, and the reader doesn’t remember who they are.

Why do we need to isolate confusion?

How can we do that with a sticky note?

What are the two voices in your head?