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Reading Interventions:
Text Comprehension

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Text Comprehension
Least Intensive Interventions
Moderate/Intensive Interventions

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Text Comprehension

Text comprehension is important because comprehension is the reason for reading. It is both purposeful and active and can be developed by teaching various comprehension strategies. These strategies can be taught through explicit instruction, cooperative learning and by helping readers use strategies flexibly and in combination.

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Text Comprehension
Least Intensive Interventions

Using graphic and semantic organizers

Graphic organizers illustrate concepts and interrelationships among concepts in a text, using diagrams or other pictorial devices. Graphic organizers are known by different names, such as maps, webs, graphs, charts, frames or clusters. Semantic organizers (also called semantic maps or semantic webs) are graphic organizers that look somewhat like a spider web. In a semantic organizer, lines connect a central concept to a variety of related ideas and events.

Regardless of the label, graphic organizers can help readers focus on concepts and how they are related to other concepts. Graphic organizers help students read to learn from informational text in the content areas, such as science and social studies textbooks and trade books. Used with informational text, graphic organizers can help students see how concepts fit common text structures. Graphic organizers are also used with narrative text, or stories, as story maps.

Graphic organizers can:

  1. help students focus on text structure as they read;
  2. provide students with tools they can use to examine and visually represent relationships in a text; and
  3. help students write well-organized summaries of a text.

Answering and Generating Questions

Answering questions. Teachers have long used questions to guide and monitor students’ learning. Research shows that teacher questioning strongly supports and advances students’ learning from reading. Questions appear to be effective for improving learning from reading because they:

  1. give students a purpose for reading;
  2. focus students’ attention on what they are to learn;
  3. help students to think actively as they read;
  4. encourage students to monitor their comprehension; and
  5. help students to review content and relate what they have learned to what they already know.

Question-answering instruction encourages students to learn to answer questions better and, therefore, to learn more as they read. One type of question-answering instruction simply teaches students to look back in the text to find answers to questions that they cannot answer after the initial reading. Another type helps students understand question-answer relationships – the relationships between questions and where the answers to those questions are found. In this instruction, readers learn to answer questions that require an understanding of information that is:

  1. text explicit (stated explicitly in a single sentence);
  2. text implicit (implied by information presented in two or more sentences); or
  3. scriptal (not found in the text at all, but part of the reader’s prior knowledge or experience).

Generating questions. Teaching students to ask their own questions improves their active processing of text and their comprehension. By generating questions, students become aware of whether they can answer the questions and if they understand what they are reading. Students learn to ask themselves questions that require them to integrate information from different segments of text. For example, students can be taught to ask main idea questions that relate to important information in a text.

Examples of Question-Answer Relationships

Text: (from The Skirt, by Gary Soto)

After stepping off the bus, Miata Ramirez turned around and gasped, “Ay!” The school bus lurched, coughed a puff of stinky exhaust, and made a wide turn at the corner. The driver strained as he worked the steering wheel like the horns of a bull.

Miata yelled for the driver to stop. She started running after the bus. Her hair whipped against her shoulders. A large book bag tugged at her arm with each running step, and bead earrings jingled as they banged against her neck.

“My skirt!” she cried loudly. “Stop!”

Question: Did Miata try to get the driver to stop?
Answer: Yes.
Question-Answer Relationship (Text explicit, because the information is given in one sentence): “Miata yelled for the driver to stop.”

Question: Why did Miata want the driver to stop?
Answer: She suddenly remembered that she had left a skirt on the bus.
Question-Answer Relationship (Text implicit, because the information must be inferred from different parts of the text): Miata is crying “My skirt!” as she is trying to get the driver to stop.

Question: Was the skirt important to Miata?
Answer: Yes.
Question-Answer Relationship (Scriptal, because the information is not contained in the text, but must be drawn from the reader’s prior knowledge): She probably would not have tried so hard to get the driver to stop if the skirt were not important to her.

