How to Teach Reading Comprehension Skills in Fifth Grade

Learning reading comprehension skills can open a child up to a new way of reading.
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Fifth grade is a transitional period when it comes to reading comprehension. Students are reading relatively fluently, and they're thinking deeply about what they read in new, complex ways. They might summarize abstract ideas, predict how a story ends, examine the author's purpose in writing an article or make inferences based on the facts provided. Teaching students these complex skills can be both difficult and exciting, as students delve deeply into the exciting world of reading comprehension.

1 Pre-Test

In order to teach reading comprehension effectively, you'll need to identify which skills students are struggling with. Can they find and remember basic details from the story? Can they identify the story's main idea? Can they make inferences based on what they read, or do they take everything at face value? Once you identify which areas they are struggling with the most, you can discuss this with them and let them know that you're going to be focusing on these areas of reading comprehension.

2 Hit the Target Skills

Next, you'll want to give students plenty of practice in the skills that they find most difficult to apply. Some of the main reading comprehension skills taught at the fifth-grade level are identifying the main idea and supporting details, predicting, sequencing events, making inferences, differentiating between fact and opinion, summarizing, discussing the author's purpose and identifying text structures (e.g., cause and effect, problem and solution). If students are struggling in one or more of these areas, you can practice with them on various different texts. For example, you can have students read several texts and ask them to identify the facts and opinions in each one, and to discuss how the details in each support the author's purpose.

3 Tap into Students' Interests

Although reading comprehension instruction is often important in filling in the gaps, the main way to teach reading comprehension is to encourage students to read. Find out what each student finds fascinating, and expose the student to books on that subject. For example, a child who is interested in space exploration might welcome a nonfiction book on the Milky Way, a biography about an astronaut and a science-fiction book about a space mission. You can then make sure to include some of the skills mentioned above when discussing these books with the student.

4 Make It Fun

Most reading comprehension skills can be taught in two ways -- the boring way and the kid-friendly one. Instead of having students practice making predictions, have kids take turns sharing the storyline of their favorite books and predicting how each other's books may end. Instead of having students write summaries of the books they have read, have them write book reviews to be published in the class newsletter. With a bit of thought and creativity, you can teach most fifth-grade reading comprehension skills in a fun and engaging way.

Keren (Carrie) Perles is a freelance writer with professional experience in publishing since 2004. Perles has written, edited and developed curriculum for educational publishers. She writes online articles about various topics, mostly about education or parenting, and has been a mother, teacher and tutor for various ages. Perles holds a Bachelor of Arts in English communications from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.