The herringbone technique helps develop comprehension skills as well as informational organization, contrast and comparison skill as well as the ability to remember details. The technique asks the student to determine the main idea of a reading by requiring him to determine the who, what, when, where, why and how of the reading. Students answer each of these questions by filling out a diagram that resembles a herringbone to achieve the main point of the reading. Use this exercise with elementary school age children to determine important aspects of a story or with high school or college age students to map out complex historical events.

Step 1

Give the students an introduction to the herringbone technique and to the importance of comprehension skills.

Step 2

Pass out copies of the herringbone diagram to each student. The diagram has a long line down the center of the page, which represents the backbone of the herringbone. Write the “main idea” along this line. Draw three diagonal lines off either side of the line and write who, what, when, where, why and how on each line. Leave a space for the student to write one sentence along or around each line and an area for them to state the main idea.

Step 3

Read a passage with the students.

Step 4

Instruct the students to write a sentence to answer each of the questions along the herringbone including what they believe the main idea is.

Step 5

Have the students share their answers with the rest of the class.