Recognizing Story Structure

Story Structure. Story structure refers to the way the content and events of a story are organized into a plot. Students who can recognize story structure have greater appreciation, understanding and memory for stories. In story structure instruction, students learn to identify the categories of content (setting, initiating events, internal reactions, goals, attempts and outcomes) and how this content is organized into a plot. Often, students learn to recognize story structure through the use of story maps. Story maps, a type of graphic organizer, show the sequence of events in simple stories. Instruction in the content and organization of stories improves students’ comprehension and memory of stories.

Summarizing. A summary is a synthesis of the important ideas in a text. Summarizing requires students to determine what is important in what they are reading, to condense this information and to put it into their own words. Instruction in summarizing helps students:

    1. identify or generate main ideas;
    2. connect the main or central ideas;
    3. eliminate redundant and unnecessary information; and
    4. remember what they read.

Effective comprehension strategy instruction is explicit, or direct. Research shows that explicit teaching techniques are particularly effective for comprehension strategy instruction. In explicit instruction, teachers tell readers why and when they should use strategies, what strategies to use and how to apply them. The steps of explicit instruction typically include direct explanation, teacher modeling (“thinking aloud”), guided practice and application.

    • Direct explanation. The teacher explains to students why the strategy helps comprehension and when to apply the strategy.
    • Modeling. The teacher models, or demonstrates, how to apply the strategy, usually by “thinking aloud” while reading the text that the students are using.
    • Guided practice. The teacher guides and assists students as they learn how and when to apply the strategy.
    • Application. The teacher helps students practice the strategy until they can apply it independently.

Cooperative Learning. Cooperative learning (and the closely related concept, collaborative learning) involves students working together as partners or in small groups on clearly defined tasks. Cooperative learning instruction has been used successfully to teach comprehension strategies in content-area subjects. Students work together to understand content-area texts, helping each other learn and apply comprehension strategies. Teachers help students learn to work in groups. Teachers also provide demonstrations of the comprehension strategies and monitor the progress of students.

Multiple-Strategy Instruction. Multiple-strategy instruction teaches students how to use strategies flexibly as they are needed to assist their comprehension. In a well-known example of multiple-strategy instruction called “reciprocal teaching,” the teacher and students work together so that the students learn four comprehension strategies:

    1. asking questions about the text they are reading;
    2. summarizing parts of the text;
    3. clarifying words and sentences they don’t understand; and
    4. predicting what might occur next in the text.

Teachers and students use these four strategies flexibly as they are needed in reading literature and informational texts.

Prior Knowledge. Good readers draw on prior knowledge and experience to help
them understand what they are reading. You can help your students make use of their prior knowledge to improve their comprehension. Before your students read, preview the text with them. As part of previewing, ask the students what they already know about the content of the selection (for example, the topic, the concept or the time period). Ask them what they know about the author and what text structure he or she is likely to use. Discuss the important vocabulary used in the text. Show students some pictures or diagrams to prepare them for what they are about to read.

Using mental imagery. Good readers often form mental pictures, or images, as they read. Readers (especially younger readers) who visualize during reading understand and remember what they read better than readers who do not visualize. Help your students learn to form visual images of what they are reading. For example, urge them to picture a setting, character or event described in the text.

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Bloom’s Taxonomy – Higher Level Questioning

Questioning should be used purposefully to achieve well-defined goals. An instructor should ask questions that will require students to use the thinking skills that he is trying to develop. A system exists for organizing those thinking skills. Bloom’s Taxonomy (Benjamin Bloom (ed), Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: Handbook I Cognitive Domain (New York: David McKay Co., 1956)) is a hierarchal system of ordering thinking skills from lower to higher, with the higher levels including all of the cognitive skills from the lower levels.

Below are the levels of the taxonomy, a brief explanation of each one, and examples of questions that require students to use thinking skills at each level.

