COMPREHENSION 

The ability to understand and interpret what is read. 

Click here to access a printable copy of the information presented on this page.  

What is Reading Comprehension? 

Reading comprehension is the capacity to perceive and understand the meanings communicated by texts (Wilhelm, N.D.).  There are three critical skills required to correctly understand written text.  Those three skills are (1) to decode what you are reading, (2) to make connections between what you read and what you already know, and (3) to think deeply about what you have read (Reading Rockets, 2018).  The Reading Rockets website has a section dedicated to reading comprehension that provides insights into what it is like for children, parents, and teachers when students struggle with reading comprehension.  Click here to access the Reading Rockets comprehension page of their website to read about the different perspectives when readers struggle with comprehension.  

Lesson Plans For Teachers, (2015, Jan 9). Comprehension [Infograph]. Retrieved from https://teacherthinktank.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/reading-comprehension-thinglink/

Click on the video below listen to Joan Sedita, founder of Keys to Literacy talk about the five components of reading.

Keys to Literacy. (2015, Jan 18). What is Comprehension? The Five Components of Reading. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU461AMLAAg. 

How is Reading Comprehension Taught in Schools? 

The best practices for teaching comprehension are explicit teaching techniques.  Explicit instruction is when the teacher tells the student why and when they should use a specific strategy, what strategy they should use, and how to use them (Adler, 2001).  Listed below are the steps teachers make when applying explicit teaching techniques provided by the Reading Rockets website. 

Direct explanation: The teacher explains to students why the strategy helps comprehension and when to apply the strategy.

Modeling: The teacher models, or demonstrates, how to apply the strategy, usually by "thinking aloud" while reading the text that the students are using.

Guided practice:
The teacher guides and assists students as they learn how and when to apply the strategy.

Application: The teacher helps students practice the strategy until they can apply it independently.

Seven Comprehension Strategies Taught in the Classroom 

1. Monitoring Comprehension
When students know when they are understanding what they are reading AND
 when they are not.  Monitoring for comprehension teaches the student to notice when they are not understanding what they are reading and to use appropriate strategies to correct the problem. 

3. Graphic Organizers
Graphic organizers are used to help organize and illustrate concepts in text, such as setting, characters, storybook events, and/or cause and effect relationships. They help students focus on the critical elements of the story and organize their ideas clearly.  

Emily. (2014). Story Elements [graphic]. Retrieved from https://www.supplyme.com/products/fun-common-core-aligned-reading-response-printables-plus-freebies-a4793

7. Answering Questions
Answering questions prior to, during, and after reading helps give students a purpose for reading, focuses attention on what they are to learn during reading, and helps review content. There are four different types of questions: "right there", "think and search", "author and you", and "on your own". 

2. Metacognition: "Thinking About Your Thoughts"
Before reading, good readers use their metacognition to clarify the purpose of reading and preview the text.  During reading, good readers use metacognition to monitor for understanding and adjust the rate of reading to better help with comprehension.  After reading, good readers use their metacognition to check their understanding of the text. 

4. Recognizing Story Structure
Story structure refers to the identification of the categories of content within the text.  Common story elements are characters, setting, events, problem, and solution.  Using a graphic organizer is a great tool to use when teaching story structure. 

5. Generating Questions
Students learn to make their own questions about the text they read.  Creating their own questions helps students understand what they are reading and requires them to combine information from different parts of the text. 

Comprehension Connection. (2017). QAR [infographic]. Retrieved from https://www.comprehensionconnection.net/2017/04/teaching-question-answer-relationships.html

7. Summarizing
Students identify what is important in the reading and put it into their own words.  Summarizing helps students identify the main idea, make connections to text, and remember what they read.  

Tips for Parents to Help Improve Their Child's Reading Comprehension at Home 

1. Provide "Just Right" Books. 
Make sure that the books that your child are reading are "just right" books.  "Just right" books are books that your child can read with at least 90% accuracy (Scholastic, N.D.). 

Two Can Do It. (2011, Jun 28). Just Right Books [Infographic]. Retrieved from https://twocandoit.blogspot.com/2011/06/daily-five.html

Baraboo School District. (2013, Nov 22). Choosing a "Just Right" Book. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=147&v=XxoF-FDQ6Qo. 

2. Have Your Child Read Aloud
Having your child read aloud will require them to slow down their reading, allowing them time to process what they are reading.  Another fun way to encourage your child to read aloud is to take turns when them while reading, either alternating each sentence or page.  

3. Talk With Your Child About What They are Reading
Help your child develop their metacognition (thinking about their thoughts) by asking him questions about what he is reading before, during, and after reading. 
  • Before: "What are you interested in about this book? What doesn't interest you?"
  • During: "What's going on in the book? Is it turning out the way you thought it would? What do you think will happen next?"
  • After: "Can you summarize the book? What did you like about it? What other books does it remind you of?" (Scholastic, N.D.). 

4. Talk With The Teacher
As we have learned throughout The Reading Bridge website, there are many critical skills that may be negatively impacting your child's reading comprehension.  Talk with your child's teacher to identify areas outside of comprehension (phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, and vocabulary) that needs improvement to help address your child's reading comprehension deficits.  After talking with the teacher, go back to previous pages to see how you can work on these specific skills with your child.  

Free Resources to Help Build Reading Comprehension

Graphic Organizers 
Click on the images below for a FREE copy to use with your child to improve reading comprehension at home.  

Reading Rockets. (N.D.). Storybook Chain of Events [graphic]. Retrieved from https://www.readingrockets.org/pdfs/chain.pdf

Emily. (2014). Story Elements [graphic]. Retrieved from https://www.supplyme.com/products/fun-common-core-aligned-reading-response-printables-plus-freebies-a4793

Foody, E. (N.D.). Venn Diagram [graphic]. Retrieved from https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/FreeDownload/Venn-Diagram-Blank-FREEBIE-1862924

The Simplified Classroom. (N.D.) Five Finger Retell [Infographic]. Retrieved from https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/FreeDownload/5-Finger-Retell-Poster-FREEBIE-2286171

Share your successes or personal tips on how to improve comprehension at home below: 

Do you have more questions about comprehension?
Please contact me below with all your comprehension and reading questions to help bridge the gap between reading instruction at school and at home.