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How to Improve Reading Comprehension With Online Exercises

by Christopher Cascio, studioD

Teaching reading comprehension is challenging because different students struggle with different aspects of reading. When using online exercises to teach your students how to read, incorporate comprehension activities that focus on the individual needs of your students, and that take full advantage of the vast resources and convenience of the Internet.

Supplement Guided Readings

Focused reading is a system for teaching comprehension in which you address potential comprehension obstacles before, during and after a child reads. For instance, you begin by discussing what the passage is about, and any difficulties your students -- or child -- might encounter. You then guide students through the passage, stopping regularly to invite brief discussions about the text and any difficulties that arise. The Internet becomes useful here because it allows you to look up reference material without drawing attention away from the passage. For example, if you've displayed an article on an interactive whiteboard that describes how tadpoles grow into frogs, you can immediately search for images, or supplemental texts or even word definitions -- in a new window that will enhance your students' understanding.

Click for Motivation

Sometimes, children dislike reading exercises simply because the subject matter doesn't interest them. According to Professor Catherine E. Snow of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, children who are presented with interesting texts are more likely to practice their reading skills enough to develop strong comprehension skills. An advantage of using the Internet is that you can locate texts that your child will enjoy reading. For example, if you want to teach about discerning fact from opinion -- and your child likes baseball -- you could locate a short article about Babe Ruth calling his shot during the 1932 World Series, and ask your child to identify the facts and opinions; Ruth hit the home run, but opinions differ as to whether he pointed toward the pitcher or the fence.

Build Internet-Age Literacy

Another factor that helps to motivate students is having them understand the reasons that comprehension is important. In addition to the pragmatic reasons, such as needing reading skills to pass school tests, you can use the Internet as tool that requires literacy as well. For example, if you are teaching students how to scan and skim passages either to identify specific bits of information or infer a general impression about a passage, you could have them practice with search engine results. Have them enter a phrase associated with a topic they'd like to study, and when the search results load, they can skim the blurbs beneath each result title to see if that source delivers what they're looking for.

Get Interactive with Analysis

Interactive whiteboards allow you to involve the entire class in comprehension activities. For example, you can use exercises in which students read passages displayed on the board and then highlight the sentences that convey the main ideas. Alternatively, you could examine passage structure, and have students use several different highlighting colors to denote which parts of a passage serve to introduce, support and conclude a topic. You can also use this opportunity to highlight or circle difficult words or phrases, and draw the entire class's attention to these elements to inspire a class discussion.

About the Author

Christopher Cascio is a memoirist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and literature from Southampton Arts at Stony Brook Southampton, and a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in the rhetoric of fiction from Pennsylvania State University. His literary work has appeared in "The Southampton Review," "Feathertale," "Kalliope" and "The Rose and Thorn Journal."

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