Improve Reading Comprehension

Elementary Age Students

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I pledge, on my honor, to uphold UT Arlington's tradition of academic integrity, a tradition that values hard work and honest effort in the pursuit of academic excellence.

I promise that I will submit only work that I personally create or that I contribute to group collaborations, and I will appropriately reference any work from other sources. I will follow the highest standards of integrity and uphold the spirit of the Honor Code.

Celina Lewis

Background Information

I am a second grade teacher that works in Round Rock I.S.D. I have been teaching for seventeen years. I maintain certification in Special Education, ESL, Generalist EC-6 grade, and Early Childhood. My experience includes PK, Kinder, and Self Contained Early Childhood Special Education. I am seeking certification in Triple Literacy pursuing a certification as a Reading Specialist and Reading Master Teacher.

Student Comprehension?

We all teach it, but it does not seem to be working for many students. Year after year the same failed results! The beginning of the year data analysis have been analyzed, scrutinized, critiqued and year after year we are finding the same problems and the same weaknesses since Kindergarten. What can be done to improve reading comprehension in the classroom and for every students in every grade level.

Reading programs adopted by the state/district do not meet the guidelines for explicit instruction or they do not follow the gradual release-of-responsibility model, or provide the efficient practice time for skills and strategies to be learned. (Dewitz, Jones, Leahy, 2009)

Comprehension involves recalling information from text, extracting themes, engaging in higher order thinking skills, constructing a mental picture of text, and understanding text structure. ( van Den Broek & Kremer, 2000)

Tip # 1 Explicitly teach comprehension skills

Teach direct explanation of strategies, including the when, why, and how of the comprehension strategies. (Duffy, 2003) Teachers have to make explicit statements about the strategy (declarative knowledge - "noun" what you are teaching) , What critical attributes can guide the reader in using the strategy (procedural knowledge - "verbs" or action), and why and when during reading the strategy should be used (conditional knowledge). Duffy cautioned that teachers can be explicit in their teaching, developing knowledge, and setting goals, without providing a full explanation of the strategy used. Explicit instructional talk enables students the opportunity to invest in their own learning in a meaningful way, avoid 'guessing games’ where the student is having to ‘get inside the teacher's head to establish the purposes for learning. When the learning objectives are blurred or implicit, many students may find the integration of implicit references to aspects of literacy confusing or even impossible.

Explicit instruction of reading comprehension strategies is the art of teaching students to "Use specific cognitive" strategies. (National Reading Panel [NPR], 2000)

Since active reading is a hidden skill unknown by an inexperienced reader, teachers need to evaluate their reading process, in a step by step manner in order to have a step by step guide that can be used for explicitly teaching comprehension skills.

Take notice of the strategies you are using to understand the text as you read, and jot these strategies down. Thinking about your own thinking -metacognition. (Routman, 2003)

(Dewitz, Jones, Leahy, 2009)

Pilonieta, P., & Medina, A.L. (2009, October)

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Declarative, Procedural, Conditional Knowledge for explicit teaching

Frequently used comprehension skills using a declarative, procedural, and conditional knowledge. That can be used to explicitly teach comprehension skills.

Teacher Tip # 2 Model comprehension skills

When you introduce a new comprehension strategy, model during read-aloud and shared reading:

  1. Decide what strategy to model
  2. Choose a short text to use for modeling
  3. Do your homework before, read the text ahead of time, marking your thinking on sticky notes where you will stop and comment/model the strategy.
  4. State your purpose, name the strategy you are modeling.
  5. Read the text out loud and think out loud at designated points

(Wilhelm, 2001)

Teachers intentionally and directly teach comprehension strategies in efforts to help teach comprehension strategies in efforts to help students monitor and build their understanding of text. (Duffy, 2002)

Molly Ness (2011)

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Teacher Tip # 3 Think aloud Comprehension skills

A think aloud have been described as "eavesdropping on someone's thinking." With this strategy, teachers verbalize aloud while reading a selection orally. Their verbalization include describing things they're doing as they read to monitor their comprehension. The purpose of the think-aloud strategy is to model for students how skilled readers construct meaning from a text. Optimal learning occurs when teachers assist students in bulking and understanding new knowledge. (Vygotsky, 1978)

Model your thinking as you read. Do this at a point you feel there is a new idea, text, unfamiliar vocabulary, inference, or sentence construction has become confusing for a student. You can also use a think aloud checklist to help you demonstrate the active process you use as an experienced reader.

Create a record of strategic decision making process you use as you go through the text.

Report everything you as a reader does, feels, see, asks, and understands as you are reading.

Talk about the strategies that are being used as you go through the content.

