Reading comprehension is how students process, connect, and learn from what they read. To attain strong reading comprehension, students must be active readers. This means students are not just decoding words; they are actively thinking about the content they are reading. Below are five tips to help your students build stronger reading comprehension skills that will allow them to have a better understanding and gain more from what they read.
1. Preview and review vocabulary
Explicitly teach upcoming vocabulary you know your students will be interacting with. Incorporate rich vocabulary throughout the day. It does not necessarily have to be related to what you are teaching. Focusing on even a new word or two per week in addition to your regular academic vocabulary will add up.
2. Activate prior knowledge
Before diving into a book, get students to discuss their background knowledge and questions they may have on the topic. For example, if you are reading Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai, you might want to discuss who Malala is, where she is from, what students may think this story is about and what they might want to know about her. An example for younger students could be for Pete the Cat – I Love My White Shoes. This story is about a cat and his shoes changing colors, so you might want to discuss cats, shoes and colors to activate prior knowledge. Activating prior knowledge will make it easier for students to make connections throughout the text.
3. Build memory stamina
It takes time to build strong reading stamina. In order for students to really absorb and gain the most from what they are reading, they can not be passively reading text; they must be actively engaged with text. Start by having students read for shorter periods of time and work their way to reading for longer periods of time.
Playing memory games and memorizing poems will also help students build memory stamina, which will help with reading comprehension.
Teach children to stop reading when they feel like they are zoning out and try to summarize what they read. If they have trouble recalling what they just read, they need to go back and reread it. Some students may do this on their own, but it is likely a skill you will need to teach and practice with your students.
Reading aloud, even in the older grades, is beneficial for checking in on student reading comprehension. It is important to check in and ensure students are alert and actively reading, looking for inferences, visualizing scenes, and taking notes if needed.
Have students check in with partners to make sure they understand what they just read.
5. Give opportunities for students to read for pleasure
Like anything else, reading is a skill we become better at with practice. If students are reading something they enjoy, it will be easier for them to practice the above reading comprehension tips. Allow time for students to explore different types of text and find what genre they enjoy.
Samantha Burke is a Bay Area educator who is passionate about teaching literacy and social-emotional development. She is a credentialed reading specialist that has worked with children for ten years, and enjoys creating innovative learning opportunities for students and resources for parents through her tutoring company, Valley of the Moon Learning.