Comprehension refers to a reader's ability to understand and connect to what they're reading. Readers with good comprehension are both active and purposeful. This means that they are motivated by specific and personal purposes in their reading and they are active participants with the author in understanding and connecting to the text.
Research tells us that comprehension skills are most improved when teachers help students practice specific strategies to build their understanding. These include several best practices:
- Monitoring Comprehension - Teachers should model and practice with students the process of paying attention to one's own comprehension and applying strategies when necessary to "fix-up" any areas of uncertainty or gaps in knowledge. Here is a great resource for introducing some basic "fix-up" strategies to your students:
- Graphic Organizers - Teachers should routinely utilize graphic organizers to support students in visualizing and conceptualizing the stucture and relationships between ideas in a text.
- Answering Questions - By asking questions as they read, teachers can help students build their understanding and more aptly direct their focus during reading.
- Generating Questions - Generating questions is an important step in the process of being an active reader. Teachers should support students' reading comprehension by giving opportunities to both ask -- and seek answers to -- questions as they read.
- Recognizing Story Structure - By understanding a story's organization or structure, students can better analyze and understand the significance of the details they read in a text.
- Summarizing - Summarizing has students practice an essential higher-level skill known as synthesis. Teachers should have students synthesize what they've read into shorter synopses that identify key information such as the main idea or theme.