Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Teacher of ACC Student - Reading Comprehension

Alexandra Berube has written several guest blog articles here about her teaching experiences with her student who has Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum. She is a former Kindergarten teacher, who first taught the student in her Kindergarten class and she also tutors the student, who is currently in a regular 3rd grade mainstream class.

Her most recent article today is about Reading Comprehension. In our e-mail correspondence, Alexandra shared information with me that I am including here for you to see (with her permission) as a preface to her article:

Alexandra writes:

"Max came into Kindergarten already reading because his family had been working with him before he came to kindergarten. He already knew a lot of sight words and understood decoding and blending when we started working together. His speech skills were not strong so it was hard to understand him (and know he was reading the correct word) but he did speech therapy and that helped a lot."


Reading Comprehension--Taking it to the Next Level
by Alexandra Berube, bostontutoringservices.com

Max and I did not spend time working together during his second grade year, because he was receiving services through school. At the end of his second grade year, I began working with him again, picking up where we had left off the previous summer. His mother's goals were for him to improve his reading comprehension in the following three areas: making inferences, comparing and contrasting, and deciphering main idea/details in text.

In my assessment of his reading comprehension at that point, I noticed that he didn't anticipate the next steps in a text based on the clues. For example, if a character is put into a situation and someone tells him not to move, *Max did not anticipate that the character would of course move, because that is standard literary practice. He didn't know how to anticipate these common literary themes that would help him make predictions in his reading. His predictions were usually completely unrelated to the story structure so far.

I started reading books with him that all had a theme: the character did something bad at first, then did something good, and everybody likes the character in the end. We read books such as Walter the Farting Dog and Leo Lionni’s Frederick. I wanted him to learn of this story pattern, which is so common in literature (and movies). I also wanted him to be able to contrast and compare the way that the character interacted with the others in the book in the beginning (and how they treated the character in response), and how things changed at the end. This also related to cause and effect relationships, because the character acted a certain way and the effect was that the others related back to him in a certain way (first he was ‘bad’ and they didn’t like him, then he was ‘good’ and they did like him). We also did many text-to-self and self-to-text relationships to help him connect to what he was reading.

We continued to practice reading stories with this literary theme so that he would improve in his ability to make predictions. Adults are used to so many classic story patterns that we can anticipate when a common literary theme is being used. But young students don't have this storage of knowledge, and I wanted him to get used to more and more of the literary themes he would encounter in his reading, so he would be able to make predictions and make connections between what he already knew and what he would read.

Talking about the structure of the stories also helped focus on the main point, because the main point is a larger perspective of the story, not the details in the story specifically. Many students focus on the individual details and can't back up farther to get the main point, but when talking about patterns between one story to another, it's easier to step back and see the larger story structures at hand. The more you do this, the more they also begin to understand the order of events and the idea of cause and effect

The more we did text-to-text relationships between the books we were reading with common story patterns (including many text-to-self relationships so he could relate personally to what was going on in the story), the more he was able to make predictions about the text, make inferences about what was going on, determine what the main point was, and figure out the cause and effect relationships.

This study of a specific literary theme helped Max realize that there are patterns in stories that he can recognize. All stories will not have this literary theme of ‘character is unliked, does something good, is then liked by others,’ but all will have a main point, all will have cause-and-effect relationships, and all stories have a beginning, middle, and end so that you can compare and contrast what happens from one part of the story to the next. You can also connect stories to other stories and to yourself. You can make predictions based on what you have seen characters do in other stories, or based on what you would do in that situation (text-to-self relationships). Just the knowledge that all this is going on helped Max know to look for these clues, and to be an active reader (not just ingesting details, but seeking out broader answers). This is the goal of every teacher in instructing reading comprehension.

*Name has been changed.

Hint: don't forget to check your local library when looking for the books mentioned here (or other books).

About Alexandra Berube

Alexandra is the Managing Director of Boston Tutoring Services, a tutoring company that offers one-to-one in-home tutoring in Massachusetts. She is also a former Kindergarten teacher who also tutors students in grades
K-8, in all subject areas, including test preparation.

--click below for printable version of this article--

Reading Comprehension--Taking it to the Next Level - printable version

Watch for an upcoming guest blog post here in the near future from Teacher/Tutor, Alexandra Berube.

As a teacher and professional tutor, Alexandra plans to share more future guest blog posts here--where she will reveal additional insight into her student who has Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum and how it affects the student's education, and she will also be sharing teaching strategies that have helped her student.**

**Note: Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum has a very wide range of effects--ranging anywhere from no symptoms--or mild learning disabilities--to severe mental and/or physical challenges. It can sometimes also be seen with other medical conditions, genetic syndromes, chromosomal anomalies and more. Every person with ACC can present differently in terms of their development, cognitive abilities and educational needs.

Each child who has ACC is a unique individual with their own abilities, weaknesses, challenges, motivations, strengths, as well as their own style of learning.


  1. Thanks for the post. I'm homeschooling my 9yo HCCer and was just googling yesterday for reading comprehension curriculum/apps.

  2. Carrie,

    I'm so glad to know that Alexandra's article about reading comprehension came at the perfect time for you in your search for homeschooling teaching methods. I also hope that you will be able to find some reading "apps" to help with reading comprehension for your 9 year old child who has hypoplasia of the corpus callosum.

    I am so grateful to Alexandra for sharing her insight and teaching/tutoring experiences with her student who has ACC here on the blog.

    *Mom to 19 year old Matthew with ACC*


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