text Comprehension

What is it?

Comprehension—the ability to make meaning—is the ultimate goal of reading. It is much more than a collection of skills and strategies that students apply to text. It requires metacognitive skills, vocabulary, background knowledge, and verbal reasoning ability.

text Comprehension

What is it?

Comprehension—the ability to make meaning—is the ultimate goal of reading. It is much more than a collection of skills and strategies that students apply to text. It requires metacognitive skills, vocabulary, background knowledge, and verbal reasoning ability.

Frequently asked questions

What is the relationship between language and reading comprehension?

Teachers must first build students’ language comprehension skills, best developed early through interactive read-alouds and dialogic reading. This instruction has the added benefit of increasing students’ background knowledge, vocabulary, and text structure knowledge as well as their verbal reasoning skills.

What is Academic Language and how do I teach my students to use it in my classroom?
Academic Language, also referred as Academic or Standard English, is the language of the classroom and text. Students must have a command of Academic English in order to achieve in school. Teachers should be attuned to their own spoken language and model Academic English by creating spaces and providing opportunities where they would expect their students to use Academic English in both written and oral forms. With younger children, begin with explicit teaching and modeling.  Show and Tell, and Circle Time are great places to expand sentences and provide models with Academic English.  And keep in mind that all children–whether native English speakers or dual language learners–receive the same practice and correction. For older children, consider starting with writing because the students have time to think about academic language, as well as time to revise.  Then, after giving time to rehearse, ask students to make an oral presentation. 
When and how should I begin Comprehension Instruction?

Comprehension can’t wait for beginning readers to master decoding. Instruction that focuses on a variety of language processing abilities needs to occur concurrently with code-breaking instruction. Five big ideas shape Literacy How’s focus on reading comprehension instruction: text structure, background knowledge, text cohesion, inference, and the reading/writing connection. Each big idea emphasizes the development of students’ ability to understand text. Arranged by Chall’s Stages of Reading Development, see Comprehension: Knowledge to Practice to learn more.

Teacher tip: Analyze and Prep Texts

Prepare the text befor teaching it. Be sure to analyze the text so that it can be used effectively to meet your students’ needs. This analytic process involves identifying possible skills within the domain suited to a particular text, and then tailoring language processing activities based on the text.

Teacher tip: text selection matters

When selecting a text to use for comprehension instruction, be sure to consider your instructional objectives for the lesson. All texts are not created equal!

Teacher tip: Keep Questioning

Be sure to build in adequate time to ask open-ended questions before, during, and after reading the text to/with your students. These types of questions promote your students’ metacognition–thinking about their thinking!

tips for principals: Support Language Comprehension

Teachers need to understand the language underpinnings of reading comprehension in order to teach children how to “read text closely” (a Common Core State Standard buzz phrase).  Students who struggle with language for any reason (i.e., English Language Learners, unfamiliarity with academic language, reading or language learning disabilities) must have highly skilled, well trained teachers!

Read More to Learn More

Literacy How Professional Learning Series

The Literacy How Professional Learning Series translates the latest reading research into how-to instruction. The Knowledge to Practice book Series—Phonemic Awareness and Phonics, Syntax, Vocabulary, and Comprehension—is based on the current and comprehensive Literacy How reading model. It draws upon the authors’ decades of expertise and experience working with thousands of general and special education teachers. The Series emphasizes Pre-K-3rd grade conceptual and skill development. Teachers of older emerging or struggling readers will also find these tools useful.

Phonemic Awareness and Phonics—the keys to breaking the code!

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Syntax is essential—even for beginning readers!


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Vocabulary knowledge is essential for effective comprehension!

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Comprehension is the goal of reading—even for beginning readers!

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