Working with Students on Comprehension


1. How can I help a student who is having trouble with the comprehension questions?

First, you should make sure that the student understands how to answer the questions. If each question type was not taught when the student was introduced to the Read Naturally program, do that now.

If a student is generally having trouble with the comprehension questions, we recommend directing the student to find the information in the text that answers the detail and vocabulary questions and provides clues to the main idea, inference, and short-answer questions. If you are using Read Naturally Live, it might be helpful to print a copy of the story so the student can underline the information (see Printing Stories in the Read Live User Guide).

If a student continues to have trouble, have the student read the whole story again, without timing, before answering the questions. Remind the student to actively listen to himself/herself read and to focus on the meaning of the text. Then have the student answer the questions.

If a student is still struggling, direct the student to read the comprehension questions before doing the read along or practice step (The questions are printed along with the story in Read Naturally Live). This reinforces the importance of reading for meaning as the student begins working on the story.

If a student is having trouble with a particular type of comprehension question, refer to your core curriculum to re-teach the strategies for that question type.

pointer See also: Tips and Ideas for the Quiz Questions Step

2. Do you have suggestions or strategies for teaching students how to answer the specific types of questions?

The comprehension questions in Read Naturally are standards-based, so you can refer to resources in your core curriculum to reteach the strategies for a particular type of comprehension question.

Many Read Naturally users have shared their ideas for providing support and motivating students to do their best.  Some of these tips and strategies are described on our website (see: Ideas for the Quiz Questions step).

Angela Walker Foster of Anderson County Schools, Lawrenceburg, KY, has developed helpful strategies to teach students how to answer each type of question.  These strategies are also available on our website (see: A Teacher’s Strategy for Teaching the Comprehension Questions in the Read Naturally Strategy Programs").  

3. I'm having trouble with a lot of my students getting the "put the sequence of events in correct order" question wrong almost every time. When I go back to help them, it seems like they have the correct answer but the program keeps counting it wrong.

If an answer for a quiz question is incorrect, please submit that information to Read Naturally, and we will correct it.

However, sometimes teachers and students are confused by what the sequence question (#7) is asking. The question is asking the students to put the events in the correct order according to time. Some students list the events in the order the events are talked about in the story rather than listing them in chronological order (the order they happened in time). The answer to the sequence quiz question in Read Naturally has to be in chronological order.

Even when the student knows that the events need to be in chronological order, the student may still experience confusion about chronological order due to the style of writing. For example, many authors begin a story with an exciting event before telling how that event came to be. So the reader must mentally reorder the events to understand the story as it actually happened in time

Some suggestions for working with students who struggle with chronological order:

  • Explain to the student that the first event talked about in the story might not be the first thing that happened. The student may see his or her error immediately.
  • Ask the student what must've happened before the first event written about in the story could have happened.
  • Pick an event from the story, and compare it to the first event the author talks about:  "In real life, which event happened first?"
  • Tell your student this little story about yourself.​

Listen to this story about my day. Right now, I'm sitting here working on Read Naturally with you. But before I got here today, I got out of bed, brushed my teeth, and got dressed. Then I ate breakfast and came to school.

Then ask these questions:

  • What was the first thing I told you about? (sitting here with student)
  • But, what's the first thing I did today? (got out of bed)

Point out that: In this case, the first thing I told you about was actually the last thing to happen.

Chronological order is more difficult than listing the order things are talked about in the story, but it is essential that students are able to mentally manipulate facts from the story in order to truly understand the story.

4. If a student whose first language is not English has a low average percent on the comprehension questions but the cold-timing score is great, what should I do?

Lowering the level is a common intervention for an English language learner who has high-cold timing scores, but quiz scores below an average of 60%. An apt analogy to this situation would be an adult who is able to read Latin quite fluently, but cannot understand much of what he or she has read. That is often the case with ELL students—they have been able to apply the rules of the language to pronounce the words, but do not have an understanding of the meaning of the words.

In fact, a student who is not an English language learner may have a similar problem if the student's cold-timing scores are high and quiz scores are low. This type of student would also need to attend more to meaning than to rate.

If you decide to lower the level due to low comprehension scores, check the student's average quiz score after the student completes three stories in the new level. You need to place the student in the highest level in which the student can score at least 60% correct on the comprehension questions (that is an average score from three stories in the level—not from just one story). You may have to try several levels before finding a level where the student can understand the language of the story well enough to work on improving comprehension scores.

While you are focusing the student on the meaning of the story, set the goal lower than usual to lower the focus on rate. Some other strategies might also be helpful, such as switching to whole-story timing or directing the student to listen to the definition of the  vocabulary words before doing the Read Along step.


Please let us know what questions you have so we can assist. For Technical Support, please call us or submit a software support request.

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