When students have trouble understanding something they have read, we may quickly identify the problem as a comprehension issue. However, it can be difficult to tell whether comprehension or memory or retrieval is really at the root of this problem. Comprehension means understanding the message of the text, memory refers to our ability to hold on to information in our mind – both the literal words and the message they convey; and retrieval means our ability to recall information from memory. All three are interconnected.
Working on retrieval skills may help students with reading comprehension challenges. Recall games encourage a student to concentrate on listening and identifying specific text. While this is not the same as comprehension, it is vital because it helps them improve underlying skills of attentiveness needed for comprehension.
Here is a fun example of a word recall game. Tell your child that you are going to tell him a story and that you want him to identify 3 items in the story that you can hold in your hand. Then proceed to tell a short story. For example,
“I rode my bike to the store to buy groceries for a special meal. On the way I ran over a nail and got a flat-tire. I was so close to the store, I decided to walk the rest of the way on foot. Unfortunately, I stepped in some melted gum. It was so sticky that I couldn’t lift my foot. So, I took off my sneaker and kept walking. In the store I bought an apple and some walnuts. On the way home it started raining. Can you believe that? My left foot was soaked.”
Now remind the listener to name 3 things they heard which can be held in their hands. Too easy? Make them remember more items, change the criteria, complicate the story with a long diversion. Of course, you have to play too!
This is a great game for car rides, doctor offices, and rainy days. Try it out and let me know how it goes.
If you want to learn a bit more about retreival watch this short Kahn Academy video at https://www.khanacademy.org/science/health-and-medicine/executive-systems-of-the-brain/memory-2014-03-27T18:40:29.837Z/v/retrieval-free-recall-cued-recall-and-recognition .
Want a heavy article on the relationship between memory, retrieval and comprehension? Try: Comprehension of Linguistic Dependencies: Speed-Accuracy Tradeoff Evidence for Direct-Access Retrieval From Memory at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3310376/.