In order to further fine-tune students’ reading comprehension, it may be helpful to do an error analysis…looking at where students are making errors and the nature of those errors. Error analysis can be done by analyzing student test answers on standardized tests (boring—but sometimes necessary) or through listening to student conversations in literature circles.
In my experience, I see frequent errors of both higher and lower level thinking.
Higher Level Thinking
Students are programmed to look for the “right answer” in the text. This works often but it doesn’t work when the author gives us clues and doesn’t tell us directly. It also doesn’t work when there is subtext. A character might say, “I’m have a great day.” But the character is really having a lousy day. Students can’t always take a character at their word.
Lack of Vocabulary Strategies
After students have taken a test, I always go over the test. Rather than giving students definitions of words, we talk about how you could kinda-sorta figure out the meaning of unfamiliar words when you’re left out there on your own and in the middle of taking a test.
For example, if you didn’t know what paralyzed meant, you’d be given a clue from a following paragraph which talks about the guy being in a wheelchair. If you didn’t know what granite was, you could kinda figure it was some kind of rock because the passage said the mountain was made of granite. Students need a set of vocabulary strategies at their disposal.
Errors of reasoning
Here’s a fantastic list of 15 Reasoning Errors by Mark Pennington. Mark lists things like omission errors, when students leave out words when they’re reading that change the entire meaning.
Low Level Thinking
These do not require great thinking and yet about half of the errors I see are due to these problems.
Students get questions wrong simply because they don’t know who “he” or “she” refers to. In addition to summarizing, when you’re doing guided reading, it’s a good idea to stop now and then and ask who is “he” or who are “they”? Make sure students are able to identify the person the pronoun refers to.
Even fluent readers I work with get confused between Mr. and Mrs. It makes a big difference in who we’re reading about. Students read don’t as do or skip the word entirely and it changes the meaning of the sentence.
Are there any other comprehension errors you see your students making?