Reading comprehension is the ability to understand, remember, and communicate meaning from what has been read. While comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading, it is not the starting point for reading instruction.
Oftentimes, when students have poor reading comprehension, educators mistakenly concentrate all of their efforts on improving that comprehension. But in many cases, it is a lack of the most basic reading skills—phonemic awareness, phonics, and decoding—that really lies behind the students’ poor comprehension. That is why developing foundational skills in phonemic awareness and phonics at the start of reading instruction is so important: it helps students develop automatic decoding skills so they can concentrate on the meaning of what they are reading.
Once students DO have a foundation of basic skills, there are various strategies you can use to help them improve their reading comprehension.
For more information about decoding, teaching, and even view a list of reading strategies, visit the Reading Horizons Reading Strategies Homepage. If you're interested in learning more about early reading comprehension, check out our free early reading skills resources.
Reading comprehension strategies are crucial for any reader. Once students have adequate decoding and vocabulary skills to allow for fluent reading, reading comprehension can be improved by having students follow these three steps: preview, study, and review/summarize.
One way to help students improve their reading comprehension is by having them preview the material. This helps them identify, decode, and define unfamiliar words before reading the full passage. When students complete this step, reading the full text becomes a smoother process and understanding is enhanced.
Once students have addressed unfamiliar words through pre-reading, they can really engage with the text as they read it, focusing on the content, making connections, asking questions, and visualizing to understand the material. Two effective strategies that help students engage with a text include:
Having students review and summarize material after previewing and studying it gives you a simple way to ensure that they understood what they read. Retelling challenges them to retain what they read. Summarization allows them to discriminate between main ideas and minor details.