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Reading comprehension is one of the pillars of the act of reading. When a person reads a text he engages in a complex array of cognitive processes. He is simultaneously using his awareness and understanding of phonemes (individual sound “pieces” in language), phonics (connection between letters and sounds and the relationship between sounds, letters and words) and ability to comprehend or construct meaning from the text. This last component of the act of reading is reading comprehension. It cannot occur independent of the other two elements of the process. At the same time, it is the most difficult and most important of the three.

READING COMPREHENSION There are two elements that make up the process of reading comprehension: vocabulary knowledge and text comprehension. In order to understand a text the reader must be able to comprehend the vocabulary used in the piece of writing. If the individual words don’t make the sense then the overall story will not either. Children can draw on their prior knowledge of vocabulary, but they also need to continually be taught new words.

NEW VOCABULARY The best vocabulary instruction occurs at the point of need. Parents and teachers should preteach new words that a child will encounter in a text or aid her in understanding unfamiliar words as she comes upon them in the writing. In addition to being able to understand each distinct word in a text, the child also has to be able to put them together to develop an overall conception of what it is trying to say. This is text comprehension.

NEW VOCABULARY Text comprehension is much more complex and varied that vocabulary knowledge. Readers use many different text comprehension strategies to develop reading comprehension. These include monitoring for understanding, answering and generating questions, summarizing and being aware of and using a text’s structure to aid comprehension.

NEW VOCABULARY An important vocabulary acquisition strategy, which Nation (2001) calls noticing, is seeing a word as something to be learned. Teachers can help learners get into the habit of noticing by making clear in classroom instruction and homework assignments. Structured vocabulary notebook exercises, which are designed to make students focus on a particular vocabulary set or feature, are a good way of developing this noticing strategy.

NEW VOCABULARY Tomlinson (1998) suggests a number of principles for developing successful materials. The first of these is that “Materials should achieve impact.� Teachers can use different ways to present vocabulary, including pictures, sounds, and different text types with which students can identify. Offering variety also means catering to different learning styles, and as Tomlinson notes, some students may use different learning styles for different types of language or in different learning situations.

NEW VOCABULARY Learning vocabulary is largely about remembering, and students generally need to see, say, and write newly learned words many times before they can be said to have learned them. Most of the researchers agree that repetition is an important aid to learning, and that having to actively recall or “retrieve� a word is a more effective way of learning than simple exposure or just seeing a word over and over. Researchers agree that forgetting mostly occurs immediately after we first learn something.

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