EDPT 525

CHAPTER 9   Comprehension, Part 1


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After studying this chapter, students should be able to:

  • 9-1 Explain how schema theory is related to reading comprehension.
  • 9-2 Explain how a reader’s purpose and other aspects of the situation in which reading takes place affect comprehension.
  • 9-3 Describe some characteristics of text that affect comprehension.
  • 9-4 Identify and describe some prereading, during-reading, and postreading activities that can enhance comprehension.


anticipation guides Sets of declarative statements related to materials about to be read that are designed to stimulate thinking and discussion.

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cloze procedure A technique in which the teacher deletes words or other structures from a passage and leaves blanks in their places. The students then fill in the blanks by using the surrounding context to determine the missing material. It can be used as a method of instruction, a means of testing for comprehension, or a method of estimating reading difficulty.

digital literacy A type of media literacy that includes skills in viewing and visually representing.

Investigative Questioning Procedure (InQuest) A comprehension strategy that combines student questioning with creative drama.

knowledge-based processing Bringing one’s prior world knowledge and background of experiences to the interpretation of the text.

K-W-L teaching model A teaching model for expository text; stands for What I Know, What I Want to Learn, What I Learned

media literacy The ability to understand and evaluate information that is viewed and read, and to communicate through media.

metacognition A person’s knowledge of the functioning of his or her own mind and conscious efforts to monitor or control this functioning.

multiple intelligences Several distinct areas of potential that readers possess to different degrees.

reciprocal teaching A technique to develop comprehension and metacognition in which the teacher and students take turns being “teacher.” They predict, generate questions, summarize, and clarify ideas.

relative clauses Clauses that refer to an antecedent (may be restrictive or nonrestrictive).

schema (pl., schemata) A preexisting knowledge structure (cluster of information) developed about a thing, place, or idea.

semantic webbing Making a graphic representation of relationships in written material through the use of a core question, strands (answers), strand supports (facts and inferences from the story), and strand ties (relationships of the strands to each other).

story grammar A set of rules that define story structures.

story mapping Making graphic representations of stories that show clearly the specific relationships of story elements.

story schema Background knowledge associated with stories.

technological literacy The ability to use various technological resources (for example, devices, CDs, and DVDs) for learning and completing various types of projects such as writing research papers and doing multimedia presentations.

text-based processing Trying to extract the information that resides in the text.

text mapping plus A mapping technique in which both words and pictures are used to map a topic.

think-alouds Verbalizing aloud the thought processes present as one reads a selection orally.

visual literacy The ability to derive meaning from still pictures, animations, and images in the context of video presentations, as well as the ability to visually represent meaning through them.


This chapter focuses on how the interaction between the reader, the reading situation, and the text influences comprehension. Reader-related factors include the reader’s schemata; affect; and sensory, perceptual, thinking, and word-recognition abilities. Readers use both text-based processing and knowledge-based processing to comprehend text. A discussion of Gardner’s multiple intelligences is included in this section.

The reading situation includes purposes for the reading, both self-constructed and teacher directed; the audience for the reading; the importance the reading task has for the individual; and the physical context in which the reading takes place. Teachers should help students set purposes for reading by providing goals or helping students form their own goals. The audience may consist of other individuals, such as classmates, but it can also be comprised solely of the student.

Text-related factors that influence comprehension include sentence difficulty level, punctuation, organizational patterns, and the type of text (narrative or expository). Technology has brought forth new considerations related to comprehension. Visual literacy is the ability to derive meaning from still pictures, animations, and images from various sources, as well as the ability to visually present meaning through these images. Media literacy includes understanding, evaluating, and producing material for both print and nonprint media, as well as recognizing and applying the methods of media persuasion. Digital literacy, a subset of media literacy, includes skills in viewing and visually representing. It takes in higher-order comprehension skills of analysis of illustrations, lighting, color, and movement as they contribute to the meaning of a digital presentation. Reading online text presents challenges due to the integration of hyperlinks and hypermedia, inclusion of advertisements, and the large volume of text available. Readers must differentiate important content from nonessential information.

