99 Ways to Improve Your Students’ Reading Comprehension


1.     Have word walls; keep them fresh and attractive

2.     Give a preview of the reading material

3.     Call attention to chapter headings and sub-headings

4.     Call attention to end-of-chapter questions

5.     Ask for summaries (gateway skill)

6.     Pronounce new vocabulary

7.     Have students pronounce new vocabulary

8.     Practice skimming

9.     Practice scanning

10.                        Practice close reading and re-reading

11.                        Use sustained silent reading

12.                        Read aloud

13.                        Encourage making connections between self and text

14.                        Summon prior knowledge

15.                        Use graphic organizers

16.                        Encourage students to generate their own graphic organizers

17.                        Teach word components

18.                        Use annotations

19.                        Encourage the habit of noticing text patterns

20.                        Use supportive visuals on the Internet

21.                        Have a “readable” room, with helpful words and visuals

22.                         Use writing to support reading; reading to support writing

23.                        Provide study guides

24.                        Provide alternate readings and simplified versions to scaffold

25.                        Encourage the creation of visuals (“draw what you’ve read”)

26.                        Reinforce subject-to-subject connections in vocabulary

27.                        Give students opportunities to talk about what they’ve read

28.                        Provide various genres

29.                        Encourage paraphrase

30.                        Encourage integration of text with graphs, charts, tables

31.                        Encourage reading in phrases and groups, not single words

32.                        Read key parts first

  1. Encourage awareness of strategies (BEFORE: summon prior knowledge, establish a purpose, preview; DURING: visualize, re-read as necessary, look for the pattern, make connections; AFTER: think, talk, write, summarize, outline)
  2. Make students aware of their unique reading needs
  3. Develop reading habits
  4. Ritualize the reading process
  5. Build awareness of trouble spots
  6. Teach how the text is organized
  7. Encourage self-monitoring for comprehension
  8. Make the abstract more concrete for students
  9. Encourage readers to anticipate
  10. Encourage note-taking on readings
  11. Set time in class to develop a weekly reading budget
  12. Hold students accountable for reading
  13. Give alternative assessments
  14. Teach that every sentence delivers new information or re-caps
  15.  Provide large print and other more reader-friendly presentations
  16. Provide Internet resources to supply background information
  17. Give the necessary background information
  18. Teach vocabulary implicitly and explicitly
  19. Make connections between English and the Latin-based languages (Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese)
  20.  Encourage students to keep personal reading journals
  21. Teach that words have multiple meanings, but that their meanings are usually related
  22. Teach that not all text is to be read at the same pace
  23.  Assign meaning-making activities following reading
  24.  Encourage visualization (mental movies)
  25.  Teach students to view reading from the writer’s perspective
  26. Teach students to group information into larger and larger groups
  27. Use the Golden Oldies: SQ3R and KWL
  28. Encourage outlining
  29. Build a classroom library consisting of multileveled, diverse reading materials to scaffold the textbook and provide background knowledge
  30. Use your classroom website as an online classroom library
  31. Join your professional organization and keep informed about literacy development
  32. If you teach English, supplement fiction with non-fiction; if you teach a subject other than English, supplement informational text with literature
  33. Familiarize yourself with the reading that your students are doing in other subject areas so that you can make connections
  34. Provide multiple exposures to new vocabulary
  35. Capitalize on the relationship between reading, writing, listening, and speaking
  36. Understand that comprehension is the active process of extracting meaning from text, not just word-calling (decoding)
  37. Reveal your own thinking as a reader
  38. Encourage students to say “This reminds me of…” as they read
  39. Encourage students to look for repetition in text because repetition signals main ideas
  40. Encourage students to think of reading as a before, during, and after process
  41. Build on strengths—your own and that of your students
  42. Consider offering students choices in reading material
  43. Be enthusiastic about school-wide reading initiatives
  44. Set forth a purpose for reading (What am I looking for?)
  45. Increase, support, and value time-on-text in class
  46. Understand that reading comprehension is the result of the integration of prior knowledge with new knowledge offered in text
  47. Offer crossword puzzles that use subject area terminology
  48. Set up cooperative learning groups to work through challenging text
  49. Understand that sentence length affects readability
  50. Understand that pre-Twentieth Century language is probably very challenging for most students. Provide scaffolding.
  51. Understand that deficient readers tend to misread the middle of words, resulting in their thinking that words with similar beginnings and endings are the same.
  52.  When introducing a new word, use it to teach a cluster of words that would be used along with it
  53. Teach the many different forms (morphology)  a new word
  54. Use your library-media specialist as a resource to help you locate various versions of your targeted information
  55. Use your reading specialist and special education teachers to help you understand more about your text and your students’ reading strengths and needs
  56. Help students pinpoint the place in the text in which their comprehension broke down
  57. Understand that improvement in reading comprehension will result from a combination of practice, explicit instruction, and building of background knowledge
  58. Treat reading for what it is: a complex mental, metacognitive, and social activity
  59. Understand that improvement in reading comprehension results from instruction that is embedded in authentic reading tasks, rather than isolated drill and practice in text that is unrelated to what the student needs to know
  60. Understand that the language used in classrooms may differ markedly from a student’s home and street language
  61.  Act on the fact that your students’ ability to comprehend text in your subject area is unlikely to improve without your intervention
  62. If your course ends in a standardized test, familiarize your students with the appearance, structure, phraseology, and vocabulary of that test
  63. Help students connect pronouns to their referents, esp. it, that, which, they
  64. Define what you think may be new words as you speak
  65. Practice “gradual release of responsibility” to make students independent readers
  66. Build awareness that successful readers are problem-solvers who give themselves the environment and support systems that they need to make meaning from text: Reading comprehension results from intentional behaviors, not luck.


99.                        Assume that success is possible!!





A Tale of Two Principals[1]

High School A

High School B

 “A new high school principal…gave back to teachers time formerly used for Sustained Silent Reading. He warned teachers that students should be ‘focused on the instruction at hand’ rather than ‘sitting around reading’ during class time. …the principal explained, ‘Students have to be taught. We need more time focused on direct instruction.’

   During the next two years, book circulation at the high school library plummeted, and the school’s overall achievement on the content standards tests declined.  Teachers understood why taking away students’ time to ‘just read ‘might have resulted in a decline in reading scores, but they were shocked that scores sagged in history and science as well. “

“Principal Doug Williams, a former math teacher…announced to the faculty of Hoover High School, ‘If we are going to teach our students to read, we need to provide them with opportunities to read.’ He allocated 20 minutes each day for Sustained Silent Reading and provided his staff with the resources and professional development necessary to ensure that students had time to read books of their choice.

    “The result? Hoover has met state accountability targets, and students’ average reading level as measured by the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test has risen from 4.3 to 7.2. Although the independent reading initiative cannot take full credit for this, Hoover teachers credit the Sustained Silent Reading time with a significant portion of the increased achievement.



[1] Gay Ivey and Douglas Fisher. “Learning From What Doesn’t Work.” The Best of Educational Leadership 2005-2006. 7.

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