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Skill Overview

What are strategies of critical thinking?

Strategies for Comprehension are metacognitive processes used to aid readers in thinking deeply and critically about texts. The National Reading Panel in 2000 identified six "most effective" strategies for comprehension.  These six used in combination reflect the cognitive processes good readers use to comprehend. The six strategies are:

  1. Self-Monitoring

  2. Generating Questions

  3. Use of Graphic Organizers

  4. Mental Imagery

  5. Retelling and Summarizing

  6. Answering Questions


What tasks should students be able to demonstrate to indicate mastery of this skill?

  • Monitor comprehension independently

  • Select and complete graphic organizers that align to the text's organization

  • Actively generate questions and find answers to those questions as they read

  • Create mental images as they read and verbalize those in book discussions


Why is understanding strategies of comprehension important to reading?

Specific strategies support critical thinking that is necessary to form a mental model from what is read and integrates it with what is already known.

Structured Literacy Tools

Sequential and Cumulative

Systematic and Explicit

To Mastery

Reading comprehension requires the thoughtful interaction between reader and text.  The sequential nature of critical thinking begins with decoding the word, activating the meaning processor to make sense of the word, and finally placing the word(s) in context (Seidenberg & McClelland, 1989).  As the reader moves through these simultaneous and interactive functions of reading a mental model emerges.  During this process the reader’s working memory is converging new knowledge with existing (background) knowledge.  Finally, the comprehended text is incorporated and can be applied to the reader’s experience of the world and supports understanding of text in future encounters and other contexts.

Teaching comprehension is essentially teaching students about thinking.  This is best done through modeling metacognitive strategies and making learning visible. Interactions with every text should include explanations and modeling of language comprehension skills, including showing students how relevant background knowledge supports understanding, types of text (literacy knowledge) and author’s word choice (vocabulary) impact meaning.  Instruction should include an outline (graphically presented) of how the text is structured.  Read alouds provide the best medium for demonstrating and making explicit the process of verbal reasoning (which is connecting existing knowledge to new knowledge) and showing students how two ideas within a text are related.

Mastery can only be achieved in comprehension when both domains--word recognition and language comprehension--are strong (Gough & Tunmer, 1986).  Students can be taught a variety of “strategies” but will not be able to apply independently unless the domains that anchor comprehension are solid. 

Practice Resources

Downloadable Files From BRI Resources
Downloadable Files From Literacy Partners