Factors related to the reader, the reading situation, and the text all interact as students read in instructional settings. Explicit instruction in comprehension strategies is essential. Strategies for before reading (previews; anticipation guides; semantic mapping; and speaking, listening, and writing), during reading (think aloud, reciprocal teaching, guiding questions, InQuest, and the cloze procedure), and postreading (questions, visual representations, readers theater, retelling, discussion, K-W-L, semantic webbing, story mapping, story frames, and writing) are discussed in this chapter.

Struggling readers’ common barriers to comprehension include insufficient prior knowledge; the inability to determine when it is appropriate to use this knowledge, avoidance techniques, and lack of fluency in reading. Teachers can help struggling readers by adjusting their strategy instruction and carefully choosing the reading materials they use with these readers. Strategy prompts have also been found to assist struggling readers with comprehension.

YOUR Task to DO!

  1. How do readers’ schemata affect their comprehension? What are some books (textbooks, novels, etc.) that were challenging for you to read due to your lack of background knowledge of the topic? What are some new schemata that you currently possess that help you read this textbook? What implications does this relationship between schemata and comprehension have for reading instruction in your future classroom?
  2. How does cultural background relate to schema theory (the influence of schema on comprehension)? Suppose you are a fourth-grade teacher preparing a lesson that focuses on a story about a family that visits Washington, D.C. One of your students, Jamila, recently emigrated from Somalia. Explicitly explain what you could  do to build schemata to foster comprehension for her.
  3. What are advantages and challenges associated with online reading? How can the challenges be mediated?
  4. Discuss ways that the students use metacognition when they are reading the textbook, a novel, etc. (See Fig 9.7. page 254) How would comprehension be affected if they did not possess these metacognitive skills?

5.  The chapter discusses different text structures and its importance in comprehension. Look at the text structure and sort the text into the structures.      Handout 9.docx comprehension sort .docxPreview the document

This is the Handout 9. docx

Handout 9.2 Text Structure: Closed Sort

Directions: Cut the cards apart on the dotted lines. The smaller cards with one through three words on them are label cards for a closed sort. Set them out, leaving room below each one so that there is room to place two sorting cards below each label to form a column. The larger sorting cards contain segments of text from this chapter of the Teaching Reading in Today’s Elementary Schools text ; read each of the sorting cards and discuss its text structure and the clues (including signal words) that helped you reach your conclusion. Place each card beneath its corresponding label card to form a column for each type of text structure. Be ready to discuss or justify your completed sort.



Chronological Order


Comparison & Contrast

Cause & Effect

Problem & Solution




Schemata are a person’s organized clusters of concepts related to objects, places, actions, or events. Each schema represents a person’s knowledge about a particular concept and the interrelationships among the known pieces of information. For example, a schema for car may include a person’s knowledge about the car’s construction, its appearance, and its operation, as well as many other facts about it. Two people may have quite different schemata for the same basic concept; for example, a racecar driver’s schema for car (or, to be more exact, his or her cluster of schemata about cars) will differ from that of a 7-year-old child.


Teacher-constructed purpose questions can help students focus on important information in the selection and should replace such assignments as “Read Chapter 7 for tomorrow.” Providing specific purposes avoids presenting students with the insurmountable task of remembering everything that they read and informs them whether they are reading to determine main ideas, locate details, understand vocabulary terms, or meet some other well-defined goal. As a result, they can apply themselves to a specific, manageable task and choose reading strategies accordingly. However, if teachers always use the same types of purpose questions and do not guide students to set their own purposes, students may not develop the ability to read for a variety of purposes.


Anything that increases a reader’s background knowledge can also enhance reading performance. Increased exposure to social studies, science, art, music, mathematics, and other content areas can therefore improve reading achievement. For example, students at schools with broad curricular scopes have been found to score higher on inferential reading comprehension than students at schools with narrow curricular scopes (Singer, McNeil, and Furse, 1984). Teachers can also encourage family members to involve students in a wide variety of activities outside of school.


