It’s a given that every student has reading homework. No matter what grade level, from kindergarten through college (and even work!), every student has to read. That’s pretty much the foremost point of school, right? Learning how to read! So how can we help our students with their reading homework? Having your student do homework in a quiet, non-distracting environment is only the beginning. Reading comprehension takes time and repetition.
1) Have the student use his own words to tell you what happened in the story. When students use their own words, it builds comprehension and confidence. The best comprehension in any subject is to be able to talk about it to another person. As comprehension increases, so will the student’s confidence.
2) Ask questions to check understanding–throughout the material, not just at the end. Who are the characters? What happened? Why did the character act that way? Why did that event happen? While still in the middle of the story, ask your student to predict what might happen next. For older students, ask what themes are being explored. Use grade-level-appropriate vocabulary for the older students: novel, conflict, theme, resolution, etc.
3) Take notes! This follows the first two tips, especially for older students reading longer stories. Read with a purpose. Some teachers have students keep a reading log or journal. Some specifically want a dialectical journal; here are instructions and a great example. Others call it annotating. Whatever you call it, taking notes keeps the student focused on the reading material. Write down unknown words: look them up and sound them out. Write down important words, ideas, and events from the story.
4) Make connections from the text to life. If the student is writing a dialectical journal, this will already be a part of the journal. Even for younger students though, as the student reads, ask how the story connects to real life or other things. How does the character connect to the student? Does this story connect to or remind the student of another piece she’s read? How does the story relate to the world at large? If the student is younger, how does the story relate to the student’s world (friends, family)?
5) Have your student read aloud to someone. Younger children love bedtime stories. Take turns reading to each other. Students can also read to siblings or the pets. I’ve watched toddlers joyfully “reading” to their baby siblings.
Reading aloud causes the reader to slow down, which helps the student focus. This increases comprehension. It also is a good starting point for conversation or questions.
Bonus: read something fun and interesting! Helping with reading homework includes enjoying reading also. The student doesn’t have to enjoy the reading assignments… and usually doesn’t. So for bedtime reading, choose something fun. Even if it’s “just” a magazine article, reading skills improve only when we read. So read something, anything, everything!