Comprehension Strategies

Draw a sketch of the text page by drawing boxes for photos and squiggles for the print. Ask the group to
decide what kind of information or illustrations they would use if they had to write about this subject.
Brainstorm the categories of information that the author might have chosen. For instance, if the subject is
whales, the author might list the types of whales, what kinds of food they eat, how they reproduce, etc.
Decide where the information would be arranged on the page. You may give the students the categories of
information if you wish. Read to confirm. The students should then be able to remember where certain
information is located on that particular page.


Students take two minutes or less to scan each page, looking at text features such as boldface print,
illustrations, captions, titles, etc. It is also mandatory that the students read the sentences that boldfaced
words are connected to. After a given amount of time, close the books and see how much information has
been gleaned. It is necessary that you prove to the students that it is better to preview every time. You can
do this by giving a quiz and then comparing the results with a quiz given with no previewing. Students will
be amazed that they can answer a lot of questions before doing the actual reading. You can also hold a
contest to find out which group can find out the most information in two minutes. Previewing must
become second nature.


Write a topic on the board and ask for related responses. Draw a web and write the responses on the lines.
After everyone has contributed one idea, help the student s to organize the seemingly random ideas into
categories. Reorganize the words by writing one word from the web and asking for the other related words.
Draw boxes around the groups of words so that they are highlighted. Students then suggest names for the
categories. An example is “cell function, different types of cells, cell parts, etc.” As the students read the
actual text, the categories are expanded to include items that students had not thought of. This is a
particularly good activity because seemingly unrelated information is directly organized so that
relationships are sought and explored.


After doing a typical KWL, change the students’ prior knowledge column into questions. This is
particularly useful when the students have contributed a lot of incorrect information. Prepare an
anticipation guide and give it to the students the next day. As they read, the students should look for the
correct responses in the form of true, false, fill in the blank, or written response. The form should have a
blank for students to write the page numbers on which the information was located.


Ask students to discuss what they already know about a vocabulary term and any personal experience that
they have with the word. Ask questions about the word to start the discussion. If there are not many
associations, try to set up a demonstration or role-playing activity. Acting out the words migration,
vagarious, hostile etc. will help the students to have some prior knowledge for them to draw upon when
they read. Pay particular attention to words with multiple meanings and expressions. Don’t assume that
students understand them.
                                      Comprehension Strategies


Present the students with a list of words found in the selection that they are about to read. Challenge them
to write a story or passage using each of those words in order. They should be aware that those words will
by appearing in a reading selection that they have not seen yet. Do this as a “quick write” Give the students
the opportunity to share their stories with the group or a partner. This can be done with both narrative, as
well as expository text.

Example of narrative: Tzar, sons, Ivan , arrow, marry, beautiful princess, frog skin, fire, disappear,
searched, bundle of sticks, happily ever after.

Example of expository- two brothers, printing business, bicycles, flying experiments, gliders, air pressure
table, balance, Kitty Hawk, successful flight, France, accident, military plane, Hall of Fame for Great


Identify the key ideas in the reading selection. Students generate ideas as to how the ideas are related.
When possible, write the words identifying the relationships on the lines. Discuss how the concept may be
changed into sentences.


This is another way to categorize word meanings. This is most suitable for the most highly able students in
the fifth grade or in the upper grades. The teacher sets up the analogy by thinking of how the concept
represented by the test word relates to another concept and then thinking of a familiar pair of concepts that
share the same sort of relationship. This can be presented as a multiple choice format or a selected
response format with no stated choice.
House: people: ______________:beaver

    a. dam b. nest c. lodge d. tree

Land is to cars, as water is to ___________.

Types of Analogies
Part to whole
Person to situation
Cause to effect
                                         Comprehension Strategies


It is useful to think of the meaning of one word in relation to the meanings of others. Therefore, here are
four questions that you can use to yield a lot of information. Depending upon whether the word under
investigation is a class of things (cat) or a particular thing (white Angora), one side of the question will be
useful, but not always both.

      1.   What is it a kind of? / What are the kinds of it?
      2.   What is a part of ?/What are the parts of it?
      3.   What is it a stage of? /What are the stages of it?
      4.   What is it a product or a result of?/ What are the products or results of it?


