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I think a majority of teachers would agree that more isn’t always better when it comes to reading comprehension strategies. Focusing on a select group of strategies will give students a chance to master each strategy and apply the learned skill set when reading independently.  The nine strategies listed below are appropriate for all levels of readers and will carry you through the entire school year!

Develop Active Readers with the SQ3R Method

SQ3R is a reading comprehension strategy that encourages students to think about what they are reading while they are reading.  The SQ3R method is comprised of five steps:

  1. Survey: Before reading, students survey the text. Have them notice the title, subtitles, illustrations, and graphics.  Students can also read the first paragraph, last paragraph, and the text summary (if provided).
  2. Question: While students are surveying the text, they should be formulating questions about the topic.  Encourage students to write down questions as they arise.  Students may also find unknown vocabulary words.  This is a good time to record them and determine meaning.
  3. Read: Students actively read the text.  Ideally, they will find answers to the questions that arose during the survey portion of the strategy.  Teach students to re-read portions that are unclear and determine the meaning of unknown words using context clues.
  4. Recite: After reading the text, students think about the information in their own words.  Summarizing the text will help students conceptualize the material.
  5. Review: The last step in the SQ3R method requires students to review the text in a more detailed manner.  Answering comprehension questions, completing a graphic organizer, or participating in a group discussion are all examples of how students can actively review the information presented in the text.reading comprehension strategies graphic

Use Chunking to Break Down Difficult Texts

Chunking is a reading strategy that breaks down challenging text into more manageable pieces.  Dividing content into smaller parts helps students identify key words, organize ideas, and synthesize information.  A text can be chunked in different ways depending on the size and complexity.  For example, a section of text may be broken down into paragraphs, or a paragraph may be broken down into sentences.  You can use several methods to make the chunks:  number paragraphs, draw lines between sections, highlight sentences, or simply use paper to expose the chunk you are working on and hide the rest of the text.  Students determine the meaning of unknown words, identify main ideas and key details, and accurately summarize each chunk.  The goal is for students to be able to chunk text independently in order to comprehend difficult reading passages.

Enhance Metacognition with Close Reading

Close reading is a strategy that requires critical analysis of a short but complex text.  A close reading lesson will scaffold student learning and focus on text-dependent questions.  When participating in a close reading, students read the text three times. The first reading is completed independently, focusing on key ideas and details.  Encouraging students to use metacognitive markers in the margins of the text will keep them focused while reading independently. The second reading centers on the craft and structure of the text.  Students listen as you read the text aloud.  Circling unknown words, highlighting main ideas, and underlining key details are examples of activities that focus on text meaning. The last reading of the text can be done in groups or with partners.  It should encourage students to synthesize and apply information from the text.  Answering text-based questions, connecting the text to other sources of information, or analyzing specific literary devices are all examples of text analysis for the third reading. Visit the Literacy in Focus Teachers Pay Teachers store to download free close reading bookmarks.  

Guide Students Through A Text With KWL Charts

A KWL chart is a research-based reading strategy that activates students prior knowledge, sites a purpose for reading, and helps to monitor comprehension.  It works extremely well when starting a new text.  First, establish the topic of the text, and create a three column chart that will be completed collectively as a class.  The first two columns, K and W, are filled out prior to reading the text. The K column refers to everything students already know about the topic.  The W refers to what students want to know about the topic.  Taking the time to address prior knowledge and generate questions ahead of time encourages and supports active reading. The last column is L.  It refers to what students learned from reading the text.  Completing the L column after reading the text will give students an opportunity to make connections and reflect on what they have learned.  

Encourage Cooperative Learning with Jigsaw

The jigsaw is a collaborative strategy that provides students with an opportunity to actively help each other build comprehension. Aside from developing a deeper understanding of the text, the jigsaw strategy provides students with an opportunity to work cooperatively and strengthen their communication skills.  In order to implement the jigsaw strategy in your classroom, you must first select a text or topic that can be divided into four or five selections. Next, you will split your students into four or five home groups. Each group member will be responsible for reading one of the text selections and teaching the materials to the other home group members. After establishing the home groups, students break off into their expert groups to read and analyze the assigned text selection.  In order to effectively master the material, require students to record their findings in some way.  Completing a graphic organizer, summarizing the text, answering text-based questions will all work well.  When the expert groups have completed their analysis of the text, it is time for students to return to their home groups to present the information from their text selection.  Depending on the levels of ability in your classroom, a graphic organizer may be useful for the this portion of the strategy as well.  After all group members have relayed their information to the home group, an assessment can be used to evaluate understanding.  The jigsaw strategy works particularly well as an anticipatory activity.  It is a great way for students to think critically about a topic before direct instruction begins.  

