Five Reading Comprehension Strategies

Before we look at some of the most useful comprehension strategies, we must begin to acknowledge what exactly is meant by the term 'comprehension'. This is the ability to understand something, grasp what it is about, and be aware of the finer details relating to it. When applied to reading, comprehension is having an understanding of a given text, whilst being able to interpret and apply the deeper meaning of it. We look at five of the best approaches when it comes to supporting students in comprehending a book, play or poem.

Story Mapping - This technique is particularly popular with younger students who need precise instructions to understand their work. To help them better understand a story, they must fill in text boxes to answer given questions about it. Firstly, they may have to describe the main character and the setting of the book, and also the different pivotal events in the text. In most stories, there is a particular problem, and students may also be required to state what this was and how it was solved at the end.

By breaking down the story into key segments, pupils are able to grasp in greater depth the defining moments of the text, and then begin analyzing why things happened and what effect they had on subsequent events.

Read, then answer - Perhaps the most popular of all reading comprehension strategies is reading a short extract and then answering questions on it. The beauty of this strategy for improving reading comprehension is that it can be adapted for all age groups; by simply choosing more or less complex texts, you can address students across all grades.

True and False - In True and False, students are given a list of statements relating to the storyline of a book that they have read. From this list, they must identify which of the statements are true, and which aren't. This demands an understanding of the book's content, as in order to know what happened and what didn't, they have to think carefully about the text's themes.

You: the Author - In terms of reading comprehension strategies, playing the part of the author is one of the most exciting, hands-on exercises there is. Teachers must supply a chair and place it in the center of a large circle of students. By picking names out of a hat, numerous pupils will be called up one at a time to sit on the chair, and questioned as if they were the author of the book.

Pupils who are not on the chair have the job of asking questions about the book, such as: "What about Richard's personality made you choose him as the main character?" It's questions like this that help the students asking and the one answering, as both parties will have to think about how characters were portrayed in the story, and how different events unfolded.

Diary entries - After each chapter, students could be asked to write a diary entry on behalf of one of the characters about what has happened to them during that stage of the book. Through doing this, pupils will have to think more deeply about any major occurrences within a chapter, and will hopefully understand the text better as a result.