At the college level, it is still amazing how many students struggle to comprehend what they read. When a reading assignment is made, the most important aspect of reading at this level is to get their interest and to entice them into the idea that the story, poem, or essay is worth their time. Often, I present a PowerPoint about the topic or reading material to get them into the subject. Motivation, as at any level, is the key. Relating material from the 19th century to something in today's world also lures them into the subject. For example, one assignment was to look at two pictures from the Japanese Internment Camps during World War II; then, they were to read a essay about them. None of my students knew anything about the camps. They were incensed. We looked at a film of the camps before we began the non-fiction reading work. Not only were they interested, but many of them wanted to write research papers on the topic.
I thought I might also add that my husband is also a teacher/ instructional coach and his district is making a concerted effort to make differentiation a cornerstone of their curriculum. He has been to various trainings throughout the summer to ensure teachers are intentionally designing lessons with multiple paths and repeated formative assessment to make sure that they just aren't teaching to the "middle".
As a foreign language teacher, there are some different challenges. For one thing, students need to learn the fundamentals of the language they are studying before they can actually read. For this a reason, I emphasize the importance of memorization and the hard work of working through paradigms before reading takes place. I know that this is old-fashioned, but hard work pays off.
In my high school classroom I use student-centered group learning the most. I opted for round tables of four over desks and very rarely "lecture" except to give background information or historical relevance.
Another practice I re-introduced to my high school class (that has been very effective) is 45 minutes of sustained silent reading each week. I've found that the high school student's biggest problem with reading and comprehension stems directly from never doing it and/or not enjoying it.
I use literacy circles in my classroom. Like the above post, I divide students into groups of 4. Sometimes students read the same passages. Sometimes students read different passages and analyze the passages. One student records the analysis. Another student acts as the illustrator. Still, another student acts as a word wizard. One student presents the analysis to the class. All students have a particular role to play in the literacy circle.
I like dividing the class into groups of 3-4 students and having the groups work together to read and derive meaning from sections of the textbook. This could mean working together to answer questions presented to assess comprehension of the information being presented; it could mean each group reading a different passage and preparing a means of conveying the content of that section to the rest of the class; there are other possibilities.
My department has gone to a more student-centered approach to the making of meaning with reading. We have developed a series of double entry journals where students must take note of the various reading/thinking strategies they use as they read and comment on them. For example, as a student reads they may make a prediction -- the first side of the journal would be the prediction, the second side would be a short comment on what in the text prompted the prediction. A student could comment on an unknown vocabulary word and note how context helped them arrive at meaning, and then if their "guess" was accurate after looking it up. A student could note a theme of the work and then comment on a quote or paraphrase that illustrated that theme. The whole process is a kind of student created guide to their reading.
Fluency is a very important part of reading because it is a fact that there is a connection between the utterances that the student produces in the process of reading and the interactive "give and take" of information that goes with it. To ensure good fluency, phonemic awareness is essential. You would be surprised to find the number of adults who cannot read fluently because the very essential processes of understanding words, sounds, and symbols were bypassed in favor of a more comprehensive reading method such as whole language or any other momentary fad of time.
Like the previous post mentions, you have to offer a variety of approaches for the diverse learning abilities of students. Centers are often the best option. In centers, the students basically complete one task that is developmentally appropriate, relevant, and connected with the goal of the reading lesson. Three to four centers are often most appropriate: students work together with their MKOs and share equal duties for completing tasks. Communicative language takes place in the process, which helps every child with their own native language pronunciation and use of words. Mastery depends on how you prefer to assess their learning.
Our school uses the Direct Instruction (DI) Method to teach all subjects, particularly Reading and Math. DI is a very fast-paced, scripted method we teachers use to keep the students more focused and engaged.
For about an hour every day in both Reading and Math, we divide into small groups of 4-12 students who are all about the same level. We follow a script and they follow along with us. Repetition is a key ingredient on both the teachers' and students' parts. Classroom response is required and we occasionally fire questions at them individually to keep them on their toes and see if they are listening; they receive immediate feedback. We go over and over the material until we can see everybody understands it. Approximately 1/3 of the classtime is Direct Instruction, 1/3 practice problems on the board, and the final 1/3 is for individual seatwork. Anything they don't finish becomes their homework.
As the students attain mastery at their level they move on to another level until they reach a point where they need little teacher interaction and intervention. This method works magnificently as our students score in the upper 90's percentile on the state CRT tests in all subjects, particularly Reading and Math.