Comprehension Strategy Instruction

by Sara Codori

Academic Honesty Statement

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 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.

Background Information

Current Position: First Grade Teacher

Current Certifications: EC-6 Generalist; ESL Supplemental; GT Supplemental; Special Education Supplemental

Certifications Seeking: Reading Specialist; Masters of Reading

My district utilizes Reading 3D to assess and progress monitor students’ reading for grades kindergarten to second grade. The data that has been analyzed over the past year shows that our students have an overall good accuracy rate, but comprehension is lower for many students, affecting the independent reading level. STAAR results point to a similar trend for the upper elementary grade levels. Comprehension strategies instruction would benefit all teachers on the campus and thus all students.

The learning objective for creating the professional development handout is that teachers will leave with new ideas and knowledge that they may implement in their classroom right away. My hope is that by providing strategies for all grade levels, that teachers may find that a strategy typically suited for emerging readers will assist older students that are struggling or that young readers ahead of development expectations may be challenged with strategies used for older students. I would like to provide teachers with additional knowledge behind comprehension development as well as resources that will save them time and stress with their already jam-packed schedule. The long-term goal is that as teachers utilize comprehension strategies in their classroom, students will benefit as their comprehension improves as shown through Reading 3D and STAAR assessments.

Top Ten List for Teachers

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1. Tell Me What You Mean (Be Explicit and Systematic)

Comprehension instruction all begins with direct instruction of specific strategies. Explaining the strategies and modeling its use in reading give students an example of what good reading looks like. Teach students how, why, and when strategies can be utilized in reading (Hollenbeck, Feiker, Saternus, 2013). It is equally important to make reading meaningful by using books that interest students and integrating social studies and science content topics in literature read in class.

2. Gradual Release of Independence

Students need to take baby steps in the comprehension process. Strategies that are taught explicitly, are modeled before students are taken through guided practice, working with the teacher to talk through predictions, questions they may have, or confusing parts, for examples. Allowing students to have this support builds confidence and strengthens their ability to use the skill before having to do it independently. As students use strategies on their own, teachers continue their support with feedback and addressing areas of difficulty (Hollenbeck, Feiker, Saternus, 2013).

3. Read Aloud

Shared reading is the perfect time to explicitly teach comprehension strategies and provide the gradual release of responsibility for students to be successful. Along with the enthusiasm towards reading and modeling proper fluency, teachers can build students' vocabulary and knowledge which are linked to improved comprehension as well. Morrison and Wlodarczyk (2009) noted that read-aloud experiences increases students' vocabulary and comprehension growth along with their listening and speaking skills, and overall language development. Read-alouds are a time to encourage discussion, further supporting comprehension skills.

4. Can You Hear Me?

Students enjoy talking with each other, so use that to your advantage. Morrison and Wlodarczyk (2009) found that discussion "enables collaborative sharing of ideas, alternative perspectives and problem solving during learning, promoting higher cognitive abilities." The reading strategies taught and practiced during read-aloud and shared reading time are supported as students are able to talk through their reading. Another study by Keene, Ellin, and Simmermann (2013) show that discussion whether it be oral or written improves students' high-order thinking. An open dialogue between students causes students to use more than one comprehension strategy at one time, unknowingly.

5. The More the Merrier

Strategies are like a toolkit; you need more than one tool to build a sturdy structure. The same can be said about comprehension. Proficient readers must be able to implement several strategies independently when reading. "Recent research promotes multiple strategy instruction whereby students are taught how to use and coordinate multiple strategies as they read" (Pilonieta, Medina, 2009). During shared-reading and read-alouds, model and talk about how readers may ask questions to help clarify confusing parts of a text or use schema to make connections to text.

