Ideas to Teach Comprehension Strategies

Reading Comprehension strategies are why harder to see student's use independently than decoding strategies. As a Special Education Teacher, I tend to spend the first part of my year working mostly with decoding strategies and then teaching comprehension strategies the second half. I have found we mat spend weeks on just one to ensure students are using it on their own as they are reading. But their on may bumps along the way.

I have added a couple of examples from my a few groups.  You can see how student's make use of their understanding of different comprehension strategies in their reading. These are from modeled and shared lessons. I think the hardest thing for them to understand is how to show hoe they created their meaning strategy and use the keyword #understand what I'm reading. This is what each strategy does in a different way.

A "strategy" is a plan developed by a student to assist in comprehending and thinking about texts, when reading the words alone does not give the reader a sense of the meaning of a text. Reading comprehension strategy instruction has come to the fore in reading instruction at all age and grade levels. By helping students understand how these flexible tools work, I help readers to tackle challenging texts with greater independence.

What They Are?

1. Activating background knowledge to make connections between new and known information. In many classrooms, this instruction is divided into three categories-- text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world.

2. Questioning the text. Proficient readers are always asking questions while they read. Sticky notes (post-its) have become ubiquitous in classrooms in part because they are such a useful tool for teaching students to stop, mark text, and note questions as they read.

3. Drawing inferences. Proficient readers use their prior knowledge about a topic and the information they have gleaned in the text thus far to make predictions about what might happen next. When teachers demonstrate or model their reading processes for students through think-alouds, they often stop and predict what will happen next to show how inferring is essential for comprehending text.

4. Determining importance. In the sea of words that is any text, readers must continually sort through and prioritize information. Teachers often assist readers in analyzing everything from text features in nonfiction text like bullets and headings, to verbal cues in novels like strong verbs. Looking for these clues can help readers sift through the relative value of different bits of information in texts.

5. Creating mental images. Readers are constantly creating mind pictures as they read, visualizing action, characters, or themes. Teachers are using picture books with students of all ages, not necessarily because they are easy to read, but because the lush and sophisticated art in these books can be a great bridge for helping students see how words and images connect in meaning-making.

6. Repairing understanding when meaning breaks down. Proficient readers don't just plow ahead through text when it doesn't make sense -- they stop and use "fix-up" strategies to restore their understanding. One of the most important fix-up tools is rereading, with teachers demonstrating to students a variety of ways to reread text in order to repair meaning.

7. Synthesizing information. Synthesis is the most sophisticated of the comprehension strategies, combining elements of connecting, questioning, and inferring. With this strategy, students move from making meaning of the text, to integrating their new understanding into their lives and world view.

Ideas for Teaching

Modeling through think-alouds is the best way to teach all comprehension strategies. By thinking aloud, teachers show students what good readers do. Think-alouds can be used during read-alouds and shared reading. They can also be used during small-group reading to review or reteach a previously modeled strategy.

I use a think-aloud to:

  • Create a record of the strategic decision-making process of going through text
  • Report everything the reader notices, does, sees, feels, asks, and understands as she reads
  • Talk about the reading strategies being used within the content being read
  • There are many ways to conduct think-alouds:
  • The teacher models the think-aloud while she reads aloud, and the students listen.
  • The teacher thinks aloud during shared reading, and the students help out.
  • Students think aloud during shared reading, and the teacher and other students monitor and help.
  • The teacher or students think aloud during shared reading while writing on an overhead, on self-stick notes, or in a journal.
  • Students think aloud in small-group reading, and the teacher monitors and helps.
  • Students individually think aloud during independent reading using self-stick notes or a journal. Then students compare their thoughts with others.

I use a Model or Shared Lesson to:

  • Decide on a new strategy or reteach a strategy to model.
  • Other things I think about are:
    • Choose a short text or section of text.
    • Read the text ahead of time. Mark locations where you will stop and model the strategy.
    • State your purpose—name the strategy and explain the focus of your think-alouds.
    • Read the text aloud to students and think aloud at the designated points.
    • If you conduct a shared reading experience, have students highlight words and phrases that show evidence of your thinking by placing self-stick notes in the book.
    • Reinforce the think-alouds with follow-up lessons in the same text or with others.

As a Special Education Teacher, I spend at least one lesson a week during a Modeled or Shared Lesson. As a reading teacher, I have had to work not to be afraid of stopping in the middle of a lesson and redoing or doing a new modeled lesson. Teaching comprehension strategy work is HARD and I spend tons of time listening to and seeing what my students do as they practice independently. I take my time and work for skill mastery not accuracy mastery.  How do you teach your reading comprehension strategies? I'd love to hear what works for your students!


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Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.
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