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Reading Comprehension Strategies

By Faith Berens, MA

The main comprehension strategies readers use are:

  1. Connecting
  2. Picturing (using sensory images, making a movie in your mind)
  3. Wondering/Questioning
  4. Noticing the important parts
  5. Synthesizing and inferring (Figuring out)
  6. Predicting and guessing (part of inferring)
  7. Monitoring (noticing when you stop understanding)

Teach your child these strategies, explicitly and systematically.

Ways to Teach Comprehension

Model the reading strategies you, as an adult reader, use. Do this during your family read aloud time.

  • Example: Ust the “think aloud” technique: “I wonder what it going to happen next?” “I think…is going to….” “This story reminds me of the time….” By doing this you are modeling making connections and predictions.
  • Choose texts/books carefully for modeling strategies. Use picture books!

Use supervised “Internet Workshop” to provide your child with opportunities so sharpen their critical thinking skills, motivate them, and give them an opportunity to share their discoveries.

Steps to do an internet workshop:

  1. Locate sites that are appropriate and connected to the content or unit of study; bookmark them.
  2. Develop an activity requiring your child to use the sites, such as finding out three interesting facts about Greek civilization. (This is often called a “webquest”—think of it as a treasure hunt on the websites.)
  3. Assign this activity to be completed during the week.
  4. Have your child share his or her work and discoveries, questions he or she still has, and new insights at the end of the week or on the weekend (over pizza on family night!)

Reciprocal Questioning Strategy (ReQuest) developed by Manzo:


  1. Parent/teacher and child read.
  2. Student/child questions teacher.
  3. Parent/teacher questions students.
  4. Student/child predicts the story’s outcome.
  5. Parent/teacher and child finish reading to check predictions.

Reciprocal Teaching—Parent and child read a passage together. Parent models and guides child in summarizing, discussing parts that were not clear/not understood, tricky vocabulary, etc. Parent and child share questions and predictions. The goal of this technique is to help readers internalize these steps so that they can then apply them independently during silent reading.

  1. Summarize
  2. Clarify
  3. Question
  4. Predict

Teach sequence relationships and sequence signal words such as, before, after, finally, first, initially, following, earlier, afterward, next, later.

Teach cause and effect relationships and signal words and phrases such as, because, so, therefore, hence, thus, since, as a result, consequently, on account of, accordingly.

Directed-Reading-Thinking Activity (DRTA):


  1. Predicting—Tell me what you think the story/book will be about? Where might it take place? Who do you think will be in the story?
  2. Reading—Have child read silently to a predetermined point, at which time the child’s earlier predictions should be checked.
  3. Proving—Ask child to draw conclusion and explain his or her reasoning. Ask child to evaluate the evidence in relation to their predictions. (Was your guess correct? Why or why not? What do you think now? Why? Why do you think X happened? What do you predict will happen next?


  • Read aloud a passage, poem, part of a story. Then pause, and ask the child to sketch what he or she is imagining in his or her head. Who is in the movie in his or her mind? Where does the story happen? What is happening?
  • Use Graphic Organizers, such as story maps, flow charts, webs, venn diagrams, etc.

Books and Resources:

  • 7 Keys to Comprehension: How to Help Your Kids Read It and Get It by Susan Zimmerman and Chryse Hutchens
  • Constructing Meaning by Nancy Boyles—Comes with reproducibles on CD
  • Subjects Matter: Every Teacher’s Guide to Content Area Reading by Harvey Daniels and Steven Zemelman
  • Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction by Isabel L. Beck
  • Strategies that Work by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis
  • Improving Comprehension with Think-Aloud Strategies by Jeffrey Wilhelm, PH.D.

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