Helping students with comprehension

Unskilled readers expend a lot of their energy in trying to decode text. This leaves less capacity for understanding what they have read. It is very important to show the reader strategies for monitoring their own comprehension, even at the early stages of reading. The ultimate aim of reading is to understand what has been read. Comprehension should be monitored as the text is being read.

It is hard for unskilled readers to decode and comprehend at the same time. We recommend you use the following strategies:

  • From the title of the piece, discuss with the student what they might expect the text to be about.
  • Discuss and explain, in advance, the vocabulary that you think the student is likely to find difficult. This helps the student’s reading to be more fluent and they will find it easier to predict what is coming up.
  • Ask the student if there is anything in the piece that they did not understand and, if so, ask them to reread it to see if it makes sense.
  • Ask the student to summariseverbally the main point of the piece.
  • Then do the same with each paragraph.
  • When the student has completed the whole text, ask their opinion of it.
  • Ask the who, what, why, where and when questions.
  • Discuss with the student what they thought of the quality of the text. Does it raise other questions?
  • When decoding words, students need to ask themselves if the word they have come up with makes sense in relation to the rest of the text. They need to continually ask ‘does this make sense?’ and if not, they should reread the piece.
  • Good readers reread when they feel they have not fully comprehended what is in a text. Your student might read a text perfectly but it does not mean they understood what they read. Encourage your student to reread if there is something they have not understood, and explain it to them if they cannot understand it.
  • As time goes by, encourage your student to use these strategies on their own, without being asked by you.

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