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Finding the Best Nonfiction Science Comprehension Software for your Kids
Written by Harriet Isecke, Educator, Author, and CEO and Founder of Readorium

It would be easy to argue that science is the most important subject students learn. When students understand science, they understand how and why the world works. When they understand science, they learn to think critically. We live in a rapidly changing world, and we desperately need problem solvers who can help us meet present challenges, as well as ones we will certainly face in the future. Science in the early years is usually exciting because it is hands-on. But once students are required to read substantive and abstract science text that joy can quickly fade.

Students cannot become independent learners unless they are able to comprehend science text. Unfortunately, many children struggle with reading nonfiction, and the problem is even greater when it comes to reading science. Science text typically has very specialized vocabulary, as well as many new and unfamiliar concepts. Too often, students become discouraged and decide they hate science because the text is “boring” or “difficult.” Too often, parents lack the background to clearly explain new concepts.

We must ensure that every child is prepared for the challenges of the future. We need to understand where and why our kids become confused so we can quickly meet their needs. That is the only way we can prevent them from struggling and becoming discouraged.  But how can this be accomplished?

How Software Can Help Personalize Instruction

Well designed software can help us solve this problem by automatically individualizing instruction. A computer can keep track of each child’s responses and use this information to continually adapt instruction to that child’s changing needs. But, of course, this only works if the software is of the highest quality.

In order to determine what high quality reading software looks like, we must first examine the research findings on improving comprehension. According to the Institute of Education Sciences there are several basic ways to improve comprehension.

  • Students must learn and practice strategies that will enable them to become thoughtful, analytic readers. These strategies include: determining importance, making inferences, reading charts and graphs, making good connections, substantiating claims, and using context clues. This type of strategic thinking needs to be practiced in many different contexts.
  • Students need to master word-learning skills so they can figure out the meanings of new vocabulary words in context.
  • Students need individualized help at points of confusion so they don’t become frustrated and give up.
  • Students need text that they can understand independently. When text is written about complex science topics, it needs to be accurate, clear, include graphics and common examples, and be interesting to them.

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How to Choose Effective Software

Students at all skill levels can benefit greatly from carefully constructed software that helps them understand rich content. They must be given both the support and leveled text they need as they read. When choosing appropriate science reading software here are questions to keep in mind.

  1. Is the program easy for kids to use independently?
  2. Is it highly motivating?
  3. Does the software contain age-appropriate, accurate, and meaningful content at different readability levels?
  4. Do the text levels and supports automatically adapt to each child’s changing needs?
  5. Are students taught the strategies and word-learning skills needed to comprehend the text?
  6. Are students required to interact with the text so they are continually engaged as they read?
  7. Do students receive timely and appropriate feedback?
  8. Is independence fostered? Does the support students receive help them become more independent?
  9. Do parents receive data on their children’s progress?
  10. Are additional resources provided to parents based on this data so that they can easily target instruction?

Parents have the power to touch the future. It is our responsibility to personalize instruction so our children can be successful. Using carefully constructed adaptive technology to increase science comprehension can help us achieve just that!

Bio of Harriet Isecke

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Harriet Isecke served in public education for over four decades as a teacher, literacy coach, curriculum director, and consultant.  She is an award winning author of children’s fiction books, reader’s theater plays, differentiated instructional materials, and the book, Backwards Planning. Harriet was listed in Who’s Who Among American Educators four times. She is the CEO/ Founder of Readorium, the winner of 2016 National CODiE Award for the Best Reading/ English/ Language Arts/ Instructional Solution.  Readorium is recommended by the National Science Teachers Association. To learn more, go to the Readorium Homeschool Website.

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