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Ask Susan: My Son Struggles with Reading Comprehension

Hello Susan

I am looking for a tutor for my son Sam. Although his reading and spelling ability is above average, he has an IEP for reading comprehension. Today he was required to do a language arts Context Meaning exercise on IXL. He’s been struggling to understand the meaning when there are conjunctive verbs like “on the other hand,” “however” and “but.” For instance, he had to read: “Mr. Smith seemed very gruff, but he was actually very nice.” He couldn’t get the meaning of gruff as he was confused with the word but. Is this something you can work with him on? I have attached his reports including his latest IEP report.

Thank you.


Hi Katelin

I have studied Sam’s assessment reports and, based on them, I suggest you combine Edublox’s Development Tutor with Edublox’s online lessons. Between Development Tutor and twice-weekly online lessons we will be working on expanding Sam’s vocabulary, and on improving his oral expression, listening skills, memory, and reasoning skills — these are all weaknesses according to his assessment reports. A limited vocabulary, poor listening skills (reading is a form of listening), poor memory and reasoning skills are the general reasons why children struggle with reading comprehension, so these reports seem quite accurate. In addition, Sam will be given opportunities to apply skills learned in practice, i.e. by doing actual comprehension tests.

According to his reports Sam is greatly affected by anxiety, which causes him to perform worse than what he would have done under normal circumstances. So the aim should be to overtrain his listening skills, memory, etc., so that when he experiences anxiety, he will still be able to do well. Consider the violinist who practices over and over before he does his recital; he practices until he can play the compositions in his sleep. By overtraining, the violinist can perform well even when under stress.        

Katelin, where you can definitely help is to expand Sam’s vocabulary. Start with five words; “gruff” can be the first one. Make little word cards, with the word on the front, and the definition on the reverse. For example, if the word “gruff” is on the front, the explanation “rough or very serious in manner or speech” will be on the reverse. “But” can be printed on the second word card, with the definition and an example sentence on the reverse: “Used to introduce a statement that adds something to a previous statement and usually contrasts with it in some way, for example, Mr. Smith seemed very gruff, but he was actually very nice.” Provide only one definition per word, and use LearnersDictionary.com, which is aimed at kids, for the definitions. Let Sam start by studying five word cards; add five new word cards to the pile, every time he knows the meaning of the words. Regularly review and test old word cards.



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More about Susan

Susan is an educational specialist in the field of learning problems and dyslexia and has a B.A. Honors in Psychology and B.D. degree from the University of Pretoria. Early in her professional career Susan was instrumental in training over 3,000 teachers and tutors, providing them with the foundational and practical understanding to facilitate cognitive development amongst children who struggle to read and write. With over 25 years of research to her name Susan conceptualized the Edublox teaching and learning methods that have helped thousands of children who were struggling academically to read, learn and achieve. In 2007, Susan opened the first Edublox reading and learning clinic and now there are 40 Edublox clinics internationally. Her proudest moments are when she sees a child who had severe learning difficulties come top of their class after one or two years at Edublox. Susan always takes time to collect the ‘hero’ stories of learners whose self-esteem is lifted as their marks improve.