      Set up columns to correspond to the above categories. Leave blanks above or below the word,
      depending upon what information is needed to understand the term. A concept ladder works better for
      words that have literal meanings that you can pin down. Words that evoke strong emotion may need
      another question on the concept ladder asking students about the emotion that the word evokes.

           Kind of?                     Part of?                       Function of?           Product of?

 Kinds of it produced?             Parts of it produced?        Functions of it?                 Product?


Readers classify and sort words by their features. This lends itself to content vocabulary for older readers.
In closed sorts, the students may be aware of the criteria for sorting prior to the activity. For open sorting,
the students are asked to group the words in logical ways and state the criteria they used. Use student pairs
or small groups if desired.


Analyze the material to be read. Determine the major ideas (both implicit and explicit). Convert those
ideas into short, clear, declarative statements. Avoid picky details. Arrange these statements into a format
that will evoke predictions. Provide a place on the sheet to change answers (before reading and after
reading) Discuss the readers’ predictions before reading

Directions: Check yes, if you think the statement is true based upon scientific facts. Check no if you feel
that the statement is not true based upon scientific facts.

Yes        No

------      -------    When the crickets are loud, there will be a harsh winter.
------      -------    When you see a ring around the moon, the next day will be hot.
------      -------    If a groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter.
------      -------    If you can see stars at night, it will not rain.
------       -------   If leaves turn under, it is going to rain.
                                     Comprehension Strategies


Present a list of 10-15 key vocabulary words. Model for the students by choosing two or more words from
the list and create a sentence using at least two words from the list. Share sentences and discuss. After
reading the selection, direct the students to make changes in their sentences as necessary. As an extension,
use the word list to summarize the passage.


Select meaningful terms, words or concepts from a reading selection. List them on a chart, chalkboard, or
overhead projector. Discuss definitions of unfamiliar terms, words or concepts. Ask the students as a class
or in groups to organize the words into possible categories. Students then write statements that they think
are true about the topic using the words from the list. Record the statements. After reading, review the
recorded statements.



This involves anonymous writing and therefore wouldn’t be part of the students’ grades or portfolio. An
admit slip is a brief comment written on a slip of paper prior to the reading. These should be collected as
“tickets.” The responses should be personal reactions to the subject or story that is going to be read. These
are read aloud.

Example: Animals can be classified into the following categories:


Copy a passage from the reading assignment and delete every fifth word. After the students fill in the
blanks, use the subsequent discussion to build meaning for the key terms and raise enthusiasm for the
reading. In a modified cloze procedure, key vocabulary can be chosen for deletion instead of every fifth


Cubing is a good way to look at a person, object, a feeling or an idea from six different perspectives. Tell
students that they will be using cubing to learn new vocabulary words. Like a cube, the writing that they
will do while cubing will have six segments. They should write quickly, spending only a few minutes
using each side of the cube. Note that some concepts are difficult to cube.
Cubing worksheet for ____________

Describe it- What does it look like. What are its characteristics? What are the first things that you notice
about it?
Compare it- What is it similar to? What is it different from?
Associate it- What does it remind you of? How does it connect with your individual life, or with the life
of your family or community?
Analyze it- Look deeper. What is it really made of? How does it work?
Apply it- What is it used for? Who uses it?
Argue for or Against it- Is it a good or bad thing? Explain why.
                                       Comprehension Strategies

Variations: Students can write responses on a flattened die-cut or template and then , cut and assemble.
You can also use this activity by assigning groups different concepts to cube. The groups then can guess
what the term or concept is. The cubing categories can be written on a cube to be rolled like a die.

Students fill in the main idea table as they read. They need to differentiate between the main ideas and

the details in a passage. The number of details will vary from passage to passage.


List key words for the selection on the board. Ask students to fill in a bingo card, arranging words in rows
that they think are related. As you read the selection, students draw a slash in the spaces on their bingo
card to see who gets a row filled in first. Keep playing and reading until all of the students have filled in
their cards and the selection is finished. Discuss definitions as they relate to the passage. The students can
then reread the selection independently.


Stop at intervals during reading and have students retell as much as they can about what they just read.
Start with short passages, then increase the length of the passages. You may want to assign pairs of
students. The student who is the “listener” should have something to do so that the role is not a passive
one. You might want to provide the listener with a reaction sheet with a checklist of facts or story
elements. Before asking the students to retell, make sure that you model the process.


