Reading is Thinking

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Let’s talk about comprehension! In every 3-5 classroom it’s a huge part of what we teach. But what exactly is comprehension? Comprehension includes 6 parts: visualizing, making connections, inferring, determining importance, asking questions, and synthesizing. All six parts are critical to student’s comprehension and all elements must be explicitly taught through modeling and read-aloud think-aloud. In this post, we are going to take an in-depth look at five of the components of comprehension.

Making Connections

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Students must connect with the story to make reading more authentic. There are three types of connections; text-to-self, text-to-world, and text-to-text. To get students thinking about the text the teacher should ask targeted questions. To do this, I printed out “making connection” questions and glued them on Popsicle sticks for my students. We will use these questions throughout the year. Click here to get a list of questions to get students thinking about the text and making connections. When I teach this lesson I also like my students to record their thinking on a graphic organizer. This helps engage students in the reading and builds their understanding of the text. I give students the option to draw or write their connection in the graphic organizer.


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Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 2.54.33 PMVisualization is important for students because it gives them a clear ongoing picture in their mind and helps them to fill in the gaps when re-reading. I like to teach visualization using the poem “Green Giant” by Jack Prelutsky. I will read- aloud the poem several times for students. I will tell students to paint a picture in their head of what the green giant looks like. Then I will give students a graphic organizer to draw and label the picture created in their head. This is an introductory activity for students over visualization. We will use this graphic organizer throughout the year to visualize complicated texts. Click here for our visualization graphic organizer.

Determining Importance

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It is important for students to identify the elements of a story that are “need to know” versus “nice to know”. When reading literary texts students need to identify the literary elements; character, setting, problem, solution, and theme to be able to summarize the text. In my class, we use a variety of graphic organizers to determine the important parts. You can visit FCRR for some amazing literary elements graphic organizers. For my students, I introduce the literary elements using the book “The Stray Dog” by Marc Simont. This book was chosen because of its clear problem and solution and simple story line. I read the book aloud to my class then pass out our literary elements question cards to get students thinking and talking. After discussing the book with partners, I will then introduce our determining importance graphic organizer. I will model filling it out and the students will follow along. We will use the graphic organizer several times together before students will independently read and summarize a text.

Asking Questions

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Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 3.01.43 PMReading is thinking and students should always be asking questions. This helps them better understand the text and the author. I like to use the book “I Fly” by Bridget Heos to introduce this topic. This book teaches about the life cycle of a fly in a very fun and interesting way. Before I begin reading, I create a KWLS chart. The S at the end stands for “still want to know” and I will put my questions here. I read the book aloud and think-aloud questions that I have to model the skill of asking questions. My questions are pre-written on sticky notes in the book before I read it aloud to the class. When I get to the page shown here, I stop. Here, the fly asks the class what questions they have. I have students think-pair-share about what questions they still have about flies and I record them on our KWLS chart. I remind students that asking questions is an important part of reading comprehension. I then continue reading the story and compare our questions we asked to the questions the students in the book asked. Once done reading the book, will focus on what we still want to learn and fill out the section of the graphic organizer together.

Making Inferences

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Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 3.05.02 PMMaking inferences is a crucial skill in grades 3-5 and the majority of STAAR questions require students to infer meaning, feelings, and author’s purpose to support their understanding of a text. Students must read between the lines and use text evidence and their own background knowledge to infer. I introduce this topic by showing students how they infer in their everyday life. I use picture cards to build their confidence in their ability to infer. T will ask students what they think is happening and have them use evidence to support their inference. Example, I can tell the teacher is tired because her eyes are closed. Then I will introduce the book “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble” by William Steig. I first stop at the page shown here and I ask the question: Why is Sylvester frightened? I will think aloud: “ I know that lions are predators and donkeys are prey. I also know the lion is hungry. So I can tell Sylvester is scared because he is worried the lion will eat him.” I will then record it on our making inferences graphic organizer. I will continue to think-aloud my inferences throughout the book and record them on our graphic organizer. I will use the same graphic organizer throughout the week and encourage students to make their own inferences about a text.


When one of these elements break down, a student will be unable to comprehend a text. If a student is struggling with comprehension you need to determine which skill has broken down and work to build that skill. Once all six elements are developed, a students will then comprehend a text.

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