Which study skills strategies can improve students’ academic performance?
Page 3: Comprehension Strategies
Reading comprehension is the most critical skill students need to be successful in school.
Like Kyra, most students with LD have difficulty processing information, which affects their ability to comprehend text. This puts them at greater risk for reading comprehension problems. Even those who are efficient at decoding words often do not use strategies to monitor their understanding of the text as they read, make connections to what they already know, or identify relevant information in the text. To determine how students approach academic reading tasks, teachers can administer a brief questionnaire to the students, such as:
The students in the Challenge video were asked to complete the MARSI. Some of the differences in how they used reading comprehension strategies are highlighted in the table below: Hannah almost always uses effective strategies, Erin sometimes uses effective strategies, and Kyra rarely uses such strategies.
|A Comparison of the Use of Reading Comprehension Strategies||Hannah
|Activating Prior Knowledge|
|Think about what I know||Frequently or Always||Frequently or Always||Rarely or Never|
|Preview the text||Frequently or Always||Sometimes||Rarely or Never|
|Make predictions||Frequently or Always||Sometimes||Rarely or Never|
|Use context clues||Frequently or Always||Sometimes||Rarely or Never|
|Re-read difficult text||Frequently or Always||Frequently or Always||Rarely or Never|
|Read difficult text out loud||Frequently or Always||Rarely or Never||Rarely or Never|
|Use graphics to increase understanding||Frequently or Always||Frequently or Always||Rarely or Never|
|Use reference materials (e.g., dictionaries)||Sometimes||Rarely or Never||Rarely or Never|
- The 2011 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) report indicates that difficulty with reading comprehension is a significant problem for public school students in fourth and eighth grade, especially those with disabilities. The table below identifies the percentage of students below Basic proficiency in reading comprehension.
Students without Disabilities
Students with Disabilities
- More than thirty years of research demonstrates that comprehension strategies instruction helps students to understand and remember what they read.
(National Institute for Literacy, 2007)
- The results of a meta analysis indicates that comprehension strategies are effective for high-school students with LD as well as for younger students with LD.
(Mastropieri, Scruggs, & Graetz, 2003)
Teachers can teach their students evidence-based reading strategies—such as those highlighted in the table below—to improve the reading comprehension of all students, especially those with ADHD or LD. Each of these strategies requires students to engage in self-questioning, a process in which students ask themselves and then answer questions about what they have read. Doing so encourages students to be actively engaged with the text, thinking about what they read before, during, and after reading, and in turn improving their ability to process that information.
Importance: Students need to connect what they already know about a topic or idea to what they are reading.
Teachers need to activate students’ background knowledge or, ideally, to teach students how to activate their own background knowledge. They can do this through strategies such as:
- Reflecting on and writing down what they know about the topic
- Previewing headings and bold or italicized words
- Making predictions
For students with little or no background knowledge, teachers should first supply requisite knowledge through direct instruction.
Importance: The process of answering self-generated questions makes students aware of whether they understand what they have read.
To help students generate questions, teachers can provide prompts and demonstrate how to use them. These prompts come in many forms, including:
- Signal words (e.g., who, what, where, when, how)
- Generic questions or question stems (e.g., What is the main idea of ______?, What are the similarities between _____ and ______?)
Importance: When a student actively monitors comprehension, he determines whether or not he understands what he is reading.
Teachers can help students monitor their comprehension by teaching them to recognize when they do not understand what they are reading, to identify the problem (e.g., a difficult word or confusing concept), and to employ “fix-up” strategies, such as:
- Using context clues to figure out difficult terms or phrases
- Re-reading the passage
- Restating the difficult text in his own words
- Looking back through the text
- Looking ahead for clues that help clarify the text
Importance: Students need to be able to identify and differentiate the main ideas and supporting details of what they are reading. This skill is an important prerequisite to taking notes.
Teachers can help students to identify the main idea of a passage by using strategies such as:
- Examining the first sentence and determining whether it expresses the main idea
- Finding words in the paragraph that are repeated
- Asking themselves questions like “Who or what is this about?” and “Why did an event happen?”
- Determining what all of the sentences have in common
- Examining the last sentence to see whether it summarizes the main idea of the text
Importance: Paraphrasing requires students to process information, which in turn enables them to store that information in long-term memory.
One effective paraphrasing strategy that teachers can teach their students is RAP:
- Read a paragraph.
- Ask yourself, “What was the main idea and two details?”
- Put the main idea and details into your own words.
Importance: Summarizing helps students to focus on the main ideas, decide which pieces of information are important and which are not, condense this information, and put it into their own words. This process helps students to comprehend and to remember what they have read.
Teachers can help students learn to summarize text by teaching them to employ the following steps outlined by the National Institute for Literacy (2007):
- Identify and/or formulate main ideas
- Connect the main ideas
- Identify and delete redundancies
- Restate the main ideas and connections using different words and phrasings
(Note: Because summarizing builds on the skills used in paraphrasing and identifying main ideas, it might be beneficial to first teach students the foundational skills required for each of these skills.)
Don Deshler discusses some of the things teachers should consider when they teach reading strategies (time: 2:20).
Don Deshler, PhD
Professor, Special Education
Director, Center for, Research on Learning
The University of Kansas
TipStudents who have been taught multiple comprehension strategies demonstrate greater improvements in reading comprehension. However, students should be proficient with each strategy before they attempt to combine them.
For more information about effective comprehension strategies, view the IRIS Module: