New Technology Helps Build Reading Comprehension

Dylan Bissonnette is a senior UMass Dartmouth sociology major with a minor in education. In 2008, Dylan was a part of a group that founded Middlebridge School in Wakefield, RI. Middlebridge School is a small residential program that works with adolescents with language based learning differences. With graduation on the horizon, Dylan is looking forward to expanding his role at Middlebridge and pursing a graduate degree in special education.

Students with learning disabilities face particular difficulties when reading. These difficulties affect how a student is able to comprehend text. Many learning disabled students (LDS) are able to read through a text fluently but are not able to gain any kind of meaning from what they read (Reid & Lienemann, 2006). A student’s ability to comprehend is directly related to orthographic and semantic processing (Reid, Liemann 2006). Orthographic processing relates to a student’s ability to spell and recognize incorrect or correct spelling. If a student struggles with this type of processing they are unable to make full use of the English language. Semantic processing is connected to a student’s capacity to understand the meaning of words (Reid & Lienemann, 2006).

In order to help students become strong and more confident readers, students themselves must first have an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses before any interventions can be used. This is accomplished through the use of metacognitive reading inventories. Metacognition is a cognitive process where students are able to step back from a situation and recognize their own strengths and weaknesses (Dawson & Guare, 2009).

This type of inventory helps students and teachers find out where the breakdown in their comprehension begins. For example, a student is asked: what do you do if you encounter a word and you don’t know what it means? To answer this question the student is given four to five options to circle that best illustrates how they deal with this problem. Poor readers or LDS lack the ability to monitor their understanding of the text. Only after the point of breakdown in comprehension is identified can productive strategies be put into place.

One strategy that can help LDS with reading comprehension is the Story Grammar Strategy (Reid & Lienemann, 2006). This model consists of five questions aimed at helping a reader identify the main elements in a story. Essentially this model helps students identify the “who, where, what and how” of a story.

Integrating technology as an application can expand this model. Presently students have the opportunity to use word dictation software on the iPod Touch. This development makes dictation technology more mobile and affordable than ever before. It also makes useful technology accessible to a greater number of students.

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