Introducing Reading Comprehension Strategies

Helping Children Think About Thinking
Introducing Reading Comprehension Strategies
Nancy N. Boyles
Excerpted, with permission from

• Successful readers use a repertoire of comprehension strategies,
not just one at a time.

• Students begin to read more effectively as teachers give them
access to a manageable array of reading comprehension

• Students can start immediately to use and combine these
tools while they read.

Most comprehension strategy instruction I’ve observed as a literacy consultant has targeted the modeling and practicing of one broadly defined strategy, over and over again, until the students get good at it.  This traditional approach implies that learning these strategies is hard for kids and they need weeks to master even one of them.
But my experience as a teacher has shown me that children can easily grasp the basics of several comprehension strategies all at once if the strategies are introduced in language they can understand.  Then they can begin right away to use the strategies, concurrently, as they read.  It’s the fine points of reading comprehension strategies that take time for kids to learn.  But mastery of these strategies is a long-term goal; fine-tuning doesn’t need to occur all at once.
If we begin by teaching just one strategy at a time, our instructional emphasis too easily becomes “getting good at the strategy” rather than getting good at reading comprehension.  If we teach children to apply these reading comprehension strategies as a package, we are more likely to remain focused on our real goal, empowering children to understand what they read.

Getting Started with Reading Comprehension Instruction

Taking that first step is often the most difficult part of trying anything new in the classroom.  And getting started can be the hardest part of teaching reading comprehension too.  We imagine if we persuasively introduce reading comprehension strategies to our students, instructions in these strategies over the next few months will just fall into place.  That’s probably a bit of wishful thinking but first impressions can be strong and lasting.
Take heart!  Keep it simple and offer your students a reasonable portion of new knowledge that satisfies but does not overwhelm them.  Speak in language they can understand and explain each strategy in a way that is simply enough for all of the children in your class to succeed.  A child’s mind can easily become overloaded.  So remember;  there’s always tomorrow or next week to continue the conversation. Our goal for any instruction is to make today successful.
You will begin by introducing your students to several strategies with a brief “hands on, minds on” explanation that uses terms easy for children to understand.  In such an introduction session [which is outlined step by step in Ms. Boyle’s book]. . . the instructional goal is to explain to students what a reading comprehension strategy is and then identify and introduce several strategies.  Mastery of these strategies is not the instructional goal now.  So, rather than drilling students extensively in use of any particular comprehension strategy you will, instead, in this initial lesson, briefly identify a few strategies and then explain for the students why good readers use these strategies.
To explore more details on this approach to teaching comprehension strategies, including the importance to teacher modeling, thinking aloud together, and guided practice on a variety of genres of books and materials (fiction as well as content area reading) plus a host of reproducible supporting materials, visit

Helping Children Think About Thinking on
where you can see sample pages. You can also purchase the book through Maupin House where you can also download a free study guide for this title.

Excerpted, with permission from
Constructing Meaning Through Kid-Friendly Comprehension Strategy Instruction

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