A Closer Look at New Academic Standards and Tips to Meet Them

Three elementary students learning to read using workbooks

New academic standards, ones that require testing and ultimately evaluation, require students to demonstrate a deeper level of comprehension when it comes to reading. Specifically, the standards challenge students to use critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills and analytical skills to answer questions about literary passages.

The shift may prove difficult for some students who otherwise have performed well or met previous expectations for reading. One of the keys to becoming a successful reader with strong comprehension skills is the ability to be an active reader. Active readers visualize the story, predict what might happen next, question why characters are doing certain things, and evaluate overall messaging or situations.

It’s important for parents who may have struggled with reading to encourage kids about their reading abilities, rather than transfer their previous academic issues to their children, if even inadvertently. Here are a few other tips on how to ensure your student is absorbing what he or she is reading, and how to help if they aren’t.

Introduce different texts. Kids will be required to read all different types of texts in school and in every day life, from magazines to textbooks to screenplays to assembly instructions. As a way to exercise and sharpen comprehension skills, ask your student to read and interpret challenging types of texts, be it poetry, skits or technical pieces. Let them think about what is being said, what it means and how they might be able to relate to it. Decode the unknown. Students stumble on words they don’t know or haven’t seen before. To aid comprehension and a deeper understanding, encourage your student to decode the unknown on their own before getting completely sidetracked or skipping it altogether. Suggest that they read the sentence again. Then, suggest that they read the sentences before and after the word that has them stumped. If that still leaves them with questions, suggest that the student look for a root word within the word that they do know, and interpret meaning from there.

Ask inquisitive questions. It’s important to ask students questions about their reading, if only to make sure they actually read the material they were supposed to. But, to truly challenge students to a level that is required of them, ask inquisitive questions. Dig a little deeper on concepts, even if you don’t know the answer yourself. Ask your student to try and predict what might happen next. And, try to use vocabulary reflected in exams, by asking your student to compare and contrast, summarize, draw conclusions, and provide opinions on characters and character traits.
Make connections. Even the most stubborn of kids will read, eventually. But making sure they absorb the content is key. For extra reading, choose topics that interest them. It might take a little legwork to find the right book or genre, but once you find it, your student will discover that reading is actually fun. When the subject isn’t a favorite, find ways to make a connection to their life. Discuss the topics and see if there are different ways your student can relate to them.
Get involved. Reading with your student shouldn’t stop once they graduate past picture books. Reading with your student gives you the chance to take stock of his or her reading ability. According to experts, students are at the correct reading level if they’re able to recognize 90 percent of the words they’re reading. Reading along with them is a great way to identify if they’re at the right level. Experts also cite the comprehensive benefits students experience from reading out loud, since they see, say and hear the words at the same time.


This article was originally published on East Valley Tribune, and was reposted here with permission. 


About the Author
Lyndsey Croyle

Lyndsey Croyle

Lyndsey Croyle is a fifth-grade teacher at Arizona Connections Academy. Reading team members Christin Markley and Amy Ricks contributed to this commentary.