It can be very overwhelming, especially for my struggling readers, to focus on using multiple reading comprehension strategies with a piece of text. For this reason, I always take time in at least the first quarter of the school year to teach and review them individually. This way students have the academic language and practice under their belt when tackling texts that require use of many reading strategies.
You can teach them in any order, but I always begin with visualizing. I find this to be the most concrete strategy for students to practice independently at any reading level. Synthesizing Information is always what I teach last as I find it to be the most challenging. I do teach each strategy differently, but here are the basic steps I take when teaching a strategy:
You’ll find that the major comprehension strategies taught from classroom to classroom can vary. I personally love following the 7 Keys to Comprehension (Zimmerman and Hutchins, 2003) when teaching reading strategies for elementary students.
WHAT ARE THE 7 KEYS TO COMPREHENSION?
1. Visualize/Create Mental Images
2. Background Knowledge/Make Connections
3. Ask Questions
4. Make Inferences/Predictions
5. Determine Importance
6. Synthesize Information
7. Monitor Comprehension/Use Fix-Up Strategies
HOW I TEACH THE READING STRATEGIES IN 5 STEPS:
1. INTRODUCE THE STRATEGY WITH A POSTER/ANCHOR CHART
I have a reading strategies word wall hanging up on my wall year-round, but when I am about to explicitly teach one, I always use a larger, more detailed reading strategy poster (printed on 4 pieces of regular paper) so students really hone in on the one strategy we are working on. I go through the anchor chart explaining what it is, along with details and a visual showing a quick example of the reading strategy.
2. MODEL READING STRATEGY WITH A READ ALOUD
I choose a book that works well for the particular strategy. Then, I model using the strategy through a think aloud before, during, and after reading. I try to mix up using fiction and nonfiction texts, so that students see they can use reading comprehension strategies with ALL texts. I also like to have examples or thinking stems (sentence starters) on the poster or written on the board as an extra support to push students to use the strategy correctly.
3. GUIDED READING
I either do this beginning with the second half of the book from Step 2 or with a different book. I do guided practice of a strategy through discussion as a whole class, providing students with sticky notes, having them markup passages, or giving them a graphic organizer. With students that need more practice, I will continue working on the strategies with them in small groups.
4. INDEPENDENT PRACTICE
I love using reading strategy graphic organizers, highlighters, and sticky notes for independent practice. I usually let students first independently practice with a book that we have all read as a class. This helps me to see clearly who is really grasping using the strategy and who still needs help. Then, I give them different graphic organizers for each strategy to use with their own independent reading books.
For hands on learners, and to just keep reader response fresh and engaging, these reading comprehension strategies crafts do the trick. They are similar to graphic organizers, but are a bit more interactive in order to reach all types of learners in a classroom.
5. ONGOING READING STRATEGY REVIEW
As I introduce a new strategy, I have them continue to practice using ones we have already learned in order for them to get multiple exposures using all strategies. I try not to teach them too close to each other unless I see that they are really using a new strategy well. After introducing and practicing all strategies, which is usually by the 2nd half of the school year, I have graphic organizers available for them to choose whichever strategy they would like to work on during independent reading. With some groups that always choose the same strategies, I will have them use a focused reading strategy check list (free) to ensure they are switching it up.
Want to read more about teaching reading strategies for elementary students? Read about how to teach Making Connections in this blog post, Visualizing in this blog post, and Asking Questions in this blog post!