In Part One of Comprehension Strategies (Making Meaning of Texts), we discussed the importance of knowing the basics like decoding (knowing our sound patterns, sight words, and the ability to figure out unknown words) and developing concepts of print (knowing how to use pictures to help decode, using pictures to support understanding, looking at the cover and title, knowing which way to turn the pages, etc.), but also the importance of comprehension (our ability to make meaning from a text). In Part Two, we’re going to dive a little deeper into the specific skills and strategies we often look for when building comprehension abilities:

Comprehension Ability Questions to Ask About Content What it Looks Like in Practice
  • Can you tell me what we just read?
  • What happened in the story?
  • Being able to tell the main events.
  • Recalling characters, setting, and the problem.
  • Using most of the 5Ws in an explanation: Who, What, Where, When, and Why.

**Note: Summarizing is NOT listing every single thing that happened in the story. 

Making Connections
  • What does this remind you of?
  • Can you think of anything in the world that is like this?
  • What, in your own life, is similar to what we are reading about?
  • Making connections to one’s own life.
  • Making connections to other stories/movies/tv.
  • Making connections to worldly knowledge. 

“This makes me think of/reminds me of….. because…..”

Making Predictions
  • What do you think will happen next?
  • Using text clues to support an idea of what will happen next. 
  • Being able to explain why they think that. 
Asking Questions
  • What questions do you have about what we just read?
  • What do you wonder?
  • Asking questions about the content or an idea.
  • Wondering about related information.
  • Being critical of the ideas or information being presented.
  • What does the movie in your head look like while we read?
  • How are you picturing this character/event/place?
  • Laughing at physical comedy.
  • Being able to describe what the characters or setting looks like in their head, and explain why they know that. 
Accessing Schema
  • What do you already know about ________ (the topic/main idea)?
  • Have you heard of __________ before?
  • Offering knowledge that is not included in the text during discussion.
  • “Well, I know that….”
  • What do you think happened/is happening, based on the clues in the story?
  • How do you think they feel? How do you know that?
  • Reading “between the lines”.
  • Being able to figure out what is happening without it being explicitly stated.
  • Understanding feelings; empathizing. 
  • Can you tell me, in your own words, what this was about?
  • Using own words.
  • Identifying a lesson/theme/morale.
  • Being able to accurately summarize what the story/content is really about in 1-2 sentences. 

All of these skills are important for becoming a proficient reader. Each one of them supports a reader’s ability to develop the others, and they are what teachers are most often looking for. Ultimately, what we want is for readers to become critical thinkers – to be able to take in information, comprehend it, manipulate the ideas so it either adds to their existing understandings/beliefs about the world or changes it somehow, and then output their understanding in an effective way. 

Therefore, in addition to being able to answer your questions, the most important part of this is that they explain why they think that, or how they know, and they need to accurately use evidence from the text. Even our early readers need to be able to tell us that the character is happy because they have a smile on their face, or that the dog loves the character because his tail is wagging. The word, ‘because’, needs to become your new best friend if you’re working with a reader who is struggling with comprehension. 

Overall, keep up the great work on your young reader’s decoding abilities, but don’t forget about comprehension. Just make sure you stick to the following: read consistently (ideally every day!), know your letter sounds and sound patterns, use the pictures, and just talk about what you’re reading. It might even be fun!

Happy reading!



About Sara Christle

Sara is a Hoot Teacher and a passionate educator with experience teaching K-6 and literacy intervention. She believes strongly that all learners have strengths and the ability to flourish - and that everyone is a reader! Sara received her B.Ed from the University of Winnipeg and is currently pursuing her Post-Baccalaureate in Inclusive Education at the University of Manitoba. In her spare time, you can find her reading (of course!), writing, cooking, knitting, and practicing yoga.

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