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Reading Comprehension Strategies

Last updated Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The following article was written by long-time educator and Reading to Kids volunteer Susan Thibodeaux, with concepts from Open Court Reading Teacher's Edition (McGraw Hill, Ohio, 2000).

The primary aim of reading is comprehension, which allows intellectual and emotional responses. Effective readers are problem solvers. They have at their command an assortment of strategies for monitoring their understanding.

The goal of comprehension strategy instruction is to turn responsibility for using strategies over to the students as soon as possible. Proficient readers use a variety of strategies to help them make sense of the reading matter and get the most out of what they read.

In the reading clubs, we can provide opportunities for students to practice comprehension strategies when they are listening and responding to the stories that we read to them. We readers can model strategy use and incorporate different kinds of prompts and think-alouds as examples of the types of thinking students might do as they listen to comprehend reading material.

Comprehension Strategies

Following are descriptions of the types of strategies proficient readers use to comprehend text:

Setting Reading Goals
  Readers who have definite expectations about the story are more engaged in and notice more about a story. Information to be gathered from the selection should be determined ahead of time.
  - Activate prior knowledge by discussing what is already known about the subject or experiences in reading similar material.
- Browse the story by looking at the title, author, and illustrations. Students may identify potential problems and tell what they think they might be learning as they listen to the story.
- Decide what to expect from the text and anticipate enjoying the story and its language.
  It is important for readers to sum up to check their understanding of the story. The process of putting the information in one's own words not only helps students remember what they have read, but also prompts them to evaluate how well they understand the information. Appropriate times to stop and summarize include the following:
  - when a narrative text has covered a long period of time or a number of events
- when many facts have been presented
- when an especially critical scene has occurred
- when a complex process has been described
- anytime there is the potential for confusion about what has happened
Asking Questions
  Learning to ask productive questions is not an easy task. Questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no are not typically useful for helping to remember or understand the story. The process of effective questioning begins with Who? What? When? Where? How? or Why? Advancing from literal questions, which can be answered with explicit information in the story, students can advance to inferential questions, which must be answered by interpreting story content.
  Predicting can be appropriate at the beginning of a selection and can be confirmed or revised throughout the story. Students need to determine what clues in the story or in the illustrations helped them predict in order to learn that predicting is not merely guessing.
Making Connections
  Students should be guided to think of memories or people which might remind them of characters or events in a story. Sharing your connections will help students become aware of the dynamic nature of reading and show them another way of being intentional, active learners.
  Students should form mental images about the setting, characters and action in a story. Visualizing helps students understand descriptions of complex activities or processes.

As Reading to Kids volunteer readers, we already practice these strategies. By using the Open Court Reading Program terms, we are able to reinforce student learning when we read to and discuss stories with them.