The most important thing about comprehending written material is that
comprehension is a process that happens before reading, during reading and after.
Reading encompasses both decoding and the making of meaning, it is not simply
answering story questions which assesses student’s literal understanding rather
than teaching them specific strategies to better comprehend what they read.
Background knowledge or connecting to the text has a very important part to play.
There are many strategies that a teacher can use when working with text to improve
comprehension skills and requires explicit teaching.
Coding the text – activating the prior knowledge of children.
TEXT/Self T/S: – As the child goes through the book they make connections with
characters, and their predicaments, and their own lives – narratives. (The more
connections you make, the more you understand the story.)
TEXT-to-TEXT: - Finding common themes in author studies. You must encourage
them to think beyond the obvious i.e. Read like writers. Generally kids start by making
text to text connections to more obvious elements, such as characters, or problems but
might include comparisons, character‟s personalities, and actions. You can also
compare story events and plot lines.
NON-FICTION: Find out what children already know about the subject e.g. planets,
frogs, Africa. Use books, photographs, or videos to build background knowledge to
teach specific content. Use KWL chart to build prior knowledge and find out what
children know about the subject.
TEXT/WORLD This relates to the „world‟ reading articles about Antarctica,
dinosaurs, early days in Australia and environmental issues. For example, you could
be reading about local environmental problems but connect it to worldwide issues.
Before/After integration This can be a valuable technique to find out how much a
reader knows about a topic, and the additional information discovered through
reading. E.g. Concept map with concept in the middle, say whales. Record all ideas
before reading. Construct another concept map after reading, adding the extra
4 H’S of Comprehension
HERE: - The answer is right here on the page (literal)
HIDDEN:- Read between the lines. Do you think that he meant /…..
HEAD: - What did you already know? Read beyond the lines?
HEART: - How did it make you feel? Do you agree or disagree?
Questions are the master key to understanding. Questions clarify confusion. They
stimulate research efforts, and take us deeper into reading.1 Mark with a question
mark (things that you don‟t understand) - ? Find out the answers in the text.
Listing questions – Look at a book with good stimulus pictures – fiction or non-
fiction. List down children‟s questions. e.g. Why was the door open a crack? Why
does the mother look angry? Do the children look guilty?
At the end (after reading) they go through and put A next to the questions that were
answered in the text. Questions that could be answered from someone‟s background
knowledge BK. Answers that could be inferred from the text T. Questions that could
be answered with further discussion D. Further research- FS, the ones that signal
confusion C. Children have to be encouraged to put a C when they don’t
Use non-fiction books, for example space. Write up a chart one side, ‘ I Wonder’ and
the other ‘ Facts.’ The children write down a list of questions that they wonder about
– How are volcanoes formed? Why do they erupt? Where do you find volcanoes? As
the children read books on the topic they record the fact next to the questions.
Thick/thin questions. Thick questions are global questions which address large
universal concepts, and often begin with „why‟ or „How does‟, requiring research to
answer questions. Thin questions are asked to classify confusion, understand words,
or access content.
4 RESOURCE MODEL QUESTIONS - Code breaker, meaning maker, text user,
and text analyst questions. See sheets of questions.
. Who, what, where, when? – Memory questions – literal (fact recall)
. Why, How, in what ways? – Convergent questions (seeks opinions)
. Imagine, suppose, predict..?-Divergent questions (take a different direction)
.Defend, judge, justify, what do you think? –Evaluative questions
THINKING HATS – white hat- Objective questions to answer
- red hat –Emotional, How did that make you feel?
- purple hat –Advantages and disadvantages
-Green hat –Creativity- What new ideas are possible?
-yellow hat- Positives, good things that happen
-black hat- Judgement – What is wrong with this?
Construct question webs, In the middle of the web is a question that needs to be
answered, this could be „Why do children relate to Harry Potter? Why were people
terrified of the iron man? Why do we call them dreamtime stories? Why should
Antarctica be protected? All possible answers can be written around the question.
This is useful for small group work or whole class work. The questions could be
written on individual pieces of paper or on the blackboard.
You can visualize with a wordless text. They help children build meaning as they go.
Visualizing with texts does the same thing. For example – Charlotte‟s Web begins
with a detailed description of the barn where Charlotte lived. Read the description
aloud and ask children to close their eyes. Ask children to draw what they see. Harry
Potter could also be used. You can use this visualization activity for character
descriptions, and book settings. Children can note down what specific words helped
to create the picture in the mind.
OPEN-MIND PORTRAIT (Could be animal, place or thing)
The students draw and colour a portrait of a famous person from a biography... They
cut out the portrait as a template and cut out other portraits. They staple it into a
book. On each page they write information. The group shares the open-minded
Mark or note places in the book where it helped you to visualize something and note
down the words that helped you to make that image
KEY HOLES and Windows
You can use this strategy when you wish to focus on a character or a particular
happening in the story. Imagine you are looking through a keyhole or a small window
of a story you have been reading. Describe that scene. You could limit this by the size
of the keyhole that you draw or the window. Give some different viewpoints from
differing characters. – You could also use a series of windows on a story – the story
setting, the problem, the solution, the ending, Non-fiction text could have fact
windows – environmental threats, facts, opinions.
