top of page

Unlocking the Secrets to Reading Comprehension: Tips and Strategies for Upper Elementary Teachers


As upper elementary teachers, we know that reading comprehension is more than just recognizing words on a page. It's about understanding, interpreting, and engaging with the text. Whether your students are using reading passages with comprehension questions or learning new vocabulary words, here are some effective strategies to help your students become proficient readers and critical thinkers.

1. Activate Prior Knowledge

Before diving into a new text, encourage students to connect it with what they already know. This can be done through discussions, KWL charts (What I Know, What I Want to Know, What I Learned), or quick writes. By tapping into their prior knowledge, students can make meaningful connections that enhance comprehension.

2. Teach Vocabulary Explicitly

A robust vocabulary is crucial for understanding complex texts. Introduce new words in context, and use strategies like word maps, semantic gradients, and Frayer models. Encourage students to use new vocabulary in their writing and conversations to reinforce their understanding.

3. Ask Higher-Order Thinking Questions

Move beyond basic recall questions to those that require analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Questions like, "Why do you think the character made that choice?" or "How would the story change if it was set in a different time period?" promote deeper thinking and comprehension.

4. Model Think-Alouds

Think-alouds are a powerful way to demonstrate the cognitive processes involved in reading comprehension. As you read aloud, pause to verbalize your thoughts, predictions, and questions. This helps students see how proficient readers interact with text and develop their own strategies.

5. Use Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers like story maps, Venn diagrams, and cause-and-effect charts help students visually organize information. These tools can clarify complex ideas, illustrate relationships, and support students in summarizing and synthesizing information. These graphic organizers can be used in so many ways!

6. Practice Close Reading

Close reading involves examining a text thoroughly to uncover deeper meaning. Guide students through multiple readings of a text, each with a different focus. For example, the first read might focus on understanding the story, the second on vocabulary and structure, and the third on making inferences and analyzing themes.

7. Encourage Metacognition

Teach students to think about their thinking. Encourage them to ask themselves questions as they read, such as, "Do I understand what I just read?" or "What strategies can I use if I don't understand?" Reflection journals and reading logs can support this practice.

8. Differentiate Instruction

Recognize that students have diverse needs and abilities. Use leveled texts, provide additional scaffolding, and offer choices in reading materials and activities. Small group instruction and one-on-one conferences can address individual comprehension challenges.

9. Utilize Reading Passages with Comprehension Questions

Incorporate reading passages followed by comprehension questions to practice specific skills. These passages can be fiction or nonfiction, and the questions should cover a range of skills, including:

Using reading passages with a variety of question types helps students practice and reinforce different aspects of comprehension. It also allows for targeted instruction and assessment, helping you identify and address specific areas where students may need additional support.

10. Foster a Love for Reading

Create a classroom environment that celebrates reading. Have a diverse classroom library, provide time for independent reading, and share your own reading experiences with your students. Encourage book talks, reading buddies, and literature circles to build a community of readers.

Reading comprehension is a multifaceted skill that requires intentional and varied instruction. By incorporating these strategies into your teaching, you can help your students not only understand what they read but also develop a lifelong love of reading. Remember, the goal is to make reading an enjoyable and enriching experience that opens up new worlds and perspectives for your students. Happy reading!


bottom of page