Evidence-based Reading Instruction: Comprehension: Research and Teaching Strategies


E. Jacobson
S. Ianiro
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Publication Year
Resource Type
Instructional Material
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It is important to note that this series of four resources for each of the four components of reading -- alphabetics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension – contains digests, not comprehensive descriptions of the components. Each research digest provides a definition of the component, the need for the component, how to assess the component, how to teach and learn the component, teaching strategies, suggestions for professional development, and additional resources. The value of these digests is that they provide a snap shot introduction to the four components of reading that may be helpful to a teacher new to teaching reading to adults. They also provide some resources to extend learning. The article provides theory behind teaching and learning comprehension. The reading comprehension strategies include: directed reading-thinking activity, graphic and semantic organizers, highlighting, using imagination, K-W-L activity, K-W-R-L activity, and discussion to guide higher-order thinking skills.  
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What the experts say

The digest makes some good points based on sound theory –these are: assessment of reading comprehension should include both oral and written assessment; basic skills learned in one context do not easily transfer to another (Sticht); teaching strategies suggested are active and include higher order thinking skills; graphic and semantic organizers are useful tools; and learners relate to text what they know, what they want to know and what they have learned.

Reading comprehension is frequently taught to adult learners by the teacher asking a series of questions rather than teaching specific strategies to students. (Years ago Delores Durkin discovered that teachers were not teaching comprehension skills to children but instead asking questions on the content.) The resource is valuable in providing teachers with specific strategies that can be used to teach students how to comprehend text. It does not, however, teach specific comprehension skills such as main idea and context clues.

Although it presents the informal reading inventory (IRI) as a good informal assessment, teachers might need more guidance before constructing one for use in the classroom. (For example, the differences among the frustration, instructional, and independent reading levels are not explained.) The list of references and resources is very helpful for follow-up. The resource is also to be commended for urging teachers to use contextually relevant materials for their learners.

The section on instruction notes the importance of questioning and summarizing – however these are not highlighted in the strategies section. More strategies focused explicitly on prediction, questioning and answering would improve this digest.

Points of caution

  1. Reading should be primarily about extracting meaning from text. Teachers should not get distracted by emphasis on other factors.
  2. Understanding poetry, narratives and expository text structure is less important in adult reading than in grade school classes.
  3. Bloom’s Taxonomy is basically passive, top-down and behaviorist. It does not follow current cognitive approaches to teaching which are top down and active.
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