Molly Ness (2011)

Think Aloud

Teacher Tip # 4 Group Work/Conversations

Students work in small groups and Fishbowl Phase to use these strategies to engage in a discussion. This helps students work together to construct and enhance each others understanding of the text.

During Fishbowl the teacher would select students who could serve as potential leaders for the collaborative groups. A Fishbowl is an activity where their is a group of students in the center of a larger circle that work with the teacher The teacher and the group work together and have discussions, give ideas, ask questions. Other students in the outer circle have an opportunity to listen, hear, and watch all feedback, dialogue that is going on in the inner circle.

During the Fishbowl roles were assigned and there were eight cure cards in all, one for each strategy and an additional card for the leader (had 3 cards - the leader card, picture walk card, and set purpose card) The leader told the each student when to do their strategy, told the group to do the picture walk, and set the purpose for reading the text The remaining five students each received one strategy cue card and used it at the appropriate time in the process. The prediction maker make the prediction, the clarifier clarified difficult words, the questioner asked questions, the summarizer summarized the text, and the visualizer drew a picture of the most important part of the text.

During this time the talking stick (any object that you designate, Popsicle stick -visual symbol of turn taking) was introduced. The leader was responsible for passing the talking stick to the student who would perform the next strategy.

After students are trained in the Fishbowl technique they were assigned as leaders to other group members. Keep same members in their assigned role so the the routine can be established and they become more proficient with their strategy and groups. This allows students to become accustom to the routine and focus more on discussion.

Pilonieta, P., & Medina, A.L. (2009, October)

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How to do a Fishbowl - TeachLikeThis
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Teacher Tip # 5 Use multiple strategy instruction

There are six main comprehension strategies. (Harvey and Goudvis, 2000)

1. Making connections - readers connect with the topic about what they know themselves, others, and the world.

2. Ask questions - readers ask themselves questions about the text, their reactions to it, and the authors purpose for writing it.

3. Visualize - readers make an image/movie in their head of the text in their mind.

4. Determine Text Importance - readers distinguish between what's important versus what's interesting, between fact and opinion, determine cause and effect relationships, compare and contrast ideas or information, discern themes, opinions, or perspectives, pinpoint problems and solution, name steps in a process, locate information that answers specific question, and summarize.

5. Make Inferences - readers merge text clues with their prior knowledge and determine answers to a question that leads to conclusions about underlying themes or ideas.

6. Synthesize - readers combine new information with existing knowledge to form original ideas, new lines of thinking, or new creations.

According to the National Reading Panel report (2000) teachers heavily favored asking questions (256 minutes). Furthermore teachers provided instruction in the following comprehension strategies: Predicting/Prior knowledge (184 minutes), comprehension monitoring (19 minutes), question generation (7 minutes), text structure (65 minutes), summation (101 total minutes), vocabulary (85 total minutes), and visual representation (34 minutes). Multiple strategy instruction was not incorporated.

How do I teach multi-strategy comprehension instruction?

Reciprocal teaching in Primary Grades - (RTPG)

Is used to teach students how to coordinate the use of four comprehension strategies: predicting, clarifying, generating questions, and summarizing. (Block et. al., 2008) These examples are in the previous examples demonstrated above.

Pilonieta, P., & Medina, A.L. (2009, October)

Students Take Charge: Reciprocal Teaching

Teacher Tip # 6 Gradual Release of Responsibility

Cognitive apprenticeship model in which there is a gradual release of responsibility. This model, a teacher makes their thinking and application of reading comprehension strategies visible and public through demonstration and guided practice, to facilitate students' independent use of reading comprehension strategies. (Duke and Pearson, 2002)

Though this whole process starting from Explicitly teaching comprehension strategies, (I do) modeling, and thinking aloud. (we do).

Students and teacher work together in the Fishbowl routine the teacher is an integral part (We do) of training students to run their group and slowly releases responsibility to the students (You do) and the teacher become more of the facilitator or support.

(Dewitz, Jones, Leahy, 2009)

Teacher Tip # 7 Scaffold Learning

At the beginning of the RTPG process the teacher is the expert. The students selected to participate during the fishbowl phase become more familiar with RTPG and scaffold their group members during the group-to-teacher phase. Once students are working in independent groups, the cue cards, scripts, and worksheets continue to function as scaffolding to sustain engagement and support strategy use.

Graphic Organizers - Using graphic organizers helps students internalize information and help students clearly visualize how ideas are organized within a text or

surrounding a concept. Graphic Organizers present material through the visual and spatial modes and reinforce what is being taught. These organizers also help students break down information into manageable steps, aids in the thinking process, and helps foster retention.

