When children struggle to read fluently we focus the majority of our instruction and energy on fluent reading. We, teachers and parents alike, are so focused on the children reading the text and catching up to their peers that we forget about reading's best friend. You see, reading fluently and comprehension go hand in hand. Unfortunately, comprehension often takes a back seat to fluent reading. Then, after celebrating that the child is reading, we realize that we neglected sufficient comprehension instruction. The truth is fluency and comprehension should be taught together not separately. If the child reads fluently (even a beginner text), then they will have more information to work with while working on comprehension skills. Likewise, if a child becomes skilled in comprehension, then they will apply those meaning skills to decode words and continue to build fluency. When fluency and comprehension are used together, we see our students exceed expectations and utilize the skills and confidence from this complementary relationship.
Now that we have established the significance of comprehension, we are going to examine the power of re-telling. Unfortunately, re-telling has become redundant and used endlessly at the end of assessments, read alouds, anthology texts, and monotonous reading group sessions. Instead of using comprehension skills and activities to produce rich re-tellings of the text, we reduce re-tellings to the boring question "What can you tell me about this story?" It's time to redeem the process of re-telling and to acknowledge the power of re-telling in building comprehension.
Re-telling gives us a glimpse into our students' minds as they are processing the information that they just read. We as parents and educators use the re-tellings to assess what the child retained from the text and what areas require more instruction. We may notice that the areas of comprehension the child excels at are beneficial in supporting instruction in the weaker areas. We need to use frameworks and comprehension strategies to develop useful questions that prompt rich re-tellings of the text.
We shouldn't handicap our students by asking vague, redundant questions. We must ask probing questions that engage students in meaningful discussion. For instance, asking students questions and providing activities about problem/solution, summarizing, sequencing, and cause/effect will produce rich re-tells. We need to equip our students with the knowledge that these skills help them re-tell the story especially so they understand the terminology and its relationship to re-telling on assessments.
Let's move away from the question "What can you tell me about this story?" and on towards comprehension skills and rich discussion about the text.
Thanks for reading my thoughts on re-telling and the fluency/comprehension relationship. Please subscribe to my blog for more educational posts and a free re-telling resource pack with printables!You can also follow me on Twitter @AshleyBHinkle.