Comprehension, or extracting meaning from what you read, is the ultimate goal of reading. Experienced readers take this for granted and may not appreciate the reading comprehension skills required. The process of comprehension is both interactive and strategic. Rather than passively reading text, readers must analyze it, internalize it and make it their own.
In order to read with comprehension, developing readers must be able to read with some proficiency and then receive explicit instruction in reading comprehension strategies (Tierney, 1982).
The process of comprehending text begins before children can read, when someone reads a picture book to them. They listen to the words, see the pictures in the book, and may start to associate the words on the page with the words they are hearing and the ideas they represent.
In order to learn comprehension strategies, students need modeling, practice, and feedback. The key comprehension strategies are described below.
When students preview text, they tap into what they already know that will help them to understand the text they are about to read. This provides a framework for any new information they read.
When students make predictions about the text they are about to read, it sets up expectations based on their prior knowledge about similar topics. As they read, they may mentally revise their prediction as they gain more information.
Identifying the main idea and summarizing requires that students determine what is important and then put it in their own words. Implicit in this process is trying to understand the author’s purpose in writing the text.
Asking and answering questions about text is another strategy that helps students focus on the meaning of text. Teachers can help by modeling both the process of asking good questions and strategies for finding the answers in the text.
In order to make inferences about something that is not explicitly stated in the text, students must learn to draw on prior knowledge and recognize clues in the text itself.
Studies have shown that students who visualize while reading have better recall than those who do not (Pressley, 1977). Readers can take advantage of illustrations that are embedded in the text or create their own mental images or drawings when reading text without illustrations.
Narrative text tells a story, either a true story or a fictional story. There are a number of strategies that will help students understand narrative text.
Teachers can have students diagram the story grammar of the text to raise their awareness of the elements the author uses to construct the story. Story grammar includes:
Asking students to retell a story in their own words forces them to analyze the content to determine what is important. Teachers can encourage students to go beyond literally recounting the story to drawing their own conclusions about it.
Teachers can ask readers to make a prediction about a story based on the title and any other clues that are available, such as illustrations. Teachers can later ask students to find text that supports or contradicts their predictions.
Asking students different types of questions requires that they find the answers in different ways, for example, by finding literal answers in the text itself or by drawing on prior knowledge and then inferring answers based on clues in the text.
Expository text explains facts and concepts in order to inform, persuade, or explain.
Expository text is typically structured with visual cues such as headings and subheadings that provide clear cues as to the structure of the information. The first sentence in a paragraph is also typically a topic sentence that clearly states what the paragraph is about.
Expository text also often uses one of five common text structures as an organizing principle:
Teaching these structures can help students recognize relationships between ideas and the overall intent of the text.
A summary briefly captures the main idea of the text and the key details that support the main idea. Students must understand the text in order to write a good summary that is more than a repetition of the text itself.
There are three steps in the K-W-L process (Ogle, 1986):
After all of the students have read the text, the teacher leads a discussion of the questions and answers.
Graphic organizers provide visual representations of the concepts in expository text. Representing ideas and relationships graphically can help students understand and remember them. Examples of graphic organizers are:
Tree diagrams that represent categories and hierarchies
Tables that compare and contrast data
Time-driven diagrams that represent the order of events
Flowcharts that represent the steps of a process
Teaching students how to develop and construct graphic organizers will require some modeling, guidance, and feedback. Teachers should demonstrate the process with examples first before students practice doing it on their own with teacher guidance and eventually work independently.
Several Read Naturally programs include strategies that support comprehension:
|Read Naturally Intervention Program||Strategies for Reading Comprehension|
|Prediction Step||Retelling Step||Quiz/ Comprehension Questions||Graphic Organizers|
Read Naturally Live:
A mostly independent, cloud-based program with built-in audio support. Focuses on fluency and phonics with additional support for vocabulary.
Read Naturally Encore:
A mostly independent, print-based program with audio support on CDs. Focuses on fluency and phonics with additional support for vocabulary.
Read Naturally GATE:
Teacher-led instruction for small groups of early readers. Focuses on phonics and fluency instruction with additional support for phonemic awareness and vocabulary.
One Minute Reader iPad App:
A guided reading app that develops readers’ fluency with additional support for vocabulary.
One Minute Reader Books/CDs:
Printed books with audio support on CDs that develop readers’ fluency with additional support for vocabulary.
Take Aim at Vocabulary: A print-based program with audio CDs that teaches carefully selected target words and strategies for independently learning unknown words. Students work mostly independently or in teacher-led small groups of up to six students.
Honig, B., L. Diamond, and L. Gutlohn. (2013). Teaching reading sourcebook, 2nd ed. Novato, CA: Arena Press.
Ogle, D. M. (1986). K-W-L: A teaching model that develops active reading of expository text. The Reading Teacher 38(6), pp. 564–570.
Pressley, M. (1977). Imagery and children’s learning: Putting the picture in developmental perspective. Review of Educational Research 47, pp. 586–622.
Tierney, R. J. (1982). Essential considerations for developing basic reading comprehension skills. School Psychology Review 11(3), pp. 299–305.
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