This is something that most teachers tell the students to do, but it is essential that the students see the
teacher model the process. Do not let the students talk during your Think Aloud. Tell students that you
want them to see what you are thinking while you read. They usually want to jump in, but be firm.
Afterward, explain that this is hard at first, but ask a volunteer to try it. Most students will just read the
passage without interjecting any thoughts, so keep modeling and invite students to do their own think


This is an extremely effective way to get the students to pay attention to what they are reading. After
reading paragraph or more silently, the students close their books and the teacher asks a question. For the
next passage, reverse the process and invite a student to ask you a question. This time, you close your book
and the students leave their books open.

                                      Comprehension Strategies

The teacher models a systematic way of approaching a passage by using a four step sequence of
comprehension processes. The students take turns following the same steps and leading the others in
discussing the passage read. This works well for fiction and non-fiction.
The teacher divides the passage to be read into fairly short sections, depending upon the total length of the
selection. Everyone reads the passage silently. After the reading is done, the teacher models the
comprehension process by following the four steps.
Summarize the section in one or a few sentences.
Ask the group one or two good questions, avoiding picky details
Clarify a difficult part of the passage by explaining , giving examples, drawing analogies, or making other
clarifying statements.
Predict what the next section might be about or what might be learned from it.


Give the students a blank concept map or one with some of the items filled in. The students complete it as
they read.


Good readers recognize and correctly respond to different arrangements of text while poor readers do not.
These structures need to be taught.

Chronology- Timelines
Cause and Effect
Written Directions
Compare and Contrast
Explain or Describe


The teacher constructs a study guide that mirrors the text structure to help the students to follow the
information in the text as they read.

                                         Example: Woodrow Wilson

Causes:                                                          Effects:

_____1. In 1912, Republicans split their votes between           A. The electrical industry grew rapidly,
         Howard Taft and Teddy Roosevelt p.72                       cities grew, roads were built, and
                                                                    machinery revolutionized farm life.

_____2. His birth was recorded as 12:00 and ¾ on                 B. He was elected by a small margin
        December 28            p.73

_____3. During his presidency, the farmers became a              C. There is some confusion about his
        minority group        p. 74                                 birth date

 Once the students are proficient in identifying cause and effect, have them construct their own “pattern
                                         Comprehension Strategies


Give students blank frames to fill in while they read. You can also use the words intriguing, fascinating,

An amazing fact about
Found by_______________________________________in_____________________________________.


Pretend that you are the dog in The Housekeeper’s Dog by Jerry Smath.*. You are being interviewed over
the telephone. Answer the following questions:

We cannot see you. Please describe what you look like. Mr. dog, whose idea was it for you to go to
Madame DePoochio’s School for Dogs?
Madame DePoochio said that you would be a new dog. What did she mean by that?
What was your reaction when Miss Dilly kicked you and your friends out of the house?
Do you think that Miss Dilly is a bad person? ……..Explain what you mean.

*This is the correct spelling


Summarizing involves reducing text to its main points. Students must be able to discern text structure in
order to be able to summarize.

Basic Rules for Summarizing
Include no unnecessary detail
Collapse lists into broader categories
Use topic sentences
Integrate information


This is a meaning extending vocabulary strategy. Divide the class into groups of three. Distribute exercise
sentences- one to each student. Then, each group member must complete each exercise sentence
individually. Next, each group member must convince the other two members that his or her word choice
is best. If no agreement is reached on the best word/s for each sentence, the group members can speak to
the class to discuss each group’s choices. The only rule for discussion is that the group must justify their
choice rather than just making statements such as “because ours is the best”.

Examples:            Hamlet was the most ________________ in the play.

                     The best form of energy is _________________.
                                     Comprehension Strategies


An activity sheet with two columns is given to the students. One column contains definitions or other
distinguishing statements such as examples or characteristics. Direct students to match terms with
definitions. In doing so, they must take into account the letters signaling the terms and the numbers
signaling the definitions. The students then write the number of a definition in the proper space in the
magic square grid. If the matches are correct, each row and each column total will be the same. This is the
“magic number.”       The asterisk denotes the number of foils (distracters) that are needed to make the
correct total. In some cases, there will be a “dud” definition that won’t be needed. Please note that there
may not be an even number of items in both columns.