Sometimes the audience is other students. In school, a common audience is the reading group. However, some students may comprehend less well when reading to perform in a reading group than when reading independently. They may even react differently to different groups of children—for example, younger students as opposed to students their own age. Teachers should be aware of this possibility and assess reading comprehension in a variety of settings.


Skilled readers may employ one type of process more than the other when the situation allows them to do this without affecting their comprehension. Less-able readers may tend to rely too heavily on one type of processing in all situations, a habit that results in poorer comprehension (Walker, 2000). Unfortunately, some students have the idea that knowledge-based processing is not an appropriate reading activity, so they fail to use knowledge they have. Reading cannot be exclusively knowledge based: If it were, two people reading the same material would rarely arrive at the same conclusions, and the probability that a person could learn anything from written material would be slight. However, reading is also not exclusively text based: If it were, all people who read a written selection would agree about its meaning. It is far more likely that reading involves both information supplied by the text and information brought to the text by the reader, which combine with the context of the situation to produce the reader’s understanding of the material.


Investigative Questioning Procedure (InQuest), a comprehension strategy that combines student questioning with creative drama and encourages reader interaction with text. In this technique, the teacher stops the reading at a critical point in the story. One student takes the role of a major character, and other students take the roles of investigative reporters “on the scene.” The reporters ask the character interpretive and evaluative questions about story events. More than one character may be interviewed to delve into different viewpoints. Then the children resume reading, although the teacher may interrupt their reading several more times for other “news conferences.” When first introducing the procedure, the teacher may occasionally participate as a story character or a reporter, in order to model the processes involved. The class should evaluate the process when the entire story has been covered.


The physical context for the reading includes the room’s temperature; its lighting; environmental noise; the seating arrangement; and the presence of other people, or that of specific people. It also involves the activity that is taking place at the time, for example, taking a test or reading for pleasure. Comprehension tends to be better in comfortable, low-risk situations.


Students who need more work with relative clauses can be asked to turn two-clause sentences into two sentences. Teachers can model this activity also, as in the earlier example: “The man called my name. The man was my father.” Supervised student practice with feedback and independent practice can follow, with progressively more difficult sentences. Students can move from this activity into sentence combining, which we will examine next. Finally, they should apply their understanding in reading whole passages (Kachuck, 1981). Until they have used the skill in interpreting connected discourse, it is impossible to be sure they have mastered it.


The emphasis on standards-based instruction has resulted in the development of the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) National Educational Technology Standards (NETS), which are standards for teacher educators. To ensure that their students will be able to handle the technological challenges that they face, teachers at all levels should be able to meet these standards. The ISTE website has identified standards that students should meet to avoid the digital divide, “the barrier that individuals must overcome if they do not have access to or understand how to use computers and the Internet” (Forcier and Descy, 2008, p. 47).


Digital literacy is a subset of media literacy. [Insert Technology marginal icon]Digital literacy involves both “active interpretation of nonverbal symbolic systems” found in electronic messages and “construction of sounds, images, graphics, photos, videos, animations, and movements to add nonverbal components to electronic messages” (Valmont, 2003, p. 92). Therefore, it includes skills in viewing and visually representing. It takes in higher-order comprehension skills of analysis of illustrations, lighting, color, and movement as they contribute to the meaning of a digital presentation.


English-language learners can have problems with some types of text that they are expected to read for classwork. Lack of cultural familiarity with the text content is an obstacle for many. Using texts with culturally familiar content can help to alleviate this problem. Another useful technique is sending home books with translations of the material in the students’ first languages. Audio recordings of the text in both languages can also be beneficial. Allowing students to respond to the texts in their home languages can give them an opportunity to show more of their capabilities, and seems less discouraging for the students than trying to respond in English (Lenters, 2004/2005).


Good readers monitor their comprehension constantly and take steps to correct situations when they fail to comprehend. They may reread passages or adjust their reading techniques or rates. [Insert Intervention/Struggling readers marginal icon]Struggling readers, on the other hand, often fail to monitor their understanding of the text. They make fewer spontaneous corrections in oral reading than good readers do and also correct miscues that affect meaning less frequently than do good readers. They seem to regard reading as a decoding process, whereas good readers see it as a comprehension-seeking process.

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