Training Students to Ask for Clarification (while reading)

Students, in my case teenagers, do NOT like saying they don’t understand something.

This is frustrating for me. It’s one of my expectations to ask for clarification, or rather I put it on myself. Tell me when *I* am unclear. Tell me when *I* go too fast.

I get frustrated because when students don’t tell me I am being incomprehensible, I can’t clarify, and I can’t help them acquire new language. Then because they aren’t acquiring new language, they have the misfortune of being left behind at some point. They get frustrated because they don’t understand, I get frustrated because they haven’t been doing what they need to do to succeed. I do do my darndest to preemptively clarify things. If I know it’s a new word I’ll write it on the board. But if I use it again and don’t clarify I need students to tell me that I didn’t do my job of making language comprehensible to them.

In comes lap reading. I read about lap reading from Jon Cowart. I really like that I can give students more reasons to re-read a text, and do a comprehensible input style “close reading” activity.

I’ve made my first lap (and I think it will permanently be this) to highlight what you UNDERSTAND. Obvi, the first reason I do this is to show students they are understanding more than they think they are.

Second reason is the review period for the lap. I bring the class back together and start reading the text aloud with the instruction: When we come to something that you have NOT highlighted, tell me.

This allows for on the spot clarification, they are rereading the text, and I can maybe have some collaboration going on by having other students help clarify.

The review period is SO IMPORTANT of this. Because we can’t just go back and tell students what a word means after the fact. It does nothing for real-time processing of language. You MUST re-read the text with students. Cold call students after reading a sentence, ask if they DIDN’T highlight something, then go back and re read the sentence, check for understanding after and then go on.

I’ll let you know if this gives students any long term confidence of letting me know when something is incomprehensible to them.

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