Learning the Comprehension Strategies
- Grades: 9–12
- Unit Plan:
- Understand each of the six major comprehension strategies and apply each to short texts.
- Demonstrate use of comprehension strategies through text coding, margin notes, sticky note comments, or reading journal entries.
- Picture books and short pieces of text to model and practice each strategy. (See my booklist for suggestions)
- Overhead transparencies of selected text (optional)
- Sticky notes, highlighters, or other tools for students to show use of strategies
- Reading Comprehension Review Sheet (PDF)
Set Up and Prepare
- Gather picture books or other text to model the strategies. Read through each text and make notes of how you use one particular strategy to improve your reading. These notes become your mini-lesson.
- Prepare overhead transparencies of text to display your work during the mini-lesson. (optional)
- Make copies of short practice texts for each strategy. You’ll need a sheet for each student for every lesson.
- Make a poster of the Reading Comprehension Strategies, or create bookmarks or handouts for the students. The easier it is for them to reference these while reading, the better. (optional)
NOTE: The amount of practice for each of these will depend on the expertise of your students. Take both their reading levels and degree of involvement with the texts together to determine the appropriate speed with which to deliver these lessons in your class.
Step 1: Explain that you will be beginning an exploration of six strategies that good readers use to increase their comprehension. All readers do some of these things automatically, but the class will be practicing making each reader's thinking visible. By practicing these strategies, all readers can improve their comprehension, regardless of their reading level. Explain that you will study each strategy individually, but readers put them together in their heads.
This is my suggested order for teaching the comprehension strategies:
- Determining Importance in Text
(You will repeat the process of teaching each strategy by modeling, demonstrating how to make the thinking visible, and providing practice.)
Step 2: Model the Connecting strategy verbally with the class using a picture book or another short text, such as a newspaper article. See booklist for suggestions, but it is important that you use a text that you personally can connect with for this strategy. I use Thank you, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco. As I read, I stop and think aloud about the text-to-self connections. I also point out any text-to-world connections and text-to-text connections I have while I’m reading.
Step 3: Demonstrate jotting down these connections as you read with another text on the overhead transparency. Code each connection as either: T-S (text-to-self), T-W (text-to-world), or T-T (text-to-text) and ask for student connections.
Step 4: Hand out a short piece of text and have students practice making their connections visible by jotting reminders of connections in the margins. (They should use the codes you taught in the mini-lesson to label their connections.) Have pairs of students share their responses, and then discuss as a class.
Step 5: Collect the students’ class work and assess to get a sense of their competency with the strategies.
Repeat the steps above with each comprehension strategy. I like to vary the tools used for student practice by using highlighters or color-coded pencils to marking text, making margin notations, having partner discussions, or using sticky notes. My booklist has recommendations for literature to use for teaching each comprehension strategy.
Supporting All Learners
Learners of all reading levels enjoy read alouds. Picture books make an enjoyable entry to many of my lessons by providing short, well-written text that often launches deep thinking.
I send home an overview of the comprehension reading strategies for parents. At conferences, I share examples of the practice of the strategies.
Students will demonstrate their understanding of each strategy through their class reading notes and class discussion.
An active, strategic reader will understand and remember more of what is read in any text for any class. To evaluate this lesson, look for evidence that each student can independently use the comprehension strategies.
- Can students code a text meaningfully and then discuss their comprehension?
- Are students using strategies to add meaning to other texts they read in class?
I try to give students opportunities to discuss and write about their use of strategies in addition to collecting their strategy practice work. Try to "catch" students using the strategies and frequently ask which strategies they use for a particular text. Don't forget to keep modeling what you do to comprehend text.
Look for evidence that each student has used the taught strategy to aid comprehension. I assign participation points to the introductory lesson, then evaluate their use of the strategy using a simple 3-point rubric:
- 3 points: reader shows meaningful evidence of using the reading strategy to aid comprehension
- 2 points: reader shows some evidence of using the reading strategy
- 1 point: reader is not yet showing evidence of using the reading strategy
For more information about making a rubric, please see the Scholastic Rubric Maker.