There are two main components to reading - decoding and comprehension. Decoding is the process of transferring print into speech, matching letters to their sounds. Comprehension is a skill that allows readers to work out what a text actually means. It involves the simultaneous process of extracting and constructing meaning of spoken, written and/or visual texts. Even reading through this article, you might go back and forth a few times before properly making sense of the message being articulated.
To be successful in reading, students need to go beyond decoding and start comprehending. Comprehension allows readers to understand the message or “big picture” the author is trying to convey. There are many strategies in which students can show their understanding of text - they can recall information, give a response, answer questions, interpret pictures and make connections.
The NSW Department of Education and Training highlights that learning comprehension skills takes a student to a new level of active understanding and insight when responding to, interpreting, analysing and evaluating texts. Both in the classroom and at home, students can apply the ‘Super Six’ comprehension strategies to strengthen and deepen their reading.
The Super Six Strategies
1. Making connections Making connections is the strategy where students are encouraged to make personal connections from the text with:
Something in their own life (text to self)
Another text (text to text)
Something occurring in the world (text to world)
This helps students to draw relationships between the text they are reading and the core of what it means by creating familiarity to help with context. To help prompt these connections, parents and teachers can ask students questions such as:
Does this remind you of something?
Has something like this ever happened to you?
Is this story similar to another text you have read?
Predicting is a strategy used where students use information from graphics, text and experiences to anticipate what will be read/viewed/heard and to actively adjust comprehension while reading/viewing/listening. To help develop this strategy in students, parents and teachers can ask questions such as:
Looking at the cover, what do you expect this text to be about?
What do you think will happen next?
What words or images do you expect to see or hear next in the text?
Questioning as a strategy is simply a matter of students posing and answering questions that clarify meaning to discover the core of the text’s intent. It is a strategy used to promote a deeper understanding of the text and can be posed by parents, educators and peers. Examples of deeper level questioning are asking questions such as:
Why did the character behave in that way?
How did it make them feel?
What is the author’s intent with this text?
Monitoring is a mechanism to encourage students to stop and think about the text and know what to do when the meaning is obscured and disrupted. Monitoring is the way that educators can encourage students to ask:
Is this making sense?
Do I need to re-read the question?
After a second reading, does my answer still make sense?
Monitoring is a mechanism not exclusive to comprehension. To learn more on how we encourage and use these techniques, check out our blog on math strategies <insert link>
The act of visualising is to encourage students to create a mental image from a text read/viewed/heard. It ultimately brings the text to life and engages the imagination and empowers students to use all of their senses. Educators and parents can simply ask students to describe the image they see when absorbing the text.
Summarising skills encourage students to identify and accumulate the most important ideas and restate them in their own words. It encourages students to holistically understand the nature of the text and effectively “teach” it back to themselves in their own words. Parents and teachers can ask students questions such as:
Can you retell the story?
What did you learn from this informative text?
If you were to tell another person about the text, how would you describe it in a few sentences?
Research states the importance of teaching comprehension strategies alongside decoding to ensure that students can understand texts at a deeper level. By drawing on the Super Six comprehension strategies, students can engage in critical and creative thinking as they strengthen their reading abilities.