Comprehension Instruction

The purpose of reading is comprehension, or to get meaning from written text. Without comprehension, reading is a frustrating exercise in word reading. How well students develop the ability to comprehend what they read has a profound effect on their entire lives.

A major goal of reading comprehension is to help students develop the knowledge, skills, and experiences needed to become competent and enthusiastic readers.

Download and review the Comprehension Instruction booklet. This publication details important ideas based on reading comprehension research, comprehension instruction, and specific instructional activities and procedures that can be implemented as part of comprehension instruction.

Comprehension Instruction: Professional Development Resources to Support Learning

To become good readers, most students require explicit, intensive, and persistent instruction. In explicit comprehension strategy instruction, the teacher chooses strategies that are closely aligned with the text students are reading. The teacher models and “thinks aloud” about what a given strategy is and why it is important, helps students learn how, when, and where to use the strategy, and gives students opportunities to apply the strategy on their own.

Modeling is followed by practice, guided by the teacher, who works with students to help them figure out how and when to use the strategy themselves. As students read, the teacher provides feedback and engages them in discussion. In subsequent lessons, the teacher asks students to apply the strategy on their own to other texts.

Students are encouraged to plan before reading so that reading has a clear goal or purpose, to continually monitor their understanding during reading, and to apply repair strategies when breakdowns in understanding occur. To improve self-monitoring, the teacher may model for students how to do one or all of the following:

  • think about what they already know before they start reading and during reading;
  • be aware of whether they understand what they are reading;
  • employ strategies to identify difficult words, concepts, and ideas;
  • ask themselves: “Does this make sense?”; and
  • be aware of how a particular text is organized.

One of the most important features of explicit instruction is the teacher’s gradual release to students of responsibility for strategy use, with the goal that students apply strategies independently. However, teachers do not ask students to work on their own until the students have demonstrated that they understand a strategy and how and when to use it.

The following resources support teacher development in learning how to effectively teach reading comprehension skills. This list is not meant to be exhaustive; please use the search feature of the Texas Gateway to locate additional resources.

Target 2% Lessons to Support Comprehension for Grades K through 5

These comprehension activities are designed to enhance the instruction of all teachers of reading and to meet the learning needs of all students, as indicated by data.

Thinking Like an Expert: Teacher Modeling and Thinking Aloud

This resource features content-specific strategies for using reading and writing to support learning in all content areas, with a focus on English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. This resource also presents guidelines for preparing and delivering content area think-aloud lessons.

Teaching Elements of Personal Narratives

Awareness of text organization and structure is crucial for developing comprehension skills. This resource shows how to use mentor texts to teach students the elements, and structure, of personal narrative texts.

Writing Expository Text Summaries

This resource shows how to teach students how to read a text and then create a summary. Summary writing is an authentic writing task commonly used in a variety of contexts across content areas. It requires deeply comprehending the text—for example, being able to distinguish important from less important information—and writing a concise synthesis of the important points.