Using the Comprehension Strategies
- Grades: 6–8, 9–12
- Unit Plan:
Students review the six major reading comprehension strategies and then take the strategies into action in more complex reading. We also discuss a seventh strategy, monitoring comprehension.
- Demonstrate how the Comprehension Strategies can aid in reading one of their content textbooks.
- Reading Comprehension Review Sheet (PDF)
- Have available for students: blank paper, sticky notes, and colored pencils.
Set Up and Prepare
- Create a poster, an overhead, or handouts of the Reading Comprehension Review Sheet (PDF) so that students can easily reference it.
- Have students sign up for a subject area or assign each to bring a content textbook to class. Math texts are the most difficult to use for this lesson, but any other subject matter textbook will work.
- Decide on how you’ll arrange groups. Students may work alone, in groups with a common textbook, or work individually and then have subject area group meetings. (I use the last arrangement in my class.)
Step 1: Review the six reading comprehension strategies by using all during a modeled think-aloud reading. I use an overhead of a short passage found in an old science textbook that is no longer in use.
The six strategies are:
- Determining Importance in text
Your goal in this mini-lesson is to show students how you integrate all these strategies to gain understanding of a text. Explain what you do when you come to a part of the text where you are "stuck." How do you know you aren't comprehending that part of the text? Which strategies do you try to use to get you "unstuck." Do they help? Students need to see what expert readers do when they come to difficult portions of a text.
Step 2: Explain that the seventh reading strategy is called monitoring comprehension. Share that this is simply being aware of when you understand what you are reading and what to do when comprehension breaks down. These are the guidelines I go over with my classes:
How do you know when it doesn't make sense?
- When you can't hear the character or narrator's voice as you read
- When you can't see pictures in your head
- When your mind wanders away from the text
- When you have no memory of what you just read
- When you cannot ask or answer clarifying questions about the topic
- Whenever something you read does not seem to be related in any way to what you just read
Step 3: Have students read a section or partial chapter from a textbook they are using in another class. They should be using the reading strategies learned in class and taking note of when they use them. (The amount of text read will depend on your students' reading abilities and the time you have to devote to this project. I give class time for this reading, but you could also assign this reading as homework.)
Step 4: Ask each student to map the comprehension strategies that they used to better understand the text. I have each student use sticky notes or take a piece of blank paper and jot their strategy use (corresponding to the text by line number) since they cannot write in textbooks.
Step 5: (Optional) Students meet in subject area groups to discuss strategies they found most helpful when reading text for that content area.
Step 6: (Optional) Groups give short presentations to the class on using the strategies, using one of their texts as a model. (This may include creating study aids. I’ve had students design bookmarks with strategy reminders as part of their presentation.)
Supporting All Learners
Modeling and group discussion are techniques that support all learners in my classroom. As students work on this project, I circulate and confer with each student to check understanding or suggest ideas. Often, my special needs students are relieved to hear me say that their ideas are exactly what I would do as a reader of that particular text. I encourage all and remind them that they already do many of these things automatically, so now they just need to make it visible to me.
Assign students to write a reflective essay on how the comprehension strategies are useful to them as readers. I require at least three specific examples of how the student can use a strategy within a specific text or texts. For example, one student may write that in her science textbook, she finds that adding questions of her own to those found at the end of a chapter help her to stay interested and focused as she reads the chapter on viruses. She would include some specific questions she asked herself and explain how that helped her understand the big ideas.
Student essays become a part of my student's writing portfolios which are shared at conference time.
Students will map out their use of reading strategies with a textbook for another class.
The true assessment of these lessons comes in witnessing your students using these strategies as they read throughout the year. Keep noting your own use of strategies as you read aloud and praise students when you catch them using a strategy during instruction or during reading conferences with you. I also fill in a strategy usage checklist for conferences that notes which strategies each student uses independently, with my guidance, or "not yet."
Develop a rubric or give students a checklist of your expectations.
I evaluate their use of the strategies using a simple 3-point rubric:
- 3 points: reader shows meaningful evidence of using the reading strategies to aid comprehension
- 2 points: reader shows some evidence of using the reading strategies.
- 1 point: reader is not yet showing evidence of using the reading strategies.
For the essay, I evaluate their work for the required three specific examples and perhaps two other writing qualities that we have worked on in class previously.