We have to specifically teach reading comprehension strategies because good reading comprehension does not always come naturally. Some children have good phonics skills; they can read all the words and they can do it fluently; however, comprehension checks may reveal that they are not really understanding and remembering what they read. The point of reading is to take in information, so comprehension is critical. Reading comprehension can have an impact on every subject we study and everything we do. Giving children the tools to use to increase comprehension is one of the most important parts of early education. Strategies have a variety of names, but have almost the same essential components.

Step 1

Teach vocabulary.

Vocabulary instruction can be taught in isolation, but it has to also be taught in context. Children have to know the essential vocabulary words they will encounter in reading, and they have to use those words in class, by hearing them, reading them and writing them. Vocabulary knowledge is essential to good comprehension.

Step 2

Practice pre-reading strategies with students.

Pre-reading consists of surveying or reviewing the material before it is read. Read the title and any headings within the material. Look at the pictures, too. Have students predict what they think the story might be about. Also, read any questions that will have to be answered at the end of the reading. This lets students know what information they will need to answer, and that helps them to pay more attention to critical information. Pre-reading helps to give more meaning to the information being read.

Step 3

Ask students to predict what will happen next or what the outcome will be at strategic points in the reading.

This creates anticipation. It helps children to pay attention to and relate new information. It also helps them to think more about what they have read.

Step 4

Encourage active reading with self-monitoring.

Reading is not just saying the words. Active reading is thinking about and processing what is being read. Active reading also requires self-monitoring. Students should be taught to stop for a couple of seconds at strategic points (like at the end of each page or at each section header) and ask themselves, "Do I know what I just read?" or "Can I say what I just read?" If the answer is no, they should re-read that section a little more slowly and make sure they are actively thinking about it. If that still does not help, they should be taught to stop at that point and ask the teacher for help because there may be a concept they need help with.

Step 5

Manipulate the information that has been read.

Students should do more than just answer questions at the end of what was read. That is a way to check comprehension, but increasing comprehension needs to be more than that. Graphic organizers are a good way to categorize information and form relationships. Let students debate a question in the material to encourage them to think critically about it. Use a multisensory approach with seeing, saying, hearing, etc. to increase comprehension. Many strategies can be used for this purpose.