What comprehension strategies would you provide a student who is struggling with an expository textbook?

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The first question you need to answer before you create a strategy is the reason why the student is struggling. There are three possibilities: innate abilities, preparation, and effort.

1. Innate ability: Is the student Learning Disabled or is there some other possible extrinsic issue such as needing glasses or medical issues or substance abuse problems? Learning Disabled students need to work with professionals to develop full accommodation plans and thus if you have a sense that the student might be LD, you should make sure the student gets the proper testing and support.

2. Inadequate effort: Is the student putting in the time to read without distractions? That means no iPod, no TV, cell phone completely off, etc. Suggest that the student spend at least an hour a day in the library reading quietly and doing nothing else. If the student doesn`t want to engage in that sort of effort, explain that an F for the course is the alternative.

3. Lack of preparation or task specific skill: Have the student outline and paraphrase. Make sure the student looks up (in a paper dictionary, not the web with all its distractions) each word s/he doesn`t know. Have the student parse complex sentences. Again, the key is knowing the problem -- is it on the level of vocabulary, syntax, cultural background, structure? Once you have fully identified the issues, you will be in a better position to create exercises to address them.

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