What is it?

Comprehension is the ability to read and understand what is being read.  It is the ultimate goal of reading.  If someone is able to decode all of the words in a text but not understand what they're reading, then there is not a point to their reading.  Good readers are able to read a text and make sense of it, they can describe what they read and even the point of why the text was written.  


There has been extensive research on the importance of reading comprehension.  The research has shown that instruction in comprehension has helped students understand what they have read, remember what they read, and communicate with others about what they have read.  Research has shown that the following strategies have helped students grasp text comprehension.  Each strategy will be expounded in the Strategies section below.

  • Monitoring Comprehension 
  • Using graphic and semantic organizers
  • Answering Questions
  • Generating Questions
  • Recognizing Story Structure
  • Summarizing


Research has also shown that effective teaching of these strategies includes explicit teaching techniques.  Explicit instruction requires the teachers to tell the readers when and why to use strategies, which strategies they need to use, and how to use apply the strategies that they learned.   This means the teacher needs to use direct explanation to explain why that strategy helps and when to use it, modeling how to apply the strategy, guided practice to learn how and when to apply the strategy, and application of the strategy until the student can apply it independently.  


  As mentioned above, the following strategies are researched based instruction that helps students reading comprehension.

  • Monitoring comprehension
    • Students need to monitor their comprehension to know if they understand what is going on in the text or not.  This teaches students to identify what they do not understand and helps them to reset and figure out why they do not understand.  
  • Using Graphic and semantic organizers
    • Graphic organizers can help illustrate concepts in the text.  This can help readers focus on the concepts and how they are related to each other.  Graphic organizers can help students focus on the text structure, provide them with tools to examine and represent relationships in a text, and help them write organized summaries of the text. 
  • Answering Questions
    • This is probably the most commonly used method.  Research shows that students must understand what they read in order to answer questions about what they read.  The questions can give the students a reason for reading, focus on what they what they are to learn, and think actively as they read.  If the student knows they will have to answer questions after they read, it forces them to pay closer attention to what they are reading, thus increasing their reading comprehension. 
  • Generating Questions
    • Requiring the students to generate questions can improve their processing and comprehension of the text.  When they have to generate questions, they can also become aware of if they are understanding what they are reading.  
  • Recognizing Story Structure 
    • Story structure is how the content of the story are organized in the text.  If students are able to understand the story structure, they are more likely to understand and remember what they read.  In this instruction, students learn to identify categories such as setting, initiating events, internal reactions, goals, attempts, and outcomes and recognize how this is organized into the plot. A story map is a graphic organizer that can help the students identify the story structure.
  • Summarizing 
    • Similar to answering questions, a student must understand what they read to summarize a text.  In order to organize the important themes of the text into a summary, the student must understand what they read.  Summarizing helps students identify main ideas, connect central concepts, ignore unnecessary information, and remember what they read. 



How to use Graphic Organizer before, during, and after reading