Read a descriptive piece of text and ask the children to sketch what they can see.
Everyone has his or her own ideas of what they see. Point out that visualizing can
help to better understand, what they are reading. You could use a newspaper report
from the paper –a plane crash, ask the children to write down what they see. Also an
account of a cyclone would be very good also. You could use poetry.
You can create images with compelling non-fiction writing – a description of
Antarctica, or a disaster report. Children can see how visual verbs and specific nouns
enhance writing and create pictures in our minds. Create a word bank around your
units – toys, jungles, Australia, Indonesia, Aboriginals, Disasters, Environment etc.
Semantic Web – Choose a character from the story. Place the name or drawing of
the character in the middle of the page. Surrounding details can be limited to one
word per box, and be of a specified type (e.g. Verbs, adjectives) indicating what the
character did, looked like, behaved like, etc.. A particular event in the story can be
placed in the center and supporting details placed around the outside. These webs can
be factual also.
Schema stories – Use a text that is a narrative and has an easily identifiable
beginning, plot, development and ending. Cut the key segments into parts. Each
section must be at least a paragraph. Students read their section, thinking what come
before or after their segment. After discussion the assembled text is read aloud as a
Agree/Disagree - Before reading brainstorm about what the children think they know
about the topic e.g. Spiders. Write down facts that children think they know about
spiders – All spiders have legs. List them down on the board or on a chart. Draw up
2 columns with agree and disagree beside information. After reading, go through and
check their predictions, ticking agree or disagree. This could be a true/false check
Plot and Themes The plot is what simply happens in the narrative e.g. Goldilocks
goes to the bear‟s house but the theme is the „big picture‟- selfishness,
thoughtlessness. Children can pick out themes, anger, bravery, determination, and
racism. Talking about the themes help children better understand the narrative, and
adds greater depth and meaning.
Sociogram Cut out a disc for each character in the story. Add the name. Arrange
the discs so you can draw arrows between them. Choose a theme or concept running
through the story. Draw in the arrows and connect the strands between the
characters. Ask the children to explain their choices.
Variations – Place each character in a circle, corresponding in size to your opinion
of importance. Draw solid lines between factual events and dotted ones for inferred
happenings .Different colours could be used for circles and lines e.g. emotional
interaction between characters.
Fact (Something We can see and Observe) / Opinion . After reading the children
sort through the passage for the actual facts and record them in the columns. Then
look for the opinions e.g. What people say and think, (opinion) and what they saw is
the fact. This is useful for news reports.
Create mental images that go beyond visualizing e.g. Using all the senses to
comprehend the text – I see, I hear, I smell, I can feel, I can taste eg Y chart. Using
all the senses deepens the understanding of the text and level of interaction with the
Construct story map . Using a narrative, draw a map marking in the main features
e.g. The Three Little Pigs and the characters or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Use as a retell. Map cloze – Build up a map with a class and remove parts and see
how well they can fill in the gaps. This could also be used for older novels – A Rabbit
Mind map: Maps visually show us how all the information is connected. They show
how all the key concepts are connected. Students can be given a list of important
concepts and create mind maps individually, small groups, or as a whole class
activity. They can include „extra information‟ that they have found. Mind maps can
be used for non-fiction and fiction – You could use a mind map to summarize a novel
or a chapter review.
Time lines (with a twist) Place the story on the timeline. Place the factual events
above the line and put the opinion or inferences below the line.
Retrieval Chart This is useful to teach students how to read for facts. The questions
are coded to show students how they should read when seeking information. Each
piece of information is coded. The answers are either right there in the text (RT)
Inferences have to be drawn from the text by searching and thinking (TS) or they have
to read and research outside the text i.e. They have to find out on their own. (OWO)
e.g. Dinosaurs size –owo, name meaning –ts, habitat – ts
A,B,C Brainstorm Before having your students talk about a topic you need to activate
their background knowledge. Have the students list down all the letters of the
alphabet. Let them think of as many words as they can associate with the topic. E.g.
Africa, Antarctica, Aboriginals
Comparison-Contrast Charts. They are useful for comparing See attached sheet.
How are they alike? How are they different?
Venn Diagrams – See sheets
Column Notes – The students use 2 columns (or 3). In one column could be the main
characters and the second could be the descriptive words in the text. Also things I
would do /I wouldn‟t do, dangerous/safe thoughtful/thoughtless,
successful/.unsuccessful You could also use cause/effect in the 2 column set-up. See
Cause and Effect chains – For every action in the story, there is usually a reaction.
Explore the story and try to select out actions which result in behaviors or situations
which in turn cause a subsequent action. Big happenings can be given big circles with
smaller satellites for associated happenings.
Reciprocal Teaching – Put the students in a group of 4. Distribute one notecard to
each member of the group identifying each person‟s role. a. summarizer b questioner
c clarifier d predictor Have students read a few paragraphs. Encourage them to note-
take. At the given stopping point the Summarizer will highlight the key ideas up to the
point in reading. The Questioner will ask questions. The clarifier will talk about the
confusing parts. The Predictor might predict what‟s next in the story. The roles will
need to be switched around.
