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Between the Common Core State Standards and corresponding PARCC assessment (which will eventually be in lieu of the New Jersey ASK test), students are required to read more complex texts and answer questions that require a higher degree of critical thinking skills.
image credits: anak damai sejahtera
To help your child become more comfortable with the increased rigor in reading, there are some simple critical reading tips or steps that you can take, such as:
– Simply spend some time getting to know what your child is reading, whether it’s required for class or an independent novel. This will allow you to discuss the content with your child and gauge how well he or she comprehends the text.
– As your child reads a book (for pleasure or for class), ask him or her questions about the reading material. Then, ask your child to support those answers with evidence from the text. For example, if your child absolutely loved a novel, ask questions like: “What happened in the story that made it your favorite? What did the characters do or say that made it so good? What was the most exciting part of the book?” These questions will prompt your son/daughter to demonstrate comprehension by being able to summarize or synthesize the information in the book.
– At Home. Many ELA (English Language Arts & Literacy) teachers work on reading comprehension strategies with students, but the more they practice at home and at school, the better they get at not only understanding the text but also being able to apply what they’ve read to essay questions, comprehension tests, and writing tasks. The following strategies are easy to work on at home and require little to no materials or advance preparation:
Ask your son/daughter to predict what’s going to happen next in the story. Then ask why, as this will reinforce the need to cite evidence from the text to explain the prediction.
Ask your child to link what s/he has read with another book, movie, news topic, etc. By making these connections, your child is going above and beyond basic comprehension by sifting through similarities and differences and making associations and connections between the two.
Have your child pose questions about what he or she read, such as, “What does ____ (vocabulary word) mean? Why did the character do that?” As your child continues reading the passage or book, revisit these questions later and try to answer them. Sometimes, the child will need to read until the end of the passage to answer a given question, while other times he or she may need to consult an outside source (dictionary, encyclopedia) to locate the answer to his/her question.
As your child revisits questions and predictions, he or she is clarifying information – which is an indicator of how well your son/daughter understood the reading. Another easy way to clarify what has been read is to summarize what happened in each chapter.
For artistically inclined children and visual learners, asking the child to sketch a scene from a book demonstrates how well the child understood the reading passage, and it also forces your son/daughter to make a “mental movie” during reading (another great way to focus and improve comprehension of reading material!).
Kids love to share their opinions, and if you ask your child to make judgments about characters, their actions, plot, etc., you’re helping your son/daughter to evaluate the text.
Citing evidence surfaces repeatedly in the Common Core Standards, so you’ll be doing an excellent job of reinforcing skills that your child is learning in the classroom. Likewise, the evolving battery of state tests (PARCC) will require students to revisit the text to demonstrate reading comprehension. With any of these strategies, the more you ask for examples from the text to support a particular opinion, the more prepared your child will be to think critically in the classroom and beyond.