5 Helpful Reading Comprehension Strategies for Upper Elementary

In upper elementary, reading comprehension is key to improving student learning. Whether they comprehend what they are reading is another story. Using appropriate reading comprehension strategies to scaffold a child’s learning while reading is important because it sets them up for success in the world of literature! Here are some helpful reading comprehension strategies you can use in the classroom to help build student confidence in the classroom.

Reading comprehension strategies

1. Use Students Prior Knowledge

Before beginning a new text, get to know your students’ background knowledge on the subject. If you are about to read a nonfiction text about polar bears, get a read for how much they know. Using a KWL (Know – Want to Know – Learned) Chart is one of a few great reading comprehension strategies to gauge your classroom’s knowledge on a topic you are about to teach.

Provide students with key vocabulary that may help them while they are reading. If the topic is polar bears, define terms like blubber, arctic, mammals, and hibernate. While these terms may be simple enough, some students may have never been exposed, so touching on them will prove helpful as they start reading the text.

2. Help Students Make Inferences

Making inferences is a fantastic way for students to dig deeper into the text and predict what may happen next! To make an inference, students need to use context clues as well as pictures to draw conclusions that may not have been explicitly mentioned in the text.

Drawing from the polar bear example, the text may not say that polar bears live in dens, but the pictures show them sleeping at the mouth of one. The readers can conclude that because of the picture, polar bears sleep in dens. Learning to make inferences is an important skill for reading comprehension because it allows students to think outside the box or read between the lines. This skill will apply to other subject areas such as science, too!

These Vocabulary Graphic Organizers are a great way to help students organize their thoughts as they dig deep into the text. They can write their conclusions and inferences on the organizers to refer to as they continue reading.

3. Create a Visual For Students

Many text pieces in upper elementary do not include pictures. Some texts do, but chapter books use them sparingly. Depending on the text, it may be helpful to pause every once in a while and discuss what students see in their minds while they read. Have students explain to a partner if they are working in pairs or discuss as a group if everyone is reading the whole text.

Using these reading comprehension strategies is a great time to discuss the setting, characters, and other key story elements. Setting up a visual may involve searching the internet for images similar to the text to give them a rough idea of the setting. Sometimes, texts use words students may not recognize, so a quick Google search can prove helpful for creating a visual.

Reading Comprehension Strategies for Students
Students keep these personal dictionaries in their folders or binders to refer to.

These Vocabulary Roots Greek & Latin Worksheets are fantastic ways to organize new vocabulary and allow students to draw their own pictures so they have a visual in their head.

4. Re-Read & Slow Down

Students who are recalling what is happening in the text word for word are most likely not absorbing the true meaning of the text. The words they are reading aren’t being fully understood and digested. To help, have students read and re-read the text. They may catch something they missed the first time around.

Reading comprehension strategies

Reading out loud and slowing down are great reading comprehension strategies that will help their cognition with the text. When we read in our own heads, we sometimes skim over text and miss important details. Slowing down or reading aloud may force students to hear words they need to look up or catch things they would have otherwise missed.

5. Ask Questions Before, During, & After

One of my favorite reading comprehension strategies is to ask questions about the text throughout the reading. Asking questions before sets up the scene for the story and clarifies and general questions before students begin. Questions during the text help students understand scenes and situations they are currently reading about.

Reading comprehension strategies

The questions after the text clarify any unsettled questions and lend a hand to higher-level thinking. This is the best time to ask follow-up questions that might get students thinking about why a certain event happened or what would have happened if the tables were turned.

Combining all of these reading comprehension strategies will set your students up for more successful reading adventures. It will not only help them understand classroom texts better so they can complete writing pieces and answer questions but it will help foster their love for reading! When students are able to understand a text, they are more likely to appreciate it.

Reading comprehension strategies
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