Reading comprehension describes a student’s ability to process text, understand its meaning, and to integrate or synthesize that information with what the reader already knows.
Reading comprehension is a complex skill that draws on a variety of essential skills. Reading comprehension can be challenging for students for many reasons, which is why it’s important to understand the essential skills that students need.
What are the essential skills for reading comprehension?
- Decoding – the ability to match sounds to words when reading. This skill relies heavily on phonemic awareness, in which students hear individual sounds in words. Decoding relies on connecting sounds to letters. Grasping the connection between a letter (or group of letters) and the sounds they typically make is an important step toward decoding words.
- Fluency – the ability to read with speed, accuracy, and the correct use of expression. Fluent readers group words together to help apply meaning, and they also use the proper tone in their voice when reading aloud.
- Vocabulary – the process of giving meaning to words you read. A student’s exposure to words increases their vocabulary base allowing them to understand words in a text.
- Sentence construction and cohesion – the ability to link words, sentences, and paragraphs in a text in order to make meaning of the ideas throughout the text. This skill helps students connect ideas to other ideas in an overall text.
- Reasoning and Background Knowledge – the ability to use one’s own experience to construct knowledge from unstated ideas within a text.
- Working Memory and Attention – these two skills are a part of executive functioning abilities. Attention helps students to take information from the text. Working memory helps students build knowledge and associate meaning to the text. Together, these two skills help students self-monitor and recognize a) when they don’t understand what they are reading, b) when they need to stop reading, and c) when they need to go back and reread for clarity.
What signs indicate that a student is having difficulty with reading comprehension?
- Confusion about the meaning of words and sentences
- Inability to connect ideas in a passage
- Omission of, or glossing over detail
- Difficulty distinguishing significant information from minor details
- Lack of concentration during reading
What strategies can be used to support students in strengthening their reading comprehension skills?
- Exposure to print rich environments
- Use of word games to build phonological awareness
- Use of flashcards and repetition of practice with sight words
- Engaging in frequent conversations with a variety of topics and ideas (e.g., telling jokes, talking about a book, making up rhymes, etc.)
- Practicing basic sentence construction
- Asking open-ended questions
- Using everyday experiences to help make connections (e.g., going to the grocery store, walking around the neighborhood, visiting a museum, watching a movie/tv show, etc.)
- Use of the “thinking aloud” strategy when reading and talking about reading or a text
For more information on supporting school teams in strengthening students’ reading comprehension skills, check out our Reading Comprehension document by clicking the button below.