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Reading Comprehension Research

Comprehension is the ability to understand, analyze, synthesize, and use what you have read.

Comprehension is the ability to understand, analyze, synthesize, and use what you have read. Using graphic organizers to manipulate what you have read into a graphical display, story structure, summarizing, question answering, and question generation are all critical pieces of comprehension. The methods to improve comprehension must include these areas. Evidence-based practices conclude that reading comprehension strategies need to include a variety of strategies.

By making learning visual and kinesthetic you’ll increase student performance, decrease discipline problems, and reduce your own frustration that comes from having to teach the same topic over again. Using mnemonics is also helpful in improving comprehension.

The Key Comprehension Strategies that Should be Taught:

  • Monitoring comprehension
  • Using graphic and semantic organizers
  • Answering questions
  • Generating questions
  • Recognizing story structure (and other text structures)
  • Summarizing

Text Comprehension

  • Comprehension is the reason for reading. If readers can read the words but do not understand what they are reading, they are not really reading.
  • Instruction in comprehension can help students understand what they read, remember what they read, and communicate with others about what they read.
  • Research on text comprehension suggests what should be taught about text comprehension and how it should be taught.

How to Teach Comprehension Strategies

  • Provide explicit (or direct) instruction: direct explanation, modeling, guided practice, application.
  • Make use of cooperative learning.
  • Help readers use comprehension strategies flexibly and in combination.

Teaching Word Learning Strategies

  • How to use dictionaries and other reference aids to learn word meanings and to deepen knowledge of word meanings.
  • How to use information about word parts (affixes, base words, word roots) to figure out the meanings of words in text (structural analysis).
  • How to use context clues to determine word meanings.

The University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning studies on paraphrasing state that when students are taught to focus on the most important information in a passage their comprehension improves at an impressive rate. Pre-test scores are 48% comprehension. Post- test scores students had 84% comprehension.

Texas Reading Initiative

The Texas Reading Initiative focuses on content reading (Download PDF). Teachers are to provide instruction on the structure of the text such as expository text. They are also to include vocabulary instruction, word identification skills (structural analysis), fluency training, and comprehension strategies using the structure words how, who, why, and where.
Types of text including problem-solution, descriptive, cause and effect, sequencing, and compare/contrast are also enumerated. Visualizing what you read and summarizing what you read is also stressed.

These are the strategies we teach with Ten Minutes to Better Study Skills, The Comprehension Zone, The Sentence Zone, ASW Reading, Writing, and Study Skills Program, ASW Writing Program, and the ASW Premium Program.

No single strategy is a remedy for all difficulties. For example, we have reading strategies that help students figure out what a word is, comprehend what they’re reading, acquire vocabulary, and understand the structure of text. All of these strategies are essential for a well-integrated, balanced reading program. Likewise, an array of strategies in other areas is necessary for student success.