No matter what grade level you teach, reading comprehension is one of the most important skills you can ever impart to your students. It’s about more than just testing — though every state’s battery of tests include reading comprehension questions, of course. Understanding what you’ve read is crucial throughout life, though, as it’s how your students will learn what they need to know in every other subject. It’s also how they’ll navigate the world around them as adults, including everything from keeping up with the news to finding their way around a new city.
Teaching reading is an ongoing process, but there are some tried and true steps you can take to boost your students’ comprehension right now. Try these tips in your classroom to help your kids gets the most out of their reading.
1. Practice Phonics and Decoding
The first step in reading comprehension is simply to be able to make out the words. As your students develop their vocabularies, there’s bound to be a whole slew of words they don’t yet know. Teaching young readers to sound out unfamiliar words using the phonetic rules of English will help them recognize words in writing that they may already remember from hearing them. Even older students can benefit from a review of some of the trickier spelling conventions and diphthongs to keep their phonics skills sharp.
2. Try a Word of the Day
Another way to help your students understand what they read is to increase their working vocabulary so they are less likely to be stumped by an unfamiliar word. Consider adding a “word of the day” to your morning meeting or independent work routines. Write the word on the board and have students add the definition to a personal vocabulary journal. They can write and share sentences using the word, and by the end of the year they’ll know 180 more words than they did in September!
3. Encourage Pre-Reading Skills
A quick scan of reading material can go a long way towards helping your students engage with it successfully. Before reading, have your students scan for photos, illustrations, diagrams, titles and headers to actively guess what they think the piece is about. This gets their neurons firing and allows them to connect to prior knowledge, which will help them tease out the meaning of new information more successfully.
4. Keep a Reading Journal
While students read, they should jot down their thoughts, reactions and questions as they go. The more actively they engage with the material, the more likely they are to understand it. Even very young readers can write or ask questions along the way. If you have students put questions on Post-It notes, you can arrange them on the board and categorize them afterwards into the ones that were answered by the reading and the ones that were not.
5. Read Out Loud
Reading a piece out loud is helpful for readers of all ages because it provides two ways to access the content: visual and auditory. It also makes speed demons slow down a bit, which may be just what they need to absorb more of the information. You can do this as a full class read-aloud or have pairs take turns reading aloud to each other. It’s also wise to encourage students to read aloud their own writing as an editing technique.
Each of these tips can be applied to just about any reading you do in your classroom, so you can help your students improve comprehension as you teach a variety of subjects.
For more reading skills practice, try our reading comprehension worksheets.