Teacher Toolbox
Learning Strategies - Reading


Often children struggle to recognize important elements of text, summarize, and synthesize the information to create new knowledge. To make sure children understand what they are reading, they need to be able to put the text in their own words, prioritize the information, and draw conclusions from the salient information.  Reading instruction needs to include strategies to support the students' understanding of text.

Comprehension Strategies
  • Use open-ended, guiding questions to help students think about a text as they read and to focus on important information. Have children complete a reading response after they read a passage or a story to help connect the information.
  • Teach students to summarize the story in their own words.  This will help students focus on the meaning of the text.  Use concept maps to help students show the sequence of the story and to maintain the primary elements.
  • Direct students to locate repetitive information found in the text. Use visuals to help students locate the main characters and actions. For example, using different colored blocks or different shapes, have students select a shape to represent the characters in the story.  After the student reads the story, have the student place the blocks as they retell the story.  Direct them to notice which block occurs most frequently in each scene of their retelling.  Discuss with them why this character would probably be the main character.
  • Teach students to recognize the structure of texts.  For example, informational texts typically use a topic statement, followed by supporting details, and ending with a conclusion.  Recognizing the structure of text can help students locate pertinent information.  Also, recognizing the story structure in fiction, such as the plot structure, can help students learn to infer about relationships among characters in the story.
  • Guide children to become aware of their reading process.  Using self-questioning can help them learn to make analogies to compare sources of information and help them to monitor their understanding. Teach children to generate and answer their own questions as they read.  For example, children can learn to ask themselves "what am I reading about, and why" to guide them to focus on the relevant information.

Useful resources for teachers that provide information about teaching reading comprehension and the reading process in the classroom include The Guiding Readers and Writers: Grades 3-6 Guided Reading by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell, Mosaic of Thought: Teaching Comprehension in a Reader's Workshop by Susan Zimmerman and Ellin Oliver Keen and Shaping Literate Minds Developing Self-Regulated Learners by Linda Dorn and Carla Soffos (www.stenhouse.com).