After having lunch with a friend of mine from South America, we discussed translating the first book I wrote into Spanish.  We daydreamed of how much fun it would be to travel and promote my book in Colombia, South America.  And until this coronavirus thing came up, I was considering it.  I had picked up a decent amount of Spanish in high school (eons ago) but struggled to recall most of the vocabulary.  She suggested I use the app Duolingo, so I did just that and practiced religiously.  This app taught Spanish to me in a way I think all learners could benefit from. Learners use three of our five senses to infuse this language into the brain: seeing, hearing, and touching.

In teaching writing (and in tutoring kids in English), I found that the best way to learn something new is to engage your sense of hearing, sight, and touch.  Have you ever noticed when young kids read, they do so aloud? As kids age, they no longer want to read aloud (for a variety of reasons). This is often the time when comprehension can start to decline.  Reading aloud engages your sense of seeing and hearing. This causes the brain to receive the information in two different ways at the same time.

To amplify retention, using your finger to point to each word as you read uses the sense of touch and allows the brain to focus on one word at a time.  In addition, it causes the reader to slow down and reduce the number of mispronounced or skipped words.

When my daughter was younger, she struggled with reading and therefore hated to read aloud. I kept urging her to do so but it was often met with screams of “Why?!” I knew just because phonics wasn’t clicking for her didn’t mean her understanding of the text should suffer. Side note:  I’ve worked with great readers who speedily read through text but can’t recall much of what they read. My daughter begrudgingly began to read aloud and it paid off. Now that she is older and in college, she loves the idea of reading aloud. She understands that it keeps her focused and alert and her comprehension and retention are superb.

Here are some other tips for strengthening reading comprehension:

  1. If they’re reading a long text, seeing the whole passage at once terrifies kids as they think, “How am I ever going to stay awake long enough to read all of this?” To help, grab a sheet of paper (white is fine, but colored is better) and block off all but the next line of text. This trains the eye to focus on just that content.
  2. Read the first sentence, which should be the topic sentence, twice. That way you know what to expect in the paragraph that follows.
  3. Use tinted paper to overlay the bright white paper (or vivid computer screen), which may be tiring to your readers’ eyes.
  4. Play classical music while reading. This stimulates the brain and may help readers comprehend more. ¿Tú comprende?

Now, back to my Duolingo.

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