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What Topics Are Covered in College Remedial Reading?

by Soheila Battaglia

Every year, thousands of incoming college students take placement exams and discover they have been placed in non-credited reading, writing or math class. These courses, under designations such as "remedial," "developmental" or "basic skills," are designed for students who need more preparation before taking college-level courses. The purpose of college remedial reading courses is to make students more confident, independent, and efficient readers. The program is designed to improve reading skills by teaching students more vocabulary, how to summarize effectively, and how to increase speed of reading and reading comprehension.

Summarization

Summarizing is something that nearly every person does in his or her daily life, such as describing the plot of a movie, or telling a friend what they missed in class. Remedial reading classes teach students the process of summarizing so they can do it repeatedly and for any text. Summarization in literature requires identifying main ideas and important points of a text and then re-articulating those points more briefly and in a student's own words.

Improving Reading Rate

Through frequent in-class and at-home reading assignments, students in remedial reading courses learn to improve their rate of reading. According to the professional development department of the University of Virginia, reading fluency involves "accurate, speedy word recognition." Activities around this topic include reading aloud, timed reading and partnered reading activities.

Improving Vocabulary

Another of the goals of remedial reading courses is vocabulary enrichment. Students strengthen their vocabulary and spelling skills by learning how to recognize contextual clues to a word's meaning and by making frequent use of a dictionary. Students also learn to differentiate between connotative and denotative vocabulary meaning. A basic vocabulary assignment may include writing sentences using specific vocabulary words from the day's lesson.

Reading Comprehension

The objective of the remedial reading program is to improve reading comprehension. Through written responses, discussions and reflections, students engage critically with the texts they read to gain a better understanding of both explicitly stated and implied ideas. Students are expected to identify a paragraph’s topic, locate a main idea and use critical thinking skills to evaluate and interpret a text. Often students will compose writings in response to the reading material to demonstrate their degree of comprehension.

About the Author

Soheila Battaglia is a published and award-winning author and filmmaker. She holds an MA in literary cultures from New York University and a BA in ethnic studies from UC Berkeley. She is a college professor of literature and composition.

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