Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement

Posted in tcochelps

One of my favorite books for teaching reading comprehension is Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis. It was first published in 2000, and it is still one of the most popular book used by educators. I’m recommending it for parents because they are strategies that are very easy to utilize at home to help children develop deeper comprehension skills.

Strategies That Work relies on 6 main areas.

1. Making Connections: By helping children make different kinds of connections (text-to-self, text-to-text, text-to-world) children learn to utilize their personal and their discussion group/partners to enhance their understanding of a text. Connections begin close to home (self) and then gradually build outward to the world helping students develop a larger sense of context.

2. Questioning: Questions are a normal part of human curiosity. So while reading, questions arise for children and adults alike. Questions that children ask about a text can help us know whether or not they are comprehending the text.


3. Visualizing: How many times have you read a book and visualized a scene or a character only to be disappointed by a movie maker’s interpretation of the same scene or character? Visualizing allows students to make a picture in their minds by using their five senses. You can even read a picture book to your child with her eyes closed, without ever showing her a picture all the while asking her to describe the scene she sees in her head.

4. Inferring: “Inferring is the bedrock of comprehension.” This is true in reading and in all of life. It is a key life skill. When students develop skills in inferring, they can read deeper into the text, accurately predict what might happen, and understand tone.

5. Determining Importance: This is a key skill because students learn to decipher what the most important information is. For non-fiction texts, this is a critical skill. Students should be able to read a text and select key details, main ideas, among a sea of information.

6. Synthesizing: This is definitely the most complex. This involves the evolution of thinking and taking what’s been read to achieve new insights and thoughts.

At one of the K-5 schools where I was the principal, we implemented Strategies That Work, and students across the board achieved higher scores on the comprehension strands of the state standardized test. Strategies That Work gives lesson ideas that can easily be used at home, too. They are not complicated and do not require too much prep work. Best of all, the skills mentioned in this book should be mastered by all grade level students and the lessons can be adjusted accordingly. For students who need extra support in developing comprehension, I highly recommend this book.