Pilonieta, P., & Medina, A.L. (2009, October)

Teacher Tip # 8 Consider Factors That Affect Comprehension

Teachers were surveyed and were asked to identity a number of factors that affected their comprehension. They said they comprehend well when they are reading books of their choice about topics of interest to them, when they are reading for specific purpose, and when they are undistributed by worries, unfinished chores, or noise. Texts with illustrations, lots of headings and subheadings, and lots of white space on the page also help them comprehend.

The teachers said they comprehended poorly when reading text was assigned to them, when they know very little about the topic, or when the page has dense text with few paragraph breaks or illustrations.

Major factors affect comprehension:

Reader's interest in and back ground knowledge of the topic, strategies the reader knows how to use, and even the reader's physical and emotional state and self-image. Style, layout, and organization of the text: difficulty of the vocabulary used; concept load (how many concepts are introduced); and even the presence or absence of illustrations, charts, and diagrams can affect comprehension

(Weaver, 2002)

The Comprehension Matrix

The Matrix is designed into pre-reading, during reading, and post-reading activities to help students comprehend and learn to use a variety of comprehension strategies. The Comprehension Matrix is posted below:

Sharon Ruth Gill, 2008

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Teacher Tip # 9 Promote Skill Transfer Across Genres

Help Students Recognize Different Genres

Once students know that there are different genres, they need to find out how to navigate through each kind of text to find the information they seek. Groups of students can become experts on various nonfiction genres and then can share their knowledge with their peers.

Learning about the features of different genres helps readers recognize what they are reading and quickly adjust their reading styles.

As students become more skilled, they can use the features of different genres to help them learn information quickly and efficiently—for example, using headings to get through informational text.

Teach Students to Cope with New Genres

Genres are constantly changing, evolving, and appearing in new forms. But when students learn how to recognize and use genres, they are building the background they need to cope with new and unfamiliar texts.

In real life, readers often come across novel forms and genres.

When students know that a text is created by a writer for a certain purpose and look for features that will help them understand that purpose, they can easily learn new information from the text. Teaching students how to cope with new genres will prepare them for a lifetime of reading.

Website links to information on different types of genres and their characteristics.

Nell K. Duke

Victoria Purcell-Gates, 2003

Teacher Tip # 10 Build Motivation to Read

Student motivation is a key factor in literacy learning. It requires an interaction between cognitive and affective factors. Motivation is associated with several important correlates, such as higher reading achievement, greater conceptual understanding, and a willingness to persevere when reading tasks become challenging (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998, Guthrie & Humenick, 2004; Morgan & Fuchs, 2007).

Give a reading survey - A chance to assess early reading motivation before significant declines occur. This survey may give information needed to help you support your student academically, increase self concept for reading and increase an appreciation of the value for reading.

Promote the Value of Reading

Having peer and adult role model who don't just "talk the talk" but are "walking the

walk." If you are excited about reading the students be as well.

Learning to read should be authentic

Students' reading must be meaningful and authentic. They should be invited into literacy activities that mirror the experiences they have in life, like reading for fun and to share, reading to find out how to make or do something, and writing a letter to a friend telling about a great book.

Construct a Wall of Fame

promote the value of reading by creating a bulletin board in or outside the classroom, invite teacher and students to make their reading public by posting reviews of books or captioned pictures that entice others to read.

Your Life in Books

This technique allows students to share the books they remember or books that were special in their lives. Have students draw or write about their lives, guided by the books they have shared, heard, or read.

Send a personal invitation

Some students might require a personal invitation to read. Hold a one-to-one conversation, and observe a reluctant reader, select a book you are quite certain he or she will enjoy. Then, issue a personal invitation to read in a way the student can not possibly ignore. Gift wrap the book in appropriate paper that corresponds with the book. This lets them know that you are paying attention to their interests.

Read Out Loud

Being read to influences the development of reading motivation. It reflects the highly verbal and social nature of early literacy instruction. Allowing students to vote for the teacher read aloud engages student interest.

Avoid bad buddies

Pairing student that are not compatible may make literacy uncomfortable for both students.

Reader's Theater

This is an exciting way to get students to want to read and it may also improves their fluency.

Provide choice

Giving a student an opportunity to choose their books based on interest will nurture intrinsic reading motivation. Provide a variety of reading material, like magazines, newspapers, joke books, comic books, etc.

Self-selection: "Honoring" books!

Whenever teachers do anything to make a book special — even something as simple as placing a book upright on a table — children are more likely to choose that book than any others.

Marinak, Malloy, Gambrell, Mazzoni, 2015

Parent Tips

1. Model Reading yourself - Modeling reading tells your child that reading is important, they want to be like you so they will copy what you find important.

2. Public Library - Go to your public library, allow your child to get a card and pick out their own books on their reading level. Take advantage of the public library activities, like puppet shows, summer reading programs, and story time.

