The most important job of any educator who teaches reading is to get students thinking about what they are reading. The step after that is to get students thinking about their thoughts and the thoughts that other students have about a text. Core reading comprehension strategies support students with developing deeper thinking about a text.
If you are a regular education teacher or a specialist teaching comprehension strategies will help your students better understand what they are reading. Reading comprehension strategies also foster a deeper understanding of a text because they serve as a tool for analyzing it.
Schools that use core reading comprehension strategies will see an increased understanding in all subject areas, because students are able to better understand texts not only in reading class!
Comprehension reading strategies help students stay engaged and think about what they are reading. Utilizing reading strategies requires students to stay active while reading a passage, which leads to them being able to comprehend a text on a deeper level.
When you explicitly teach comprehension strategies, your students are more likely to apply the strategies while reading independently. Active readers/thinkers tend to retain more information and ponder more about the text.
Here are the seven core reading comprehension strategies I teach my students:
Strategy 1: Creating a Visual
Strategy 2: Making a Connection
Strategy 3: Questioning
Strategy 4: Determining Importance
Strategy 5: Inferring
Strategy 6: Synthesizing
Strategy 7: Noticing the Author's Craft
To get the details about each of these strategies, download the Seven Core Reading Comprehension Strategies Tip Sheet. Educators can use this resource to support higher level thinking across all subject areas. A student-friendly version of the seven core reading comprehension strategies should be added to students’ reading binders and/or journals. Teachers can also have a poster of the strategies hanging in their classrooms.
Before we can expect students to utilize reading strategies independently, we must teach them comprehension strategies and model how they are to be applied. Modeling can be done through read-alouds, targeted lessons, small-group practice, comprehension activities, and more!
Below are resources that teachers, specialists, and administrators can use to improve the use of and teach reading comprehension strategies school-wide.
The ability to compare and contrast is an important reading strategy for students to learn. Comparing and contrasting improves comprehension by highlighting important details, making abstract ideas more concrete, and reducing confusion between related concepts.
You can use a four-day compare and contrast lesson plan using Cinderella stories to help students in Grades 3 and up to hone their skills.
For those of you unfamiliar with the different versions of Cinderella, here's a bit of background knowledge. It is thought that the original Cinderella story is the Chinese version entitled “Yeh Shen.” Next came the French version of Cinderella, by Charles Perrault (this is the also story that Disney’s Cinderella is based on). After Perrault's “Cinderella,” the Brothers Grimm wrote a version in German.
Using these Cinderella stories, you and your students will create Comparison Charts, Venn Diagrams, T-charts, and Webs that show the similarities with and differences between the Cinderella stories in order to gain a deeper understanding of each book.
One higher-level thinking skill that all our students need is the skill of generating questions while reading, listening, or viewing. The ability to ask mental or verbal questions spurs their critical thinking and analytical responses.
It’s also important that students can differentiate between a “thin question,” where only one answer is correct, because the answer is directly stated in the text, versus a “thick question,” where several answers can be correct, because it is asking for an opinion that is supported with text evidence. The “thick questions” give more students an opportunity to participate in discussion, which should lead to a deeper understanding of the text.
Use a four-day lesson plan to help students in Grades 3 and 4 learn or review the strategy of questioning using multiple texts.
Good readers constantly try to make sense out of what they read by seeing how it fits with what they already know.
Activating prior knowledge is an important reading strategy that empowers students to be able to independently comprehend a text. It also serves as a confidence booster for those struggling students that typically give up before even trying.
Use a four-day lesson plan to help students learn or review the strategy of activating prior knowledge using multiple texts.
The point of view is the manner in which a story is told. A novel’s point of view is the narrator’s perspective. It directs how the story will unfold and influences the tone of the book. In order to fully understand a book, students must be able to identify the narrator’s point of view.
Use a four-day lesson plan to help students learn or review point of view. With this lesson plan, students will compare and contrast firsthand and secondhand accounts of Ruby Bridges’ experiences as the first African American to attend what was once an all-white school.
Bonus: Download a Point of View Overview Mini-Unit that will assist you in exploring each type of point of view in your classroom! This mini-unit is written as six lessons, but depending on the level and ability of your students you may want to spend several days working on each type of point of view.
The purpose of the CSI routine is to have students express understanding in a nonverbal way. The goal of CSI routine is to have students creatively show understanding and think about the text in a different way.
CSI is my favorite and most frequently used “thinking routine.” As a literacy specialist, I regularly use the CSI routine to analyze characters with my students. CSI is a fun way to encourage students to think more deeply about a character by selecting the color, symbol, and image that best represents the character.
Download the CSI– Color, Symbol, Image Organizer to assist students in identifying the essence of ideas and enhance their comprehension of texts.
An important literacy skill for students to develop is the ability to describe characters in a story and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events (RL.3.3). With the Describe Characters in a Story Graphic Organizers students will practice character description and analysis. The graphic organizers included in this download are:
Describe a Character Based on the Problem and the Solution Graphic Organizer
Describe a Character Using the Summary of the Book Graphic Organizer
Describe a Character Using Their Actions, Words, and Motives Graphic Organizer
When reading a novel with students, giving them “focus questions” that they need to answer after reading the chapter to check for understanding helps them pay attention to the key elements. Use the seven core comprehension strategies to guide this questioning. Students need to read the “focus question” before reading the chapter, which of course focuses their thinking and encourages active reading. By using the core comprehension strategies as part of these questions it ensures that readers will also be utilizing the core strategies while reading.
Available for download are core comprehension questions based on a long-time favorite novel for both adults and children Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume.
Hanging on the door in my classroom is a hand-written poster that I made over 10 years ago. It reads, “Reading Comprehension Strategies will help you → to understand texts more deeply → which will lead to a greater enjoyment and appreciation of reading.”
All of my students are familiar with the reading comprehension strategy poster on my door. At any given moment you can walk into my classroom and ask any of my students for a strategy that they just used while reading and not only will they be able to state a specific strategy, they will also be able to tell you how it helped them to better understand the story. I pride myself on my students’ ability to use reading comprehension strategies, because ultimately what I hope to create is a class full of lifelong readers that truly enjoy reading, and you cannot enjoy what you do not understand.
Schools need to teach reading comprehension strategies to make students life-long readers.
Using these seven core reading comprehension strategies, and the resources featured, will help students to better understand what they are reading and develop an appreciation for literature in the classroom. Give them a try and let me know how they work for you.