Carousel Brainstorming/ HotPotato – Put students in a group of 3 or 4. Each group
has a topic and a different colour pen to write on and also some paper. They will have
a time limit, say I minute to brainstorm what they know, then they pass it on to the
next group. E.g. The topic could be government, cyclones, greenhouse effect,
Prediction Chart What I predict will happen and what actually happened
Problem/Solution What is the problem? What are the effects? What are the causes?
What are the solutions? This could be related to characters studied in novels e.g. The
Iron Man, The Twits etc. It could also relate to environmental issues.
KWHL.- This is very useful to do at the start of a unit. K stands for what I
know, W for what I want to know, H for how will I find out., and L for what have I
INSERT – coding the text. Refer to sheets.
Three-Minute Pause- The three minute pause gives the student a chance to stop,
reflect, and make connections, then seek clarification. First of all you must summarize
the main idea so far. Then connect to your own thoughts. Lastly clarify any questions,
or queries you might have. The 3 minute pause gives students a chance to clarify their
knowledge and process the new thoughts. By pausing every few minutes you are
Think/Pair/Share: Students are given a question or issue to consider. First of all
students think about it themselves. Next they discuss it in pairs. Finally, they share
their thoughts with the group as members of a class discussion.
5. DETERMINING IMPORTANCE IN THE TEXT
Children need to be taught over viewing, which is a form of skimming and scanning
the text before reading. You should focus noting the headings and subheadings. A
careful overview saves time when reading difficult text. The ability to overview
eliminates the need for kids to read everything when looking for specific information.
Readers need to read the text, think about it, and make decisions about what they
need to remember and learn. They need to sort important information. Students need
to be able to sort out the ideas from the details. You could perhaps have 2 columns to
sort this out.
Look carefully at the first and last line of the paragraph, as important
information is often in there.
Highlight only necessary words and phrases, not whole sentences.
Ignore the interesting details.
Demonstrate using an overhead transparency and show children how to
selectively mark the passage.
Give children an overhead transparency and whiteboard pens and allow
students to select and sort information. This could be done in pairs or a whole
Make notes in the margin to emphasize a highlighted word or phrase.
Note „cue‟ words. They are almost always followed by important information.
No more than half the paragraph should be highlighted.( one third is best)
Look at fonts, cue words and phrases, graphics and text organizers. We should
remind children that font and effect differences should be viewed as red flags
that wave “This is important. Read carefully.”
Cue words and phrases – Writers choose phrases such as for example, for
instance, in fact, and but as signal words so that readers should take note.
Diagrams, maps, graphs, and charts inform non-fiction readers of important
Illustrations and photographs enhance reading comprehension
Knowledge of text organizers- index, table of contents, and appendix, is
important for research.
Text structure – Expository text is usually structured around cause and effect,
question and answer, problem and solution and knowing this helps readers
sort out main ideas.
Main Idea Activity:
During reading each child has 5 slips of paper. Each child writes the main points, one
on each piece of paper. Then they arrange them from the most important to the least.
The pairs come together and discuss their choices. They then select the 5 most
important and the 5 least important. Make 4 most important points, and compare
again. Children need to be reminded that text includes many important concepts and
issues, not just a single main idea.
Choose topic headings out of information, and then use 2 columns for the topic
headings and the detail on the other side e.g. African houses, African religion, and
environmental issues or animal report headings.
Essays and editorials are written to promote a certain viewpoint. It is the job of the
reader to read carefully and weigh the evidence and make their own opinion. You can
use a three column approach where children record the evidence for/ evidence
against and personal opinion.
Reading for Answers for Specific Questions- Put a list of questions on the
blackboard aimed at he important information in the text, therefore directing children
to the appropriate information.
Narrative Pyramid – Refer to accompanying sheet.
Children should be shown how to write a summary, and should practice this strategy
with fiction and non-fiction reading. They could also include a response – a personal
response to the problem.
Students retell main points, or important events after reading. This is very important
as children should be able to orally identify the main points before writing .Paired
reviews can be an excellent classroom vehicle for retellings. Teachers need to model
making a summary. Daily classroom activity should provides opportunities to model
and students to practice summarizing. Learning log journal entries could be used as
informal summaries. Consider the following guidelines:
Have students summarize brief passages
Stress that key vocabulary terms should be included. It might be a good idea
to brainstorm before writing to determine what‟s important.
Students need to have the text to work with for summarizing.
After writing students can share summaries. Maybe students could meet in
peer editing groups. To revise and refine summaries.
Step by Step Summary
Identify the topic being reviewed.
Ask students to identify what happens at the beginning.
Ask students what happens in the middle (i.e. what the topic is about)
Write important words and phrases down.
Ask children what happens at the end.
Model how to combine the selected information into a sentence
7 Knowing How Words Work:
Create word banks:
Concept word map:
List, group, and label: Children list down vocabulary and group according to subject