Reading Comprehension Today – What’s Changed?

reading comprehension today

In recent years, the science of reading has significantly transformed teaching practices, bringing about a more evidence-based and nuanced approach to literacy instruction. This knowledge has influenced teaching methodologies, emphasising the importance of systematic and explicit phonics instruction, decoding skills, and phonemic awareness.  We’ve got a great decoding freebie here!

Yet, while the primary focus of the science of reading is on foundational skills such as phonics, decoding, and fluency, it also encompasses comprehension. The science of reading recognises that successful reading involves a combination of skills, including the ability to understand and make meaning from the text.

Moving away from teaching skills in isolation

Today, the move is away from teaching skills in isolation (eg: ‘this week we’re focusing on inferring’) but rather developing the cognitive strategies students need to comprehend texts (summarising regularly, asking questions, metacognition), as well as understanding of the written language and embedding comprehension within content instruction, integrating reading comprehension into all curriculum areas.

Reading Comprehension is an OUTCOME

“You can’t teach reading comprehension – it’s an OUTCOME” – Dr Sharon Vaughn .

If you haven’t listened to the Science of Reading Podcast featuring Dr Sharon Vaughn, listen HERE. This episode is fantastic for helping you to make the shift from what reading comprehension is, and what it isn’t.

Furthermore, here are two schools of thought around how readers comprehend texts:

  1. Cognitive strategies that help students to comprehend texts: summarising regularly, asking questions about what is read, and paying attention to if the reader is understanding.
  2. Written language – word and sentence level understanding, text structure, morphology, cohesion of texts and authors organisational strategies.

Both work in conjunction with the other and can be synthesised into the following reading comprehension lesson ideas:

  • word level study
  • sentence level study
  • text structure study
  • vocabulary
  • morphology
  • Tier 2 words that help students to access a range of texts
  • cohesion of texts
  • summarising frequently
  • self questioning – what am I reading and do I understand what I am reading?

In addition, teaching students these strategies, as well as giving students the opportunity to practise these within their own writing is more efficient and effective (Prof Timothy Shanahan). There’s a great clip on this, hosted on the Reading Science in Schools YouTube channel, as well as some general tips to improve student learning, HERE.

Finally, we LOVE this fabulous paper by Debbie Draper, ‘Five Ways to Improve Instruction – Comprehension’, which you can read HERE. It gives you the ‘how-to’ and highlights which practises to focus on within your reading comprehension instruction.

If you’re looking for some starting points for resources to support your reading comprehension lessons, we’ve curated a ‘playlist’ of sorts for you, from the Teachie Tings catalogue.

Reading Comprehension ‘playlist’