Monday, July 7

Comprehension Questions

In response to:
“Too often our instruction, assessments, and classroom discussions favor the notion that comprehension as a commodity focusing on carrying away or measuring some amount of knowledge or attribute produced from a reading event rather than an active, meaning making process of understanding the world.
So my question to you, friends, is this:
Is this what it really means to be a reader in the 21st Century?”

Read the whole post here.

A little nibbler for you:

com•pre•hend - Show Spelled Pronunciation[kom-pri-hend] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
–verb (used with object)
1. to understand the nature or meaning of; grasp with the mind; perceive: He did not comprehend the significance of the ambassador's remark.
2. to take in or embrace; include; comprise: The course will comprehend all facets of Japanese culture.
[Origin: 1350–1400; ME comprehenden < L comprehendere, equiv. to com- COM- + prehendere to grasp; see PREHENSILE ]


1340, "to grasp with the mind," from L. comprehendere "to grasp, seize," from com- "completely" + prehendere "to catch hold of, seize" (see prehensile). Comprehensive "containing much" is from 1662.

I can attest to the fact that there is a right answer to any comprehension question. Teachers will try to persuade you, NO! of course there is not a right answer. Comprehension, UNDERSTANDING, is an individual process and every student will process the information differently. But, I argue, how could there not be a right answer? There is, in almost every case, a wrong answer. The one that a student gives, after reading the passage or completing the activity, that the teacher responds to with another question.
“Well, yes, that’s correct…”
If it’s correct, why are you trying to dissuade this student from believing so by asking this next question…
“…but what about xyz?” Often this last part is a “clarifying” question. What exactly is being clarified? The student’s understanding of the text, or your understanding of the student?
Sometimes, a teacher will ask the why. Why do you think that? How do you know this is true? These take comprehension one step further, closer to that process of making meaning than the initial question provokes. The big one, the one that is messy and rarely is asked because it’s messy: How does this apply to you? That’s where meaning is made.
Posed in many ways depending on the grade level, the subject, and the class itself, teachers are rarely looking for the connection between the student and the subject. Enough comprehension, as assessed by correct answers to the curriculum questions, will assure that at least medium-level (at best) thinking is attained. To ensure that students know why this lesson on math, science, bullying, sentence structure, sexual health is important, they have to make it important to themselves. Comprehension strategies, as taught to teachers who use them in class, do little of this.
The original post has a great link to that list of questions that we, and I’ll include myself thus far, are using to assess student comprehension. Are these worthwhile? Are they relevant to today’s student?

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