6. Switch Roles (Reciprocal Teaching)

Students enjoy having leadership roles and taking on responsibilities. Reciprocal teaching lets students work together, with each person having a specific role related to four comprehension strategies: predicting, clarifying, questioning, and summarizing. With a gradual release of responsibility, take turns practicing a strategy and discussing their thinking while reading a text, with the teacher their for support. Stricklin (2011) reports that implementing the four strategies when reading a single text increases comprehension. Each component helps students create focus, monitor their understanding, and stimulates motivation.

7. That Reminds Me (Connect to Schema)

Students are instantly engaged when the can relate to what is being said in class. Connections cause learning to be meaningful. Gregory and Cahill (2010) refer to the Velcro Theory stating that it is easier to remember what is read if we can stick it onto something that's already in our heads. Referring to schema encourages students' interest and causes a better understanding. Before reading, ask students what they know about a topic or pose a question or situation and have students write it down on a sticky note. Refer back to the schema at the end of the story to see how their schema has grown. Model how students use their schema to understand character feelings or make predictions and how it helps them to clarify confusing parts in a text.

8. Building Background Knowledge

When schema is limited, teachers must fill the gaps by teaching words or concepts that may be presented in the text. This should be done quickly (about 5-10 minutes), not consuming too much of the reading time. Harvey and Goudvis (2013) report that spending time before reading to pre-teach background knowledge helps students make sense of new information presented in a text and increase comprehension. Visuals, videos, audio, are all ways to support English Language Leaners understand new vocabulary.

9. Why Should I?

Creating a positive reading climate encourages students to read. Reluctant students may remain skeptical of comprehension strategies if they do not see the purpose in their lives. Morrison and Wlodarczyk (2009) report that reading is a transactional process and if students are to make meaning from their reading, they must transact with the text. Teachers must engage students with the literature. This can be done by choosing texts of their interest or strategically incorporating other content areas in reading and making connections to students lives.

10. Be Strategic

Time is of the essence in education. Using time wisely is necessary and integrating social studies and science content to teach and practice reading comprehension strategies will ease time constraints. More importantly, incorporating more than one subject area with reading makes the strategies students are learning far more meaningful. With meaning comes purpose, motivation, and engagement. Harvey and Goudvis further found that "strategies help students make sense of the content, and the content gives meaning and purpose to the strategies." Mentor texts are available to teach social studies and science concepts. There are many pair readings that support fiction and nonfiction reading. Bookflix is one online webpage that primary teachers can use to teach comprehension strategies along with social studies content.

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Home Sweet Home-Tips for Parents

1. Children remember more when they can connect the reading to what they already know. Parents can do a great deal to increase this schema by talking with their child often. This can be as simple as the signs seen on the drive home or types of food on a trip to the grocery store. Conversation builds schema and vocabulary, another bonus in developing comprehension.

2. Continue reading strategies taught in school at home. Before reading a story, ask your child to make a prediction. While reading the story, encourage your child to ask questions. Model this by asking questions aloud. For example "I wonder what Frog will do to try to get Toad up for Winter." If your child comes across an unknown word, talk through it. Are there clues in the pictures or the sentences around the word? Look up the meaning to an unknown word. After reading, ask your child to retell the story to you just like he would do with a movie.

3. Have your child play the role of teacher as you take on the student role. Your child can ask you questions from the story that you have to answer. Asking questions requires them to think at a higher level and makes it more fun for them as they get to be the one in charge.

4. Talk about the book with your child. Did you like the book? Why? What was your favorite part and why? What would you have done differently? What does _______ remind you of? Creating a conversation about characters and events in the story helps your child connect to the text and thus remember more.

5. Build enthusiasm towards reading by having your child watch you read. Show them that reading can be done for enjoyment or to learn new information. Use your child's interest to find books at your local library to find books that they are interested in, fostering a love for reading.


1.Florida Center for Reading Research The Florida Center for Reading Research provides teachers with a plethora of activities that can be utilized to support comprehension. Resources are divided among grade levels K-1, 2-3, and 4-5 and by topic including narrative, expository, text analysis and monitoring for understanding.