3. Listen to audio-books

Audio-books offer similar benefits to reading aloud, especially when you make it a family activity. Audio-books can be used in the car on road trips, or even when running errands around town. Audio-books you might want to read:

Dr. Seuss' Books

Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne

Hank the Cow Dog by John R. Erickson

4. Ask Questions When your child reads '

get them to retell the story or information. If it’s a story, ask who it was about and what happened. If it’s an informational text, have your child explain what it was about and how it worked, or what its parts were about what your child is reading as they read through the book

5. Make reading more important in the daily routine than T.V. or electronics

Set aside some time when everyone turns off the TV and the web and does nothing but read. Make it fun, too. Make reading an everyday activity. Children rely on schedules if you make a point to put reading in your schedule they will improve their reading skills, and vocabulary.


This website contains up to date research on children with dyslexia, it provides professional development, success stories for educators and parents.

Gives information, strategies, suggestions for improving reading comprehension, before, during and after reading activities.

Reading Rocks brings the best research-based strategies to teachers, parents, administrators, librarians, childcare providers, and anyone else involved in helping a young child become a strong, confident reader. The website has information about reading instruction and help provide activities that work best in a way that parents and educators can understand and use. This website includes PBS television programs, professional development opportunities.

This website contains complex processes involved reading comprehension are divided into three categories. The categories include vocabulary instruction, text comprehension instruction, and teacher preparation and comprehension strategies instruction. You'll also find useful websites that students can visit to practice their use of comprehension strategies with fiction and non-fiction texts at a variety of reading levels.

Into the Book is a reading comprehension resource for elementary students and

teachers. We focus on eight research-based strategies: Using Prior Knowledge, Making Connections, Questioning, Visualizing, Inferring, Summarizing, Evaluating and Synthesizing.


Kieffer, M. J., & Lesaux, N. K. (2007). Breaking Down Words to Build Meaning: Morphology, Vocabulary, and Reading Comprehension in the Urban Classroom.The Reading Teacher, 61(2), 134-144. doi:10.1598/rt.61.2.3

Students with a developed understanding that words are combinations of meaningful parts tend to have better vocabularies and stronger reading comprehension performance. These meaningful parts are called morphemes, and the study of them is called morphology. Teaching students to understand morphology could improve their reading comprehension, particularly for English-language learners (ELLs) and their classmates in urban schools. This article reports on recent findings on this topic and suggests principles for teachers to use when integrating the teaching of morphology with literacy instruction.

Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2013). Gradual Release of Responsibility Instructional Framework. IRA E-ssentials IRAE, 1-8. doi:10.1598/e-ssentials.8037

The gradual release of responsibility model of instruction requires that the teacher shift from assuming “all the responsibility for performing a task … to a situation in which the students assume all of the responsibility” (Duke & Pearson, 2002, p. 211).

Routman, R. (2003). Reading essentials: The specifics you need to teach reading well. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Based on her continuing work teaching in schools, Routman proves that good teaching doesn't have to mean lots of hours spent planning. What's necessary is good thinking-thinking about what matters to kids, what kids need to know, how we can move them forward, and how to ensure that they comprehend and enjoy what they read-including struggling students. Readers will discover research-based strategies, immediately doable ideas, and detailed lessons-all based on an instructional framework that includes:


shared demonstrations

guided practice

independent practice.


Duke, N. K., & Purcell-Gates, V. (2003). Genres at Home and at School: Bridging the Known to the New. The Reading Teacher SELECTIONS, 57(1), 30-37. doi:10.1598/rt.57.1.4

Pilonieta, P., & Medina, A.L. (2009, October). Reciprocal Teaching for the Primary Grades: "We Can Do It, Too!" The Reading Teacher, 63(2), 120-129.

Molly Ness (2011) Explicit Reading Comprehension Instruction in Elementary Classrooms: Teacher Use of Reading Comprehension Strategies, Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 25:1, 98-117, DOI: 10.1080/02568543.2010.531076

Peter Dewitz, Jennifer Jones, Susan Leahy (2009) Comprehension Strategy Instruction in Core Reading Programs, Reading Research Quarterly, International Reading Association, 44(2), 102-126,

Gill, S. R. (2008). The Comprehension Matrix: A Tool for Designing Comprehension Instruction. The Reading Teacher, 62(2), 106-113. doi:10.1598/rt.62.2.2

Marinak, B. A., Malloy, J. B., Gambrell, L. B., & Mazzoni, S. A. (2015). Me and My Reading Profile. Read Teach The Reading Teacher, 69(1), 51-62. doi:10.1002/trtr.1362

Scholastic, the largest children's book publisher, promotes literacy with books for kids of all ages and reading levels. (n.d.). Retrieved May 10, 2016, from