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Teaching Strategies to Develop Comprehension

Janelle Cox

Comprehension teaching strategies help learners become active readers who are able to comprehend what they read. Oftentimes, students who read fluently may not necessarily be able to comprehend what they’ve just read. Some children may be able to pronounce words in a book with no problem, but once they’re asked about what they’ve just read, they are unable to respond with an answer on what it’s all about. Other students may struggle to understand the main idea, or be able to make real-world connections with the text. In order for a student to be a good reader, they not only must be able to read fluently, but they must also be able to comprehend what they are reading. To help facilitate comprehension in your students, try the teaching strategies below.

Teaching Strategies: Encourage Students to Use Sticky Notes

Sticky notes are an effective strategy to help students who have a hard time when they come to a word or sentence within the text that they may not understand. To help alleviate this issue, have students keep a pad of sticky notes on their desk. Then, as students read through the text, they can place their sticky note next to the word, sentence, or paragraph they are having trouble understanding. If there is a word that’s written on their sticky note that they don’t understand, they can go online and look it up. Or, if it’s a sentence or phrase, they can bring the note to you. The key to this strategy being a success one, is that every time a student is having trouble comprehending while they read, they are encouraged to write it down on the sticky note.

Teach Students How to Find Answers Within the Text

Teach students how to find answers within the text that will help them understand what they are reading. For example, for each text that students read, make them predict, clarify, question, connect, summarize, and evaluate what they are reading. Encourage them to highlight and/or write down the page number where they found their answer. They can do this before, during and/or after reading. When you teach students how to find answers within the text, you are showing them how to prove how they got the answer. This will help students get a better sense of what they’re reading.

Clarify the Purpose for Reading

Another effective comprehension strategy is to clarify the purpose for reading. Reading with a purpose helps students gain more from the text. It enables them to try and figure out what information is important and what is not important, while they are reading. Are students reading to learn a new strategy or to find out information? Whatever the reason may be, there’s a purpose. It also encourages students to return to the text which is a great way for them to build even further understanding.

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Use a Graphic Organizer

To help students get in the habit of reading for a purpose, have students fill in a story map or another type of graphic organizer before they begin reading a text. Graphic organizers are a useful way for students to know what they are looking for before they begin to read. They also help students focus on concepts that are related to other concepts within a text, as well as help readers organize their thoughts.

Teach Students How to Ask Questions

Questions can be an effective way for developing students’ comprehension because it helps them think actively as they read, gives them a purpose for reading, and helps to focus their attention on what they are about to learn. Get students to really think about what they are reading. Pair students together and ask them to create open-ended questions that relate to what they are reading. When students need to come up with their own questions, it helps them comprehend what they’ve just read better.

Use Visualization

Visualization is another great strategy to use to help develop students’ comprehension skills. While students are reading a text, have them stop and visualize what they think the story looks like. Then, after each chapter, have students draw a picture that the text painted in their heads as they read. Students can share their drawings to compare and see how each individual visualizes something different.

While learning how to decode, recognize words within a text, and be able to read fluently are all skills students must master. The ability to understand and comprehend what they read is the by far the most important reading skill. It is crucial to implement comprehension strategies before, during, and after reading in order for students to truly master this activity.

Do you have any comprehension teaching strategies that are effective? Please feel free to share with us in the comment section below. We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on this topic.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.