What is comprehension?

Comprehension is the capability of understanding something and is the main reason for reading. If a child is able to read the words in a text but not understand the words they have read, they have not succeeded in reading the text. In order for a child to be able to comprehend text, they must be purposeful and active. Good readers have a specific purpose for reading a text. Whatever the purpose of that reader might be, they are reading with purpose to actively learn more about the subject of the text. Being an active reader means the reader is actively thinking and comprehending the text as they read. Good readers do this to make sense of what they are taking in and reading. Comprehension is the main purpose for reading, and children must have explicit and systematic instruction to achieve efficient reading comprehension abilities. 

What does research say about comprehension? 

Researchers have found comprehension instruction can not only help students understand what they read, but also remember what they have read and communicate with others about what they have read. Studies have also given information to educators about what students should be taught about reading comprehension and how it should be taught to the students.  Researchers found that text comprehension will be improved by instruction if readers are taught specific comprehension strategies. This finding gave educators six strategies to use to improve text comprehension among their students. Researchers also have found that instruction for comprehension strategies must be explicit or direct. Students are having to not only learn these comprehension strategies, but also having to learn why they use them, when to use the strategies, how to use the strategies, and what strategy is best to use in their individual situations. The six strategies are below! 

What are strategies I can use to help strengthen a child's comprehension? 

  1. Monitoring comprehension
    • Students are taught to monitor their own comprehension. This allows the students to identify situations when they do or do not understand the text. 
  2. Using graphic and semantic organizers
    • Students are taught to use diagrams or pictorial devices to focus on concepts and how they are related to other concepts in the text. 
  3. Answering questions
    • This type of strategy has been used by teachers for many years. When students are required to answer questions after reading a text it helps students have a purpose for reading, focus their attention on what they are reading/learning, actively think while reading the text, monitor their own reading comprehension, and connect the read content to what they already know. 
  4. Generating question
    • Students become more aware of their ability to answer the question they generated and ultimately understand what they are reading better, 
  5. Recognizing story structure
    • When students are able to learn how to identify story structures, they are able to have a greater understanding and memory for stories which improves comprehension!
  6. Summarizing
    • Students are able to determine only the important ideas within a text and put it in their own words. This type of strategy will allow students to generate main ideas, connect the ideas, eliminate unnecessary information, and remember what the text consisted of. 

Armbruster, Bonnie B., et al. Putting Reading First: the Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read: Kindergarten through Grade 3. National Institute for Literacy, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, U.S. Dept. of Education, 2003. |

Below is an instructional video that includes a strategy that I have used in the classroom! This strategy is called an anticipation guide! This strategy is an awesome strategy for younger and older children!!