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Boost Reading Comprehension Through Discussion

One of our ultimate goals when teaching reading is to boost student comprehension of text.  We want our students to construct deeper meaning as they read.  A simple, no prep way of helping build comprehension is by allowing our students to talk.  

Through partner pairs, teacher and student conferencing, and whole-class discussion you can promote deeper understanding before, during, and after reading.  This is true for ANY text, in any subject area.  Read on to find some quick strategies you can integrate today.


Before Reading

Discuss learning intentions

If you have specific goals for reading a certain piece of text, be sure to share them with your students ahead of time.  When students know what they are supposed to learn, they can direct their attention toward those areas.

Make connections

By connecting to what they already know, either in other text, personal connections, or worldly connections, students are able to start forming thoughts about the reading to come.   When we activate their prior knowledge, student engagement increases.  

Introduce vocabulary

Sometimes students lack comprehension because they aren't familiar with a few key pieces of vocabulary.  Especially in content areas, it's important to ensure students are aware of that vocabulary BEFORE they read.  A great activity, that gets kids talking about vocab is "Word Graffiti".  You can read all about it here:


Preview headings and infer

When reading a textbook, or other non-fiction piece with headings, you can share these aloud before asking students to read.  After you read each one, have students discuss that they think that section might be about based on the heading.  By getting them thinking about possibilities, students are preparing their brains for what's to come.

During Reading

Read the text aloud

Hearing the words aloud helps students gain a better understanding of what they are reading.  You can read aloud to your students, or they can read aloud to themselves in a whisper voice.  When you read to your students, they are hearing the text with correct fluency and expression.  They may miss pieces when independently reading if the phrasing isn't quite right.  When students read aloud, it forces them to slow down and ensures they read each and every word.  Whisper phones are a great option for this, and you can easily make them out of PVC pipe.

Ask questions

Pause during reading to ask questions that keep students focused on main ideas and key information.  Sharing responses aloud as a whole class will clarify for others as well.

After Reading

Summarize important information

Explaining what has just been read/learned in student's own words ensures they (and you) understand the text.  When done orally, students are often more likely to share more than they would if asked to write it down.

Talk about what's confusing

Simply acknowledging that it's okay if parts of the text were confusing is crucial to student engagement! Let your students question the text.  They can clarify for one another, or you can support student questioning.

Respond orally

Orally reconstructing stories can encourage students to think in a new way.  This "verbal processing" helps students to remember.  Readers theatre, creating songs, and other oral responses such as making iMovies are all unique opportunities to continue the discussion about the text. 

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