Improve Comprehension with Mind Mapping

According to research, creating visual representations of concepts and ideas can help students organize and remember what they learn.  Mind mapping requires students to complete a diagram or graphic organizer in order to visualize what they are reading and make connections between ideas.  Mind maps can be as highly structured as an in-depth graphic organizer, or as loosely based as doodle notes.  The learning objective will help to determine the appropriate mind map to utilize for each lesson.

Stimulate Structured Discussion with Reciprocal Teaching

Reciprocal teaching encourages students to think critically about a text using four different reading comprehension strategies. Implementing reciprocal teaching in your classroom will provide students with valuable skills that they can apply when reading independently.  It is important to select and read the text together as a class before starting the reciprocal teaching process.  After reading the text, students are ready to break into groups of four. Providing groups with a graphic organizer to record their work will establish structure and keep students on-task.  When students are in their groups, assign each student a role: questioner, clarifier, summarizer, and predictor.  The first part of the strategy requires students to work independently.  The questioner formulates two questions about the text.  The clarifier finds two unknown words or ideas in the text.  The summarizer sketches a picture to represent the main idea of the text.  Finally, the predictor is responsible for predicting what might happen if the text were to continue. The second part of the strategy begins the collaborative process. Each group member delivers his or her information and the other group members record it on their own paper.  Groups will start with the questioner box.  The questioner will read the two questions he/she came up with for part one. The rest of the group will record the questions. Next, the group will work together to answer the questions.   After completing the questioner box, groups move on to the clarifier portion.  The clarifier states the two unknown words or ideas he/she came up with to complete part one of the strategy.  The rest of the group records those words or ideas on their own paper. The group then works together to define or explain the unknown words/ideas.  A dictionary may be provided to groups having a hard time defining words using context.  Third, the summarizer shows the group the picture he/she drew to represent the main idea of the text.  The rest of the group draws a similar picture on their paper.  Working together, the group composes a two to three sentence summary of the text.  Last, the predictor reveals his or her prediction if the text were to continue.  The group members record the prediction on their own papers.  Then the group works together to find clues or evidence in the text that support the prediction.  Groups are finished when all four reading comprehension strategies have been discussed and completed.  Click here to download the free Reciprocal Teaching Guided Worksheet for students.     

Cultivate Meaningful Conversations with Think-Pair-Share

The Think-Pair-Share strategy is designed to give students time and structure to formulate and share ideas.  It promotes participation by encouraging thoughtful response.  This strategy, if done correctly, can be extremely effective in building higher-order critical thinking skills.  Before implementing Think-Pair-Share with your students, describe the strategy and provide guidelines for discussion.  Explain to students that they will think critically about a topic, discuss the topic or question with a partner, and share ideas with the rest of the class.  Formulating questions from the text that foster higher-order thinking is important for the strategy to be successful.  After posing the question(s), monitor and support students as they work through each step of the process.  

Develop Concise Summary Writing with GIST

GIST (Generating Interactions between Schemata and Text) is a strategy for establishing comprehension of a text.  It encourages students to write concise meaningful summaries, and it works well with all levels of readers.  Teaching students summarizing techniques will help them learn to effectively synthesize information.  The goal of a GIST summary is for students to be able to convey the “GIST” of what they read without the extraneous details.  Using GIST, students develop the necessary skills to independently identify the main ideas and key details in a text. Begin the GIST strategy by having students read a short piece of text. After reading, instruct students to answer who, what, when, where, why, and how questions based on the text selection.  Next, have students condense their answers into a one-sentence summary.  It is important to support students in writing GIST summaries until they can do them independently.

Click Below to Download the FREE GIST Summary Graphic Organizer

GIST Summary Worksheet

The goal in implementing reading comprehension strategies is for students to transfer those skills and apply them when reading independently.  Focusing on a small group of strategies throughout the school year will give students a chance to really hone their skills.  


GIST Summary Graphic Organizer

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