Terms                                    Definitions
A. Texas                           1. Fabrics make from recycled wool
B. shear                           2. The wool of these animals is used for carpets
C. cross bred wooled sheep             and handicraft yarns.
D. coarse wooled sheep             3. Using power clippers to remove fleece
E. felting                         4. The property of wool that makes fibers mat and
F. Wool Products Labeling Act          interlock under heat, moisture or pressure.
G. virgin wool                     5. Their wool is used for rugged clothing.
H. carding                         6. Wool that has never been spun into yarn or made into felt
I. shoddy                          7. U.S. leader of wool production
                                   8. The process of passing the wool through rollers that have
                                       thin wire teeth
                                   9. Establishing guidelines in the United States for defining and
                                      labeling wool products

A           B        C

 D          E        F

G           H        I

Magic number =__________

7      11       8
10     12       4
 9     3        14
5*     26**

7      3        5
 2     4        9
6      8        1
0*     15**
                                    Comprehension Strategies

9        2         7
4        6         8
5        10        3
1*       18**

10       8         6
2        9         13
12       7         5
4*   24**

9     7            5
1     8            12
11    6            4
3*   21**

16       2         3          13
5        11        10         8
9        7         6          12
4        14        15         1
0*                          34**

2        7         18         12
8        5         11         15
13       17        6          3
16       10        4          9
0*                  39*

19   2        15        23     6

25   8        16        4      12

1    14       22        10     18

7    20       3         11     24

13   21       9         17     5

0*                          65**
                                      Comprehension Strategies


Students fill in a story map based on what they read. The teacher may guide the discussion by asking key
questions. The students use a graphic organizer, either as a group activity or individually.

Events - Beginning, Middle, End


The four stances were developed by Judith Langer. Students should be asked questions from these
perspectives in order to encourage critical thinking. See appendix A

Students should be asked questions at a variety of developmental levels to encourage critical thinking.
See appendix B


A literature discussion doesn’t always have to be planned.

Sample starters:

What surprised you about what you read?
Would you give this book as a gift? Why or why not?
How do you think that this information will be helpful to you?
After reading this information (or story), can you explain………
What would you like to read about next?
What did you enjoy (or find boring) about this story or article?


Develop a cloze passage by deleting key terms to reinforce concepts attained through reading. Use a text
passage that was one of the most important in the selection. Typically a 200-500 word text segment has
enough technical vocabulary to make the activity worthwhile.


This is a variation on an Admit Slip. Toward the end of the class, the teacher asks the students for exit slips
as a means to bring closure to what has been learned. An exit slip might require students to summarize,
synthesize, evaluate or project. These are read aloud.


Revisit the web/concept map/ etc. that was created before or during reading. Rearrange information, add
facts, or simply confirm prior knowledge.
                                     Comprehension Strategies


Assign students to read the selection and introduce the discussion web by having students work in pairs to
generate pro and con responses to the question. The partners work on the same discussion web and then
take turns jotting down their reasons in the “YES” and “NO” columns. Combine partner groups into
larger groups and compare answers. The groups should try to work towards consensus. Give each group
three minutes to decide which of all the reasons given best supports the group’s conclusion. Follow up by
individually writing response to the question and display them in the room so that the other students can
read them.

                               Should Jack have stolen the
                               harp and the Hen that Lays the
                               Golden Eggs in Jack and the
          NO                                                           YES

                                         Comprehension Strategies


This is a good way for students to summarize a passage.


                                    ONE WORD NAME OF MAIN CHARACTER
                                                 --------------- ---------------
                                 TWO WORDS DESCRIBING MAIN CAHRACTER
                                       --------------- ---------------- ----------------
                                       THREE WORDS DESCRIBING SETTING
                                --------------- --------------- ---------------- ---------------
                                         FOUR WORDS STATING PROBLEM
                       --------------- --------------- --------------- --------------- ---------------
                                     FIVE WORDS DESCRIBING FIRST EVENT
           --------------- --------------- ---------------- ---------------- ----------------- -----------------
                                    SIX WORDS DESCRIBING SECOND EVENT
     ----------------- ---------------- - ----------------- ----------------- -------------- ---------------- -----------
                                   SEVEN WORDS DESCRIBING THIRD EVENT
--------------- ------------- -------------- -------------- -------------- -------------- --------------- ---------------
                                      EIGHT WORDS DESCRIBING SOLUTION

To top