There are hundreds of different ways to engage students in reading, but it can be challenging to implement strategies that work for every student in your class. One of the simplest ways to engage all of your learners is to provide a purpose for reading, but that’s easier said than done!
Global project-based learning is a great way to provide an authentic purpose and engage students in reading. Because project-based learning challenges students with real-world learning experiences, the purpose becomes immediately clear to students. There are a lot of reading comprehension skills that students improve when they connect with their peers through global PBL, like summarizing, supporting claims, and comparing & contrasting.
“Reading comprehension helps to improve the effectiveness of reading and understanding the given text. It enhances the vocabulary, increases the fluency of reading, develops the comprehension skills and also helps an individual to think critically and come to deductions. A student also learns to summarize the given text in less words which helps to express one's ideas in the most effective way. Hence, I think reading comprehension is an extremely important exercise in the learning of a language.”
Teachers from 150 different countries have been using PenPal Schools to connect their students through global project-based learning. We’ve seen educators emphasize reading comprehension skills in different ways as they participate in projects, so we asked them to share some tips and advice for improving reading comprehension. Here are 3 ways to support reading comprehension with global PBL:
1. Motivate students to read for pleasure
Tasia Fields, a K-8 ELA coordinator and K-12 coordinator of instructional technology who also supports educators through her blog Great Minds Teach Alike, encourages teachers to promote reading for pleasure. She told us: "Without comprehension reading simply becomes calling out words. Comprehension is the meat of reading, it's where you gain meaning and understanding of a text. I encourage our teachers to promote reading for pleasure. This can be modeled easily while encouraging reading outside of school. I think it's important to provide multiple opportunities for reading, it should be apart of everything we do." Project based learning emphasizes student choice and voice, and it’s a great opportunity to allow students to choose their own reading materials and encourage them to read at home.
One of the biggest benefits of using a platform like PenPal Schools to implement PBL is that the materials are prepared for you. Students can log in any time, from anywhere, to access videos, readings, discussion questions, and global perspectives from peers around the world. Teachers who have noticed the biggest improvement in reading comprehension using PenPal Schools encourage their students to explore the perspectives of peers from new countries. By following their curiosity to discover new global perspectives, students also begin to learn how to guide their own learning, which is another core component of PBL!
2. Encourage students to generate their own questions
Teaching students how to formulate their own questions also helps students begin to self-direct their learning while improving reading comprehension, and it’s never too early for readers to begin this practice.
Educator and author Paul Solarz told us: “Teaching reading comprehension at the elementary level is important because students spend a great deal of their early years learning how to decode, spell, and pronounce words, which takes a great deal of processing power and attention. It's important to transition them towards understanding what they read as they begin to become more automatic with their decoding skills. Although we focus on six main areas of comprehension in our classroom, the highest level of comprehension for us is being able to ask complex questions and answer them using evidence from the text. We do this with reading partners on video, which we then upload to YouTube and post in our ePortfolios.”
Connecting students with an authentic audience to read together, exchange ideas, and publish student work is a great way to help students begin to formulate their own questions, especially when students have the chance to connect with their peers from different cultures since they will find themselves naturally curious about their similarities and differences. On PenPal Schools, we notice that teachers have a lot of success when they encourage students to generate their own questions for their PenPals.
3. Connect students with peers outside of the classroom
Students may struggle to demonstrate their reading comprehension skills in class because you are the only person reading their work, and you already understand the reading! Instead, when students connect with global peers, they are forced to explain their ideas with evidence for an audience who may not be familiar with the text.
Aprilanne Lynch, a 5th grade teachers, told us: "I found PenPal Schools to be an amazing program in which my students had a chance to not just communicate with students outside of our area, but also outside of the country (and) practice vital reading skills such as finding the main idea of a text and elaborating his or her thoughts on the topic with evidence."
In addition to citing evidence from the provided text, we find that teachers have the most success when they encourage students to explore their own texts and bring them into their global conversations. This is also a great (and subtle) way for students to practice summarizing. Jahnavi Sampat Sanghavi from India told us: “The skill that I focus on the most in my classroom while solving a reading comprehension is the ability to fluently read and comprehend the given text as it helps students to draw conclusions or be able to summarize the passage in their own words. This skill can help them not only in language but also real time scenarios in various other fields.”
Project-based learning provides learners with an authentic purpose for reading and can be an effective way to motivate students to read for pleasure, encourage students to generate their own questions, and connect students with peers outside the classroom. However, project-based learning can be challenging to implement. That’s why so many teachers continue to use PenPal Schools to provide a PBL framework, project materials, and global connections for their students.
Learn more about how to improve reading comprehension through global PBL or sign up for PenPal Schools to bring global PBL to your classroom!