Comprehension is the process of making meaning from a text.

WHAT is Comprehension?

Comprehension is the process of making meaning from a text. We can tell if a child comprehends by paying close attention to what a child says and does during and after reading. We can observe their reading behaviors, listen to their responses and questions, and read what they write or draw in response to a story or text. Because it is an internal process, we need to bring the strategies and behaviors of good readers to the surface for children. These strategies and behaviors often need to be explicitly demonstrated, guided, and practiced.

External signs that a child is comprehending include:

  • Recognizing and using text features
  • Activating and using background knowledge
  • Making predictions
  • Visualizing
  • Asking questions
  • Making inferences
  • Monitoring their understanding
  • Determining importance
  • Synthesizing
  • Summarizing

WHY is Comprehension Important

Comprehension is important because it is the ultimate goal of reading. It is the very reason we read. Comprehension ensures that readers can read for enjoyment, read to learn, and take action after learning something in a text. When we can make meaning from what we read, we can do things like spread the word about a topic, laugh at funny scenes, understand and empathize with characters, and gain a broader perspective of our own experiences and the world.

Comprehension is end-goal of the other areas of literacy instruction. Phonological awareness is the process by which readers start understanding how sounds make up words and Phonics is the understanding of how letters and sounds are connected. Early literacy skills like these lead directly into the process of decoding. When readers can decode words, or read them, they are on their way to making meaning from the text (comprehension). Fluency is the process of reading words accurately, quickly, smoothly, and with expression. The more skilled a reader is with decoding, the more fluent they become. When readers no longer have to think about every sound and letter and can, instead, read with automaticity, their brains can attend to meaning and comprehension.

HOW do you teach Comprehension

We can support comprehension growth by helping children align their thinking with the content of a text– by connecting, inferring, questioning, determining importance, synthesizing, and reacting to information. Once children develop the ability to do this, they can gain new insights and understandings from texts and then use them in their daily lives.

When we teach, we keep text at the center of comprehension instruction. When readers dive into content, rather than focus on strategies, they can make meaning of what’s specifically in front of them, rather than trying to apply broad skills. Close reading instruction requires teachers to dive into each text and notice which parts will be challenging for children. They predict where meaning might break down for children during reading.

Finally, we build background knowledge. Growing general knowledge is one of the primary ways to support children’s development of reading comprehension. Research shows that the more a reader knows about the topic of the text, the better their comprehension and their ability to learn from that text.


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