Promoting Reading Comprehension in the Early Grades

  • Did you ever have a student who could recite the words of a text perfectly but had no idea what the text was about?
  • Have you ever felt frustrated because one or more of your students could not pass the reading comprehension tests despite all your hard work?
  • Have you ever felt that you do not know what comprehension strategy to use next in order to help your students comprehend?
  • During this course, you may choose to work alone or with a partner, although the most beneficial experience would be with a partner. If you have chosen to work with a partner, take a moment and get to know your partner, and discuss the comprehension strategies that each of you has used in the past. Comment on whether or not you feel these strategies have been successful.


My Experience with the Teaching of Comprehension Strategies

When I was a junior in college, I performed a case study on a fourth grade student, named Clarissa. Although her decoding and fluency skills were adaquate, she did not comprehend what she was reading. After various tests were administered, I determined that she was reading at a first grade level. Consequently, in order to improve Clarissa's comprehension, I implemented the strategies which are discussed in this course. Through a combination of strategies, including vocabulary, narrative, and expository, Clarissa significantly improved her reading comprehension over a ten-week period. Many times, after she used the strategies while reading, she exclaimed that reading is fun and that the strategies helped her to understand the text.

Literature Reviews

The current literature supports the idea that comprehension strategies or strategies to improve metacognition enhance reading comprehension in elementary students. According to Boulware-Gooden, Carreker, Thornhill, and Joshi, "...reading instruction does not end when students can decode the words. They continue to need instruction that will support their understanding of what they are reading" (2007, p. 71). Interviews with fourth and fifth grade teachers illustrate that teachers often fail to directly incorporate comprehension strategies on a regular basis. While some of these teachers use the strategies as assessment tools, others only passively mention the use of strategies to their students (2007). Nonetheless, some researchers have found that the inclusion of even one strategy, such as predicting, is beneficial to reading comprehension, and when students can choose from a multitude of strategies, they significantly improved understanding of text (Pressley, Wharton-McDonald, & Mistretta-Hampston, 1998). Therefore, comprehension strategies appear to be extremely beneficial to reading comprehension. Unfortunately, "For the past 20 years researchers have reported that comprehension strategies instruction is so challenging for teachers that they are not able to learn how to teach the strategies effectively and that models of comprehension strategy instruction need to be made more understandable for teachers to implement them effectively" (cited in Scharlach, 2008, p. 20). According to research, reading strategies should be incorporated while the students are reading rather than as isolated topics. Guided practice is the key to success in reading comprehension (cited in Scharlach, 2008, p. 21). Therefore, this course will provide its participants with excellent strategy practice as they undertake these activities from the perspective of students. With a firm understanding of how the strategies work, participants will be able to immediately implement them into classrooms.

During unit one, you will learn a pre-reading strategy called, "PreP." Pre-reading strategies, where students survey the cover, title, illustrations, and headings, are beneficial because they help students activate prior knowledge and schema. Since students discuss their answers following the strategy, unique and sophisticated ideas are highlighted while misconceptions are explained and put to rest. Units two and three focus on strategies for narrative and expository texts. You will learn to create a directed reading-thinking activity (DR-TA) for narrative texts and an anticipation guide for expository texts. Once again, these strategies allow students to survey the readings and participate in game-like activities. Students have the opportunity to guess what the story or passage entails, as well as what they think will come next. These types of strategies embody motivating activities for young students. While participating in unit four, you will learn two vocabulary strategies (Five Senses Simile Web & Word Map) that will entice students to define unfamiliar words rather than skip over them. "Nagy and Scott (2000) estimate that young readers need to add at least 2,000 new words to their vocabulary each year" (cited in Mayer, 2008, p. 64). It is important that teachers employ immersion techniques, along with direct instruction, as a means of encouraging students to recognize the value of an extensive vocabulary in helping them comprehend texts. During the final unit, you will apply the reading comprehension strategies that you have learned. Additionally, you will read articles about other comprehension strategies that you can apply to your course project and everyday teaching.

Unit 1 - Pre-Reading Strategy

Unit 2 - Narrative Strategy

Unit 3 - Expository Strategy

Unit 4 - Vocabulary Strategies

Unit 5 - Strategy Integration Benefits

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Boulware-Gooden, R., Carreker, S., Thornhill, A., & Joshi, R. M. (2007). Instruction of metacognitive strategies enhances reading comprehension and vocabulary achievement of third-grade students. The Reading Teacher, 61(1), 70-77. doi: 10.1598/RT.61.1.7

Internation Children's Digital Library (n.d.). Retrieved April 22, 2010, from

Mayer, R. E. (2008). Learning to read fluently. In S. Kenoyer & M. Harlan (Eds.), Learning and instruction (pp. 36-73). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

Pressley, M., Wharton-McDonald, R., Mistretta-Hampston, J., & Echevarria, M. (1998). Literacy instruction in 10 fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms in upstate New York. Scientific Studies of Reading, 2(2), 159-194.

Richardson, J. S., Morgan, R. F., & Fleener, C. (2006). Reading to learn in the content areas. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.

Scharlach, T. D., & Galda, L. (2008). START comprehending: Students and teachers actively reading text. The Reading Teacher, 62(1), 20-31. doi: 10.1598/RT.62.1.3

VoiceThread. (2007-2010). Retrieved April 22, 2010, from

Winters, R. (2009). Interactive frames for vocabulary growth and word consciousness. The Reading Teacher, 62(8), 685-690. doi: 10.1598/RT.62.8.6

Yopp, R. H., & Yopp, H. K. (2004). Preview-predict-confirm: Thinking about the language and content of informational text. The Reading Teacher, 58, 79-83. doi: 10.1598/RT.58.1.8