Primary Comprehension Instruction:

Picture Walks, KWL, DRTA with Dr. Kay Stahl

By Kristin Kuckelman, Section A

Dr. Kay Stahl

Dr. Stahl is a Clinical Associate Professor of Literacy at New York University where she teaches graduate courses and oversees the NYU Clinical Literacy Practicum. She taught for 26 years in public education.

Dr. Stahl studied the effectiveness of picture walks, KWL charts, and DRTAs with second grade students who were given informational science text. She wanted to know if these methods effected reading fluency, comprehension, and their contextual vocabulary about the subject.

Picture Walks

The students look through pictures of the text, and make predictions about what they think it will be about. The students then read the text and discuss after.

KWL Charts

K: What you already know about the topic (prior knowledge)

W: What you want to learn about the topic (creating interest)

L: What you learned about the topic

DRTA: Directed Reading Thinking Activity

The class will briefly discuss the text, and make predictions about what it will be about. They will read a few pages, stop and talk about those pages, repeat throughout the text.

The results

  • She found that the DRTA yielded the best overall results. She concluded that when students were able to stop and discuss the text throughout the reading, they learned the most information - and remembered it.

  • All three methods resulted in a significant increase in conceptual vocabulary
  • Picture walk had the greatest increase in fluency


  • Dr. Stahl stresses the importance of taking the time to conduct informational reading in small group settings. All students NEED to have the opportunity to stop, and talk about what they are reading.
  • She encourages longer blocks of time for teaching, so teachers can integrate subject areas like social studies and science to literacy.
  • Parents should read more informational text to students, and have discussions with their children about the text.


1. How will you apply Dr.Stahl's results in your own classroom?

2. Do you think it is important to also take the same discussion time throughout reading when working with fiction text?