In fourth grade, I learned that reading was serious business, not just a pleasant way to pass the time, and that like medicine or engineering, it had a definite, valuable purpose: to foster comprehension.
Walter Kirn

Have you ever gotten to the bottom of a page only to think: What in the world did I just read? I’ve reread pages over and over before finally understanding what I’ve read. Part of the reason for this is that my mind wanders, and I’m distracted by my mental “to do” lists. However, if it is hard for a seasoned reader to focus and comprehend, imagine the challenge your child faces?  It is important that we teach them strategies so they improve comprehension.

The purpose of reading is comprehension.

Some kids are born readers; they naturally just “get it”, and some kids “call the words”. That means they can decode and read words, but when asked about the story, they have no idea what happened. In my experience, I’ve found that most kids don’t learn comprehension strategies through osmosis. Therefore, we as their parents and teachers need to be mindful about teaching them comprehension strategies.

We need to implement one strategy at a time. I don’t think most kids are born knowing how to compare and contrast. That is where a wonderful lesson using a Venn diagram works. The following strategies will improve your child’s comprehension. It is important to teach these strategies explicitly and systematically.

  1. Connecting

When you read with your child, help make connections to the real world and to skills that you have taught. One of my favorite tools to use for every comprehension strategy is graphic organizers.  They can be used with a wide variety of text and for a wide variety of comprehension strategies. These graphic organizers are listed by a specific comprehension skill. I use them to “think aloud”. I complete one with my children so that they can see how to think and comprehend. Then, I have them use the same graphic organizer for a new story allowing them to complete it on their own. This allows them to have success and utilize higher-level thinking skills.

Click here for a graphic organizer that helps your child make connections.

increase comprehension

  1. Picturing (using sensory images, making a movie in your mind)

Click here for a graphic organizer that helps with visualizing/picturing.

increase comprehension

This technique, Sketch to Stretch, helps with this strategy.

Read aloud a passage, poem, or part of a story. Pause, and ask children to sketch what he/she is imagining in their head. Who is in the “movie” in their mind? Where is the story taking place? What is happening?

  1. Sequence Relationships

Teach signal words such as before, after, finally, first, next, etc. Teach that sequence occurs in time, seasons, days of the week, and months.

  1. Cause and Effect

Teach signal words such as because, so, therefore, hence, since, as a result, consequently, etc.

  1. Wondering/Questioning

I role model “thinking aloud”. This strategy of showing how I question and wonder about the text I’m reading teaches making connections which is listed above, and it teaches making predictions. I wonder what is going to happen next? I think…. is going to… This story reminds me of the time…

This graphic organizer helps your child through the wondering/questioning process.

increase comprehension

  1. Being Able To Identify The Main Idea

Teach your child how to find the most important parts of the story or text.

  1. Predicting, guessing, inferring

Teach your child how to figure out what is happening by the details the author does supply. For instance, one can infer- figure out- that it is winter when the author talks about snow. Click here for a graphic organizer that helps with inferring.

increase comprehension

  1. Monitoring

It is important to teach your child if what they just read makes sense. You need to teach your child when to notice that they stop understanding so they can get help.

  1. Build Vocabulary

Preview and learn all new vocabulary in the text before reading.

  1. Retell the story or text

This is a fabulous graphic organizer that helps your child think about the characters in the story or text:

Free printable story mapThis helps your child retell the story or text.

Free reading comprehension worksheets for grades 1 – 10. This site also lists specific comprehension skills such as main idea, then, provides resources.

Here is another one of my favorite resources for free comprehension graphic organizers. (Grades K- 12) It has many different organizers for many strategies.

Lots and lots of reading will help improve your child’s comprehension.

In addition, to these strategies, reading aloud to your child every day, and ensuring that your child reads everyday will improve your child’s comprehension too.

Let’s make a positive difference~ one word at a time.


Please share this article with others that you think would benefit from these tips. Also, please ask any questions that you may have about teaching children reading or writing. Leave your questions in the comments. I’ll answer. 🙂

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