How to Improve Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension is one of the most important purposes for reading. If fact, reading comprehension can be one of the hardest tasks students will learn how to do proficiently during their school years. Comprehension is the reason for reading. Reading takes 2 components: 
  • being able to read the words 
  • being able to understand what the words say
Reading Comprehension is all about the meaning and what we are getting out of the text. There are many components to the comprehension puzzle and we need to use all of them to teach our students how to better understand the text they read. Below you will find some of the key components on how to improve reading comprehension.
Reading comprehension happens before, during, and after reading. We should be teaching these strategies throughout the story. Here are 8 ways on how to improve reading comprehension and some ideas to implement with your students or your own children at home. 

How to Improve Reading Comprehension
  1. Make Predictions: Good readers predict what will happen next as they progress through a story. They confirm their predictions by the pictures, print of the text, and the whole context. Teaching students to make predictions will help keep them involved in the story. We make predictions all the time when we are watching movies, why not with books too? Click here to read another blog post I wrote about Making Predictions.
  2. Use Prior Knowledge: Readers create meaning when prior knowledge is integrated with new knowledge. When students can draw upon their experiences and background knowledge, their understanding is enhanced and reading comprehension is greatly improved. Prior knowledge is said to provide schema which is the framework that facilitates thinking. 
  3. "Seeing" what they read in their head: Making pictures in our heads as we read will help the reader see what they are reading. This takes time and practice. Usually taking one sentence at a time and closing our eyes to see what they just read will help beginners learn the skill. Making the picture in our heads will help students understand and remember what they read. This will help engage the student and help them follow through to the end. They should be visualizing what the characters look like, the setting or surroundings they are in, and picturing the actions and emotions the characters are displaying as they evolve through the story.  
  4. Making Connections: Connecting a story to our real lives and making it personal really enhances comprehension. Connections help you remember and understand what you read. Connections happen in 3 ways; connection with other books, connections with ourselves, and connections with the outside world around us. Click here to read another blog post I wrote about Making Connections
  5. Reading with fluency: Research tells us that fluency and comprehension are related. Being able to read at a good rate allows the reader to stay with the story and to be pulled along by the plot. Students should be able to read 100 words per minute on their reading level. If it's under 100 words per minute, then the story is too hard for the student. If they are reading over 100 words per minute, then the story is too easy for them and they will need to read something more challenging. 
  6. Rereading when you don't understand: This strategy is what makes a good reader. When we don't understand what we just read, we must go back and reread it. If students are doing this, then they are on the right track. But if you find students just continuing to read without correcting themselves, they are not going to comprehend the story very well and will miss key points along the way. 
  7. Retell and Summarize: Retelling and summarizing have a significant positive effect on comprehension. Looking for the main idea, using supporting details with what's important and what's not, using graphic organizers to break down the story, and able to retell it in short form. When students talk about the story, they are clarifying, addressing points of view, and explaining interpretations. Students who can understand story structure have a greater appreciation, understanding, and memory for stories. Click here to see a blog post all about graphic organizers.   
  8. Good vocabulary: Students learn many words throughout the school year and every year they build on this list. Teaching good words or vocabulary will enhance their knowledge. Words are the basic building blocks of communication. Having a strong vocabulary is essential in comprehension as well as in writing and speaking too. Encountering new words helps the student in many ways. Have a vocabulary word wall in your classroom to keep reminding students these words and seeing them all the time over and over again will ensure proficiency.  

When we teach comprehension strategies, we our giving our students the tools to be successful. Students are responsible for their own comprehension. It is up to them to use the skills and strategies they are taught and apply them to their own reading. 

When teaching reading comprehension, the teacher includes these teaching strategies during their instruction:
  • The teacher is giving direct explanation or instruction of why the strategy helps comprehension and when to apply the strategy.
  • The teacher models how to apply the comprehension strategy by using "think aloud" or modeling fluency or reading techniques. 
  • The teacher provides guided practice and assistance to the students as they learn how and when to apply the comprehension strategies. 
  • The teacher provides the students with practice until the student can apply the skill independently. 

Beginning readers, as well as more advanced readers, must understand that the ultimate goal of reading is comprehension. These strategies are not the only ways to help students understand the story. They are the means of helping your students understand what they are reading.  

Here is a FREE list on "How to Improve Reading Comprehension" in bookmark form to give to your students for reminders to check themselves throughout reading. Click the picture below to download your FREE BOOKMARKS. Copy and cut-out the bookmarks for each student to use during school time or during their independent reading time. This freebie comes in 2 versions: black and white and with a gray scale shown below.

Keep reading below to see some resources that I have created to help with reading comprehension...  

I have a set of 20 Reading Comprehension Worksheets that are perfect for 1st and 2nd graders. There are 20 reading passages that students read and answer the who, what, when, where, and why questions. These are great for going back in the story to look for answers. Click the pictures below to be taken to my TPT store to read more about these reading comprehension worksheets. 

Good readers have a purpose for reading. I have a set of 18 posters that help with all kinds of reading strategies. I have these posters posted in my own classroom. Students love the visuals and they are great reminders for students as they practice reading strategies and comprehension. Click the pictures below to be taken to my TPT store to read more about them. 

I also have a pack of 20 reading passages for 1st graders to read and sequence the story. Theses worksheets are cut and paste. Students read the story, cut out the 5 sentence strips that summarize the story, and they place the strips in order from beginning to end. Students will be needing to use their comprehension skills to be able to summarize and sort the story in order with these worksheets. The stories are cute and fun to read for beginning readers. Click the pictures below to be taken to my TPT store to read more about them. 

Here are some resources I have used in the past to help improve reading comprehension. I linked them to Amazon to make it easy for you to check out: 

Here are some teacher books that are helpful for the elementary classroom:

Thanks for stopping by today!
See you soon,