2. Read Write Think Read Write Think is another online resource that provides teachers from across all grade levels with lessons that support specific learning topics such as comprehension. Each lesson describes the time frame, standards, lesson frame work, and supported materials including mentor texts. An additional benefit for teachers is the research-supported articles that can be found embedded within the link.

3. Read Works Read Works is similar to Read Write Think. It provides teachers with lesson ideas for various topics such as comprehension. Read Works list students book and its reading level as well as paired reading passages.

4. Reading A-Z Reading A-Z has printable student books for Guided Reading Levels A through Z. There are comprehension lesson ideas with printable books. Razz Kids is an online reading site with leveled readers and is a sister company to Reading A-Z. Students can listen to stories and answer questions to test reading comprehension. Points and games motivate students to read and do well on comprehension questions.


Dymock, Susan; Nicholson, Tom. (2010). High 5! Strategies to enhance comprehension of expository text. Reading teacher v64 n3 p166-178.

Dymock and Nicholson explain five strategies to support comprehension: activating background knowledge, questioning, analyzing text structure, creating mental images, and summarizing. With each strategy, they inform teachers of the benefits of using the strategy in reading and provides examples. Teachers will really appreciate the lesson example that they provide modeling how all five strategies are incorporated with one text. This supports other research that state how using more than one strategy improves comprehension.

Marcell, Barclay; DeCleene, Joan; Juettner, Mary Rose. (2010). Caution! Hard hat area! Comprehension under construction: Cementing a foundation for comprehension strategy usage that carries over to independent practice. Reading teacher v63 n8 p687-691.

This article questions the impact of basal readers on student comprehension. They discuss an approach that can be used with any text and incorporates four strategies. They promote using authentic texts to explicitly teach comprehension strategies and providing a gradual release of responsibility to students to practice strategies. Reciprocal teaching is explained and modeled with a sample dialogue of what it might sound like in a classroom.

McLaughlin, Meaureen. (2012). Reading comprehension: What every teacher needs to know. Reading teacher v65 n7 p432-440.

McLaughlin provides her own list of principles for teachers to consider to improve reading comprehension. Teachers will appreciate that the tips are concise and to the point with examples that could be used right away in the classroom. She cites research to support the use of explicit instruction and a gradual release model. Teachers are seen as models that create a positive literacy environment and encourage motivation with choice and interesting books.

Pilonieta, Paola; Medina, Ariana L. (2009). Reciprocal teaching for the primary grades: "We can do it, too!" Reading teacher v63 n2 p120-129.

This article discusses how reciprocal teaching, a strategy normally used in the upper elementary grades can be taught and implemented in the primary grades to improve comprehension. Pilonieta and Medina use research to explain its effectiveness. Charts and diagrams help teacher understanding of the 4 phase, 12 week process of explicitly teaching students each strategy, assigning students a role and cooperative groups that can use strategies during reading and discussing it with group members. Each component is laid out for teacher as a guide to help them implement it in their own classroom.


Gregory, Anne E.; Cahill, Mary Ann. (2010). Kindergarten can do it, too! Comprehension strategies for early readers. Reading teacher. V63 n6 p515-520.

Harvey, Stephanie; Goudvis, Anne. (2013). Comprehension at the core. Reading teacher. V66 n6 p432-439.

Hollenbeck, Amy Feiker; Saternus, Kara. (2013). Mind the comprehension iceberg: Avoiding titanic mistakes with ccss. Reading Teacher. V66 n7 p558-568.

Morrison, Vanessa; Wlodarczyk, Lisa. (2009). Revisiting read-aloud: Instructional strategies that encourage students’ engagement with tests. Reading teacher. V63 n2 p110-118.

Pilonieta, Paola; Medina, Adriana L. (2009). Reciprocal Teaching for the Primary Grades: “We an do it, too!” Reading teacher. V63 n2 p120-129.

Stricklin, Kelley. (2011). Hands-on reciprocal teaching: A comprehension technique. Reading teacher. V64 n8 p620-625.

Photograph References