Five Simple Reading Comprehension Strategies

Teacher using reading comprehension strategies for children in library

Building students’ reading comprehension skills doesn’t just improve their academic achievement—it also increases their motivation to read for enjoyment. Try these reading comprehension strategies to help students learn to monitor and enhance their understanding of whatever they read.

  1. Form a connection. Before reading, ask a question to activate students’ background knowledge or to help them link their personal experience to the text. For informational texts, a question like What do you already know about <subject>? works well. For fiction, try a question that connects to a plot event or theme. For example, before starting Charlotte’s Web, you might ask, What makes someone a good friend?
  2. Listen up. Research shows that listening to fluent readings of challenging texts increases fluency and vocabulary, even for proficient readers. Reading some or all of a text aloud—or listening to a recording of it—also creates a shared experience that promotes collaboration.
  3. Encourage questions. Instead of asking students if they have questions about the text, let them know that questions are expected and welcome. Letting students see that curiosity and confusion are part of the reading process builds their confidence and helps them recognize what they need to know.
  4. Reread purposefully. Rereading is vital, but students often resist it. Spice up revisiting the text by having students mark their reactions and reassess them after rereading (for example, you might have students mark places where they do or do not sympathize with a character). This is a great way to show students that evidence doesn’t speak for itself.
  5. Embrace big issues. Discussion is one of the best ways to show students why reading matters. When you use a significant open-ended question to center a collaborative conversation, students learn that reading can inform their ideas and that they can learn from one another. Be sure to ask students to explain and give evidence for their answers, and to agree and disagree with each other civilly.

To see reading comprehension strategies in action, watch these video examples of Shared Inquiry activities.

Senior Professional Learning Consultant and Editor. Nancy Carr has over 20 years of experience as both a professional development coach and a curriculum developer, working in schools throughout the country and with a wide range of student populations. Her work focuses on the intersection of curriculum materials and classroom practice, and she has helped develop many of the Foundation’s current K–12 materials. Nancy holds a PhD in English from the University of Virginia.