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Simple Reading Comprehension Strategies That Work

Most modern reading experts agree there are somewhere between five and seven proven strategies for reading comprehension. These reading comprehension strategies should be taught as part of the reading process and practiced throughout elementary, middle, and high school. Browse the list to see if you’re using all the best strategies to improve reading comprehension. 

Using reading comprehension strategies with studentUsing reading comprehension strategies with student

Active Reading

We’re not talking about running while you read here! Active reading means you engage with the text before, during, and after reading. This helps students think beyond the actual text and consider their understanding of the text as part of something bigger. 

It’s not enough to just sit down and read a book. You need to use some of the other strategies to talk about the book before you start reading, stop during reading and ask questions or start a discussion, then talk about what you just read when you’re done. 

Previewing Knowledge

Some teachers would call this “activating prior knowledge.” Previewing involves thinking about what you already know about the topic before you start reading. When kids know more about a topic, they’ll comprehend the text better. 

For example, if you’re about to read a picture book about a garden with your kindergarten class, you might talk about gardens they have at home or gardens they’ve seen before you read. 

Predicting What It’s About

Part of your pre-reading strategy might include predicting. This is where students tell you what they think might happen in the text they’re about to read. This helps kids activate their prior knowledge and use clues from things like the title or cover of the book to help them understand the text. 

Questioning the Text

Teachers and students can take part in asking questions before, during, and after reading a text. Questioning helps students stay focused, demonstrate understanding, and think actively as they read. 

You can ask obvious questions related to comprehension, questions that involve recall, and critical thinking questions. Teachers can model this behavior for younger kids so they learn to do it on their own as they get older. 

Visualizing the Text

Visualization goes beyond seeing images related to the text in your mind. This strategy teaches kids to organize the text in a structured way in their mind as they read. They might see the story structure as a mountain with the climax at the peak or a diagram of how characters are connected. 

This method is great for visual learners but has also been shown to stick in the mind longer than simple pictures. 

Self-Monitoring Comprehension

Part of reading comprehension involves students monitoring their own comprehension as they read. They need to be taught to recognize when they understand something and when they don’t. Students should be able to identify exactly what they don’t understand and come up with things that can help them understand, like finding context clues or asking the teacher. 

Recognizing Story Structure Elements

Understanding the structure of a story helps kids comprehend the text because they can see things like setting, characters, problems, and resolutions. Tools like story maps can help kids put all this information together. 

Summarizing the Text

Summarizing a text starts with identifying the main idea. Students will pick out the most important parts of the text and connect them with the main idea to show an understanding of the purpose of the text. 

Students can summarize a text in their own words out loud, in narrative writing, or in a diagram. A summary should be done from memory. Another word for summarizing is “retelling.” 

Using Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers are diagrams or charts that help students focus on concepts from a text and how they relate to other concepts. They can also be used for summarizing. These illustrative tools are usually used with books.

Examples of graphic organizers include webs, graphs, charts, diagrams, storyboards, maps, frames, and clusters. 

Reading Together Above Level

While it might seem intuitive to read at or below a child’s reading level for better comprehension, reading above a child’s reading level can be more impactful. The key to reading advanced texts with kids is for the teacher to help guide students through understanding it.  

Gaining knowledge is a huge part of reading comprehension because students need to tap into what they already know in order to understand a text. When you read above level, you help kids gain knowledge about new topics. 

Common Reading Comprehension Strategy Models

While all of these reading comprehension strategies are effective, some experts and educators focus on a few specific strategies. 

The 5 Reading Comprehension Strategies Model

Also known as the High 5 reading strategy, this popular model for middle and high school students focuses on five essential comprehension strategies. 

  1. Activating background knowledge

  2. Questioning

  3. Analyzing text structure (specifically patterns like the cause-effect pattern or the problem-solution pattern)

  4. Visualization

  5. Summarizing

The 7 Reading Comprehension Strategies Model

Others choose to employ the 7 strategies of effective readers when they’re teaching reading comprehension

  1. Activating

  2. Inferring

  3. Monitoring-clarifying

  4. Questioning

  5. Searching-selecting

  6. Summarizing

  7. Visualizing-organizing

Strategies That Make Sense of Stories

Effective reading comprehension strategies can also work for adults. No matter what age you are, using these techniques to read books, articles, and any other kinds of texts can help you understand the true meaning behind the words. Try out some fun reading activities that use reading comprehension strategies to get kids excited about reading.

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