  • Knowledge – Remembering previously learned material, e.g., definitions, concepts, principles, formulas.
    • What is the definition of “verb”?
    • What is the law of supply and demand?
    • What are the stages of cell division?
  • Comprehension – Understanding the meaning of remembered material, usually demonstrated by explaining in one’s own words or citing examples.
    • What are some words commonly used as adjectives?
    • What does the graph on page 19 mean?
    • Explain the process of digestion.
  • Application – Using information in a new context to solve a problem, to answer a question or to perform another task. The information used may be rules, principles, formulas, theories, concepts or procedures.
    • Using the procedures we have discussed, what would you include in a summary of Bacon’s essay?
    • How does the law of supply and demand explain the current increase in fruit and vegetable prices?
    • Based on your knowledge, what statistical procedure is appropriate for this problem?
  • Analysis – Breaking a piece of material into its parts and explaining the relationship between the parts.
    • What are the major points that E. B. White used to develop the thesis of this essay?
    • What factors in the American economy are affecting the current price of steel?
    • What is the relationship of probability to statistical analysis?
  • Synthesis – Putting parts together to form a new whole, pattern or structure.
    • How might style of writing and the thesis of a given essay be related?
    • How are long-term and short-term consumer loan interest rates related to the prime rate?
    • How would you proceed if you were going to do an experiment on caloric intake?
  • Evaluation – Using a set of criteria, established by the student or specified by the instructor, to arrive at a reasoned judgment.
    • Does Hemingway use adjectives effectively to enhance his theme in The Old Man and the Sea?
    • How successful would the proposed federal income tax cut be in controlling inflation as well as decreasing unemployment?
    • How well does the Stillman Diet meet the criteria for an ideal weight reduction plan?

Lower and Higher Level Questions
At times, instead of referring to a specific level of the taxonomy, people refer to “lower-level” and “higher-level” questions or behaviors. Lower-level questions are those at the knowledge, comprehension and simple application levels of the taxonomy. Higher-level questions are those requiring complex application (e.g., analysis, synthesis and evaluation skills).

    1. Usually questions at the lower levels are appropriate for:
    2. evaluating students’ preparation and comprehension.
    3. diagnosing students’ strengths and weaknesses.
    4. reviewing and/or summarizing content.

Questions at higher levels of the taxonomy are usually most appropriate for:

    1. encouraging students to think more deeply and critically.
    2. problem solving.
    3. encouraging discussions.
    4. stimulating students to seek information on their own.

Typically, an instructor would vary the level of questions even within a single class period. For example, an instructor might ask the synthesis question, “How can style of writing and the thesis of a given essay be related?” If she gets inadequate or incorrect student response to that question, she might move to questions at a lower level of the taxonomy to check whether students know and understand material. For example, the instructor might ask, “What is the definition of ‘thesis statement’?” or “What are some variables in writing style?” If students cannot answer those questions, the instructor might have to temporarily change her teaching strategy, e.g., briefly review the material. If students can answer lower level questions, the instructor must choose a teaching strategy to help students with the more complex synthesis which the original questions requires, e.g., propose a concrete problem which can be used as a basis for moving to the more abstract synthesis. In the example used here, the teacher might direct students to Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal” and ask, “What is Swift’s thesis?” and “What are some terms you can use to describe Swift’s writing style?”

It is not essential that an instructor be able to classify each question at a specific level. The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives is introduced as a tool which is helpful for defining the kinds of thinking skills instructors expect from students and for helping to establish congruence between the instructor’s goals and the questions he asks.

Open and Closed Questions
In addition to asking questions at various levels of the taxonomy, an instructor might consider whether he is asking closed or open questions.

A closed question is one in which there are a limited number of acceptable answers, most of which will usually be anticipated by the instructor. For example, “What is a definition for ‘adjective’?” requires that students give some characteristics of adjectives and their function. While students may put the answer in their own words, correct answers will be easily judged and anticipated based on a rather limited set of characteristics and functions of adjectives.

An open question is one in which there are many acceptable answers, most of which will not be anticipated by the instructor. For example, “What is an example of an adjective?” requires only that students name “any adjective.” The teacher may only judge an answer as incorrect if another part of speech or a totally unrelated answer is given. Although the specific answer may not be anticipated, the instructor usually does have criteria for judging whether a particular answer is acceptable or unacceptable.

Both open and closed questions may be at any level of the taxonomy.

  • An open low-level question might be:
    • “What is an example of an adjective?”
  • An open high-level question might be:
    • “What are some ways we might solve the energy crisis?”
  • A closed low-level question:
    • “What are the stages of cell division?”
  • A closed high-level question:
    • “Given the medical data before you, would you say this patient is intoxicated or suffering from a diabetic reaction?”

Courtesy of:


Sequencing Questions and Bloom’s Taxonomy
Sequencing questions may be accomplished through Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive Objectives. Pose two questions at different levels of thinking and in sequential order. Here is an example of the taxonomy with questions that match each level of thinking.

Lower Level Questions

  • Knowledge (recalling specific information, describe, name, state, tell, define) – Who was our first President?
  • Comprehension (interpreting, explaining, summarizing, interpret, summarize, state in own words) – Which month marked the most significant events leading to
    the Revolutionary War?
  • Application (using concepts, generalizations or skill in a new situation, demonstrate, use, predict, infer, act) – Using the mapping techniques we learned yesterday, how would you show someone to get from Boston to Philadelphia?

Higher Level Questions

  • Analysis (examining parts of a whole and their relationships, distinguish, examine, determine the cause and effect, explain the main idea )
    • How are the two neighborhoods alike?
    • How are they different? What does each of the figures in the political cartoon about the Revolutionary War represent?
    • What is the cartoonist trying to tell us?
  • Synthesis (putting parts back together to create a new whole, develop a plan, or communicate a new way)
    • From our study of cities during colonial times, what things do you think were the most important ideas to consider in building a new city during that time period in history?
    • What would include in your dream neighborhood?
    • What proposal would you make to improve downtown Mt. Pleasant’s Play Scape?
  • Evaluation (making a judgment using a specific set of criteria)
    • What do you think might have happened if the British won the Revolutionary War?
    • Whose perspective makes the most sense to you?
    • Which was the authentic part of the video?

Examples of effective questions are the following.

  1. What were some causes of the Revolutionary War?
  2. Who was our first president? What was his position on the question of slavery?
  3. What are the symbols in our flag? What does each symbol mean?
  4. What are some ways neighborhoods change over time?
  5. What are two features in our community that distinguish it from other communities?

Ineffective Questions
Certain types of questions are ineffective because they are unfocused, closed, requiring only a yes-or- no answer or are slanted. They cause confusion for the learner. Examples of poorly constructed questions are the following:

  1. What happened in the Civil War?
  2. Was George Washington our first President?
  3. What makes our region the best in the country?
  4. How did Sojourner Truth live her life?
  5. What does our flag mean?

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Taba’s Techniques

Technique #1
Technique #1 has the following types of questions:

  • Beginning Questions
    • What do you think about when you hear the word abolitionist?
    • What did you see in the movie, Armistad?
    • Reflecting on the movie, what do you think of when you hear the name John Adams?
  • Categorizing Questions
    • Look over our list of items. Could any be grouped together? Why did you group them in that way?
  • Labeling Questions
    • Look at this group. Can you think of a label or name for it?

Technique #2
Technique #2 helps learners interpret data, analyze data and draw conclusions.

  • Beginning Question
    • What did you see on the trip to the convenience store?
  • Analyzing Question
    • What differences did you notice between the grocery store and the convenience store?
  • Generalizing Question
    • What conclusions could we draw from our field trips to Mt. Pleasant, Midland and Clare?
    • From our trip, what can you say about the retail stores in these three cities?

Technique #3
Technique #3 offers supportive questions that assist in guiding discussions. Here are some examples of supportive questions:

  • Targeting Question
    • Listen to the original question. Do you recall what I asked?
  • Clarifying or Refocusing Question
    • Can you give me a more specific example of what you mean?
  • Summarizing Question
    • Could you state that idea by using one broad concept or label?
    • What conclusions did you draw from this investigation?

Maxim, G. W. (2003).dynamic Social Studies for Elementary Classrooms
Martorella, P. H. (1998). Social Studies for Elementary School Children
Michaelis and Garcia. (1998). Social Studies for Children

Mnemonic Instruction

Mnemonic instruction is an instructional strategy commonly used with students who have disabilities, as well as with their non-disabled peers. It is designed to improve memory of key information. Mnemonic instruction facilitates access to the general education curriculum by giving students the tools they need to better encode information so that it will be much easier to retrieve it from memory at later points. Mnemonics can be used in language arts (i.e., vocabulary, spelling and letter recognition), math, science, social studies, foreign language and other academic subjects. Use of this instructional strategy does not require a wealth of additional materials or extensive planning and preparation time (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 1998).

Mnemonics is a memory enhancing instructional strategy that involves teaching students to link new information that is taught to information they already know. According to Levin (1993), mnemonic instruction is useful for students across a wide age range. Though students in the early elementary grades are usually not expected to learn and recall as many facts as older students, they are involved in a number of activities that involve making associations that employ mnemonic principles. For example, associations linking the letter “a” to the word “apple” or “f” to “flower” employ mnemonic principles. Teachers instruct students in the use of mnemonic strategies by using both visual and verbal cues. There are at least three distinct methods for teaching mnemonics: keyword, pegword and letter strategies. These methods are briefly described below.

Keyword Strategy
The keyword strategy is based on linking new information to keywords that are already encoded to memory. A teacher might teach a new vocabulary word by first identifying a keyword that sounds similar to the word being taught and easily represented by a picture or drawing. Then the teacher generates a picture that connects the word to be learned with its definition. According to Scruggs & Mastropieri (n.d.), the keyword strategy works best when the information to be learned is new to students.

To teach students the definition of the new word, the teacher will ask the students to remember the keyword, envision the picture and how it relates to the definition, and finally recall the definition. If a teacher is trying to teach her students the definition of the old English word carline , she will first identify a good keyword. In this instance, “car” is appropriate because it is easy to represent visually and it sounds like the first part of the vocabulary word. Carline means “witch” so the teacher shows the students a picture of a car with a witch sitting in it. When asked to recall the definition of carline, students engage in a four-step process:

      1. Think back to the keyword (car),
      2. Think of the picture (a car),
      3. Remember what else was happening in the picture (a witch was in the car), and
      4. Produce the definition (witch) (Scruggs & Mastropieri, n.d., p. 2).

Pegword Strategy
The pegword strategy uses rhyming words to represent numbers or order. The rhyming words or “peg words” provide visual images that can be associated with facts or events and can help students associate the events with the number that rhymes with the peg word. It has proven useful in teaching students to remember ordered or numbered information (Scruggs & Mastropieri, n.d.). For example, “one” is typically represented by the word pegword “bun,” two is represented by the pegword “shoe,” and “three” is represented by the pegword “tree.” Teachers can use these pegwords to help students remember historical facts.

During a study of the American Revolutionary War, a teacher wanted her students to remember the three major Acts that the British Parliament passed that led to the American Revolutionary War: the Sugar Act of 1764, the Stamp Act (1765), and the Townshend Acts (1767). To help them remember the Acts and the order in which they occurred, she created the following mnemonics: for the Sugar Act of 1764, she created a picture of a bowl of sugar (reminding students of the Sugar Act of 1764) being poured on a hamburger bun (“bun” is the pegword for “one,” indicating the first Act that Parliament passed). For the Stamp Act, the teacher created a picture of a pair of shoes (“shoe” is the pegword for “two”) with a stamp (to remind students of the Stamp Act) on it. Finally, she created a picture of a teapot with the Union Jack on it (to remind the students of the Boston Tea Party, which resulted from the Townshend Acts) and a tree coming out the top of the teapot (“tree” is the pegword for “three”).

Letter Strategy
Teaching letter strategies involves the use of acronyms and acrostics. Acronyms are words whose individual letters can represent elements in lists of information, such as HOMES to represent the Great Lakes (e.g., Huron, Ontario, Michigan). Acrostics are sentences whose first letters represent to-be-remembered information, such as “My very educated mother just served us nine pizzas,” to remember the nine planets in order (e.g., Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars). (Scruggs & Mastropieri, n.d.). Teachers can use these letter strategies to help students remember lists