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Reading Comprehension Strategies for Explicit Instruction

Thanks to its partnership with publisher Eye on Education, EducationWorld is pleased to present this teaching tip from Improving Adolescent Literacy: An RTI Implementation Guideby Pamela S. Craig and Rebecca Sarlo. This article helps secondary teachers and school leaders implement a problem-solving/RTI framework to help all students greatly improve their reading skills.

One role of the literacy leadership team is to identify specific strategies to be implemented by all teachers in order to reinforce the use of the strategies with different types of texts across content areas. Identifying specific strategies to address pre, during (see the table below), and post reading is an easy way to introduce comprehension instruction into the curriculum without teachers feeling they are diverting attention away from the curriculum. This approach encourages active reading within all classes and ensures that students make the connection between reading comprehension strategies and learning.

Pre-reading strategies, such as identifying text features to make predictions about the text, are helpful to students. Teachers begin by modeling think-alouds as an effective instructional practice that allows teachers to embed literacy instruction within content instruction. Prior to asking students to read assigned text, teachers review the relevant text features and ask students to make predictions about the topic and concepts contained in the text. Ideally, the teacher places the assigned reading on a projection device (e.g., overhead projector, ELMO) and shows students the specific text features that help guide and prepare the reader prior to reading the actual text. The teacher may also model thinking aloud to share with students how he or she uses the text features to make predictions and identify relevant details or ideas for focus. This can be followed by allowing time for students to work in small groups to review text features and make their own predictions.

In addition to pre-reading strategies, teachers should also provide students with during-reading strategies to maintain student engagement and comprehension throughout the reading process. For example, students can be taught how to selectively highlight or underline key words and phrases as they read. If it is not possible for students to write on the text, then teachers can have students create two-column notes or write key words and phrases on sticky notes to be organized after the reading is completed. With this strategy, students are asked to identify the topic of individual paragraphs as they read and to create summary sentences for sections of text. The process of summarizing paragraphs helps keep students engaged in reading and aids comprehension, while a review of the summaries helps students grasp the important information presented in the text.

Finally, teachers need to help students engage in thinking activities after the reading is completed to allow time for students to process the notes and observations they made while they read. As discussed earlier, students can be asked to summarize the text using key concepts identified as they read. They might work in small groups to discuss the relevant details and link their details to key concepts learned through the reading. They might also work in groups to identify essential questions discovered as they read. These questions can then be used to guide further discussions about the material. Content-specific graphic organizers and note-taking strategies are also effective tools for students to organize the information and draw conclusions about the text.

In order to teach reading comprehension strategies effectively, a teacher must shift from expert deliverer of information to facilitator and coach. Instead of the teacher reading the text and identifying the relevant details, which are then distributed to the students through lecture or notes, the teacher facilitates the students’ discussion and analysis of the text.

In this scenario, the teacher becomes a guide to help students filter out irrelevant details in favor of relevant details and to direct students to make predictions that are then reinforced or eliminated after further investigation. Ultimately, this approach allows the teacher to shift from the imparter of all knowledge to the facilitator of authentic learning experiences. The result is that students not only learn the material, but also "learn how to learn" the material, thus increasing their ability to read independently with comprehension.

The table below summarizes the strategies previously discussed:

Pre-Reading Strategies During-Reading Strategies Post-Reading Strategies
  • Previewing text
  • Activating prior knowledge
  • Making predictions
  • Selectively underlining/highlighting
  • Recognizing word parts
  • Paraphrasing
  • Making margin notes
  • Asking questions
  • Taking Cornell notes
  • Organizing column notes
  • Using concept maps
  • Using Venn diagrams
  • Writing summary statements
  • Creating graphic organizers


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