Comprehension (Focused teaching 13-16)

Reading comprehension is influenced by what a reader knows about a text and the reading strategies they apply to build on this knowledge.

These focused teaching strategies can be used to support a student’s development within this area of knowledge. The strategies are presented in a developmental sequence to systematically teach aspects of comprehension.

This teaching and learning sequence can be applied to a range of text types at the student’s independent reading level. This allows the focus of the teaching to be on the student’s comprehension of the text rather than their word reading skills.

Deciding the likely topic of a text and developing a plan for reading

This sequence of activities assists students to decide the likely topic of a text and develop a reading plan. The activities are presented in the following developmental order:

Forming an initial impression of the topic of a text

This activity can be repeated to allow students to practise forming an initial impression of the topic of a text.

  1. Guide the student to decide the likely topic of the text, directing them to use text information such as the title, the text type or genre, headings, sub-headings and relevant images if available. Ask the student:
    • What do you think the text could be about? What do the images tell you?
    • What does the title tell you?
    • What is another way of saying the title?
  2. Give students the title of a text or some of the topic sentences in a text. Ask the student to suggest ideas that might be included within the text and discuss how they came to this decision.
eduSTAR logo

Comic Life (available on eduSTAR) allows teachers and student to create annotated visual sequences.

Predicting plausible ideas and events in the text

These activities can be repeated to allow students to predict plausible ideas and events in texts.

  1. Cue the student to visualise the suggested topic of the text.
  2. Ask the student to: suggest words and phrases the text might say. For example, say in sentences what the pictures and diagrams show and describe the images the student has in their mind of possible ideas or information to be mentioned in the text.
  3. Prompt the student to suggest questions the text might answer. For example:
    • Who are the key characters in the text (if appropriate)?
    • Who is the intended audience for this text?
    • When did the events described in the text take place?
    • Where do the events in the text take place?
    • How does the writer want us respond to the information presented/characters portrayed?
    • What type of text is this?
    • What questions could it answer for us?
    • What words do you think could be in the text?
    • What was the author’s purpose in writing the text?
  4. Ask the student to summarise what they have decided about the text so far. Say to the student: Even before you begin to read the text, you already know some things about the text that you can use to help you as you read, tell me the key ideas and information about text that will help as you read.
eduSTAR logo

Comic Life (available on eduSTAR) allows teachers and student to create annotated visual sequences.

Developing a plan for reading

This activity can be repeated to allow students to practise forming a plan of the actions they can use when reading a text.

  1. Ask the students to say the actions they might use when reading the text and what they might do if what they read doesn’t make sense.
  2. A list of actions may be suggested, discussed and added to, in order to support the student to develop a reading plan, including:
    • I will highlight key words phrases in the text.
    • I will highlight words that I don’t know and suggest synonyms for these words.
    • I will read and paraphrase sentences.
    • I will ask questions about what I read such as: Why did that happen? Why am I told that? What might happen next?
    • I will visualise an image of what I read in each paragraph to help me remember the main ideas.
    • I will answer questions about what I read in the text.
    • I will predict and infer what might happen in the text.
    • I will summarise key information across paragraphs.
eduSTAR logo

FreeMind (available on eduSTAR) can be used creates visual word maps. For example ask students create a map listing key words and phrases describing the actions they might use when reading a text.

Reading and comprehending sentences

These activities can be repeated to allow students to practise visualising and paraphrasing to comprehend sentences.

Visualising strategy

  1. Use the RIDER strategy (Read, Imagine, Describe, Evaluate, Repeat) to assist students to practise visualising sentences. Ask the student to:
    • read a sentence from a text
    • imagine a picture of what they have read in their mind
    • describe the image of what they have read
    • evaluate the image they have created by referring back to the sentence in the text
    • repeat the process again by reading the next sentence.

Paraphrasing strategy

  1. Use the following strategy to assist students to practise paraphrasing sentences. Ask the student to:
    • read one or more sentences from a selected text
    • state the topic and the key ideas presented in the text they have read
    • identify key words in the text and suggest synonyms for these key words
    • say the sentence(s) another way by changing as many words as they can
    • reread the relevant sections of the text to check that what they have paraphrased maintains the meaning of the text.
  2. When the student can paraphrase sentences, repeat the process using one or more paragraphs from the text.
eduSTAR logo

Comic Life (available on eduSTAR) allows teachers and student to create annotated visual sequences.

Working out meanings of unfamiliar words in the text

Comprehending vocabulary in the text

These activities can be repeated to allow students to practise working out meanings of unfamiliar words in the text.

  1. Stimulate existing vocabulary knowledge by asking the student to:
    • name key items in the images presented in the text
    • read the title of the text and suggest words they expect to see in the text
    • identify and read key words from the text and suggest synonyms for those words.
  2. Support the student to learn unfamiliar words by asking the student to:
    • identify and read unfamiliar words from the text (if the student is unable to read an unfamiliar word from the text, read the word to the student and ask them to repeat it)
    • read a sentence from the text that includes an unfamiliar word and suggest synonyms for the word
    • visualise and describe an image of the meaning of an unfamiliar word
    • use the unfamiliar word in a sentence and read the sentence aloud.
  3. Repeat this process for other unfamiliar words identified in the text.
eduSTAR logo

FreeMind (available on eduSTAR) can be used creates visual word maps. For example ask students to identify and record key words from a text and suggest synonyms.

Working out the meaning of the text by inferring, questioning and summarising

This developmental sequence of activities assists students to work out the meaning of the text by inferring, questioning and summarising. The activities are presented in the following developmental order:

Inferring meaning from the ideas presented in the text

This activity can be repeated to allow students to practise inferring meaning from the ideas presented in the text.

Identifying the main idea in the text

Ask the student to identify the main idea presented in the text so far and infer how that idea may be expanded in the remainder of the text. For example, the moral or theme of the text as presented by the author.

Inferring ideas about the text over time

Ask the student questions to support them to infer ideas in the text over time. For example, when discussing a character in the text you may prompt the student with questions such as:

  • What do you think may have happened to Lawrence when he was younger, to explain his behaviour?
  • Why do you think he was not close to his brother?
  • Where do you think he spent a lot of his time when he was younger?
  • When do you think he first came to regret the rift between him and his brother?
  • How do you think his family had responded to his behaviour before this happened?

Inferring unstated cause and effect

Ask the student questions to support them to infer cause and effect not stated directly in the text. For example:

  • Why do you think this happened?
  • What do you think the author has left unsaid and why?
  • How do you think the author expects the reader to respond to what you have read so far and why?

Inferring the nature of possible changes

Ask the student to infer the nature of possible changes with the text by changing ideas in the text and asking, What would happen if...? For example:

  • If Lawrence decides not to try to reconcile with his brother, how would the storyline evolve?
  • How might the author’s portrayal of Lawrence’s character change?

Identifying the questions that the text answers

This activity can be repeated to allow students to practise identifying questions that parts of the text answer.

  1. Read a sentence from the text to the student. Model to the student how to identify a question that the sentence answers. For example:
    • Sentence – Photosynthesis is a chemical process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugars, using the energy from sunlight.
    • Question answered – What is photosynthesis?
  2. Ask the student to read a sentence from the text and identify a question that the sentence answers.
  3. Ask the student to repeat this process using two or more sentences and then one or more paragraphs from the text.

Summarising part of the text after reading it

This activity can be repeated to allow students to practise summarising part of the text after reading it.

  1. Ask the student to identify the purpose of the text they have read. For example, the purpose may be to persuade you of a particular point of view, to report an investigation that has been carried out, or to describe and event).
  2. Ask the student to scan a paragraph in the text and identify the main ideas and supporting details by:
    • reading each paragraph carefully
    • highlighting the topic sentence or paragraph
    • writing the topic sentence or heading for each paragraph
    • identifying key words and phrases in the paragraph.
  3. Identify unfamiliar words within the paragraph and ask the student to predict their meaning within the context of the paragraph. Have the student look up the meaning of the unfamiliar word in the dictionary to confirm their predictions.
  4. Ask the student to say in one sentence what a paragraph is about or what they know after having read it.
  5. To summarise increasing amounts of text, repeat the procedure above, asking students to also identify the layout of the text. For example, the text might:
    • be divided into chapters or sections, with headings and sub-headings
    • be divided into paragraphs
    • include accompanying illustrations or diagrams - consider if they show the overall concept of the text and what additional and/or supporting details they provide.

Linking meaning across sentences and paragraphs

Summarising and linking the main ideas across sentences and paragraphs

This activity can be repeated to allow students to practise summarising and linking the main ideas within the text across sentences and paragraphs.

  1. After reading a paragraph of two to three sentences ask the student to reread the text and identify:
    • the key vocabulary within the paragraph (ask the student to check the meaning of any unfamiliar words and suggest synonyms for these words)
    • the main ideas within the paragraph
    • the main questions answered by the paragraph,
  2. Repeat this procedure with subsequent paragraphs in the text, recording the key vocabulary and main ideas, and questions that each paragraph answers in a table as presented below.

Table to record key vocab, main questions & ideas for each paragraph 

  1. Ask the student to summarise the information presented within the paragraph and check their suggested summary with the information recorded on the table.
  2. Use the information recorded on the table to support the student to summarise and link the main ideas within the text across the paragraphs.

Reviewing, consolidating and responding to the text

This sequence of activities assists students to review, consolidate and respond to the text. The activities are presented in the following developmental order.

Consolidating and reviewing the text

This activity can be repeated to allow students to practise consolidating and reviewing the text. Ask the student to:

  1. Ask the student to express what they have learnt from reading the text and identify questions they can now answer about the text.
  2. Support the student to create a concept map that shows the ideas they have learnt from the text and the links between the ideas. Using the concept map, ask the student to write a summary of the knowledge they have gained from reading the text.

Providing an emotional response to the text

This activity can be repeated to allow students to practise providing an emotional response to the text.

  1. Ask the student to provide an emotional response to the text. Include questions such as:
    • What did and didn’t you like about the text?
    • How did you feel as you were reading the text and why?
    • How would you like to change the text so that it was more useful or interesting?
    • How do you think the author wanted us to think or feel about the text?
    • Would you recommend the text to your friends? Tell me what you’d say to them.