Online Academic Resources - Reading

Comprehension Strategies That Successful Readers Use

Adapted from Strategies That Work, Harvey and Goudvis, 2007

1. Activating Background Knowledge and Making Connections: A Bridge from the New to the Known

Cognitive psychologists created the term schema theory to explain how our background knowledge has an impact on how we learn. When a student has had an experience similar to a character, he can understand motives, thoughts and feelings. When readers have knowledge about a content area, they understand new information they read. And when readers have an understanding about how genres are conceptually organized, they comprehend better.

2. Questioning: The Strategy That Propels Readers Forward

Schools have questions, but they tend to be the questions that teachers, tests or textbooks ask. And those questions demand answers, sometimes to the exclusion of allowing students to ask questions. Questions move a reader forward and actually move them deeper into text. We want students to question the content, author, issues and ideas in the texts that they read.

3. Making Inferences: Reading Between the Lines

“Writers don’t spill their thoughts onto the page, they leak them slowly, one idea at a time, until the reader can make an educated guess or an appropriate inference about an underlying theme in the text or a prediction about what is to come (p. 18).” Inferring involves drawing those conclusions or interpreting what is not explicitly stated in the text.

4. Visualizing: Becoming Wordstruck

Visualizing is inferring meaning by creating mental images. Creating pictures or movies in our head while reading increases our engagement with text. Not only should we be encouraging other readers to do this, but sharing our own movie helps others get more out of the story.

5. Determining Importance: Distilling the Essence of Text

What is important in text is dependent on our purpose for reading it. We focus on important ideas and combine them with what we already know. We determine important ideas, because those are the ones we want to remember.

6. Summarizing and Synthesizing Information: The Evolution of Thought

In the society in which we live, with its abundant information, we have to work to make sense of it all, get the important information, and be able to recall the gist of it. Summarizing causes us to pull out essential information. Synthesizing causes us to integrate this new information with the old, resulting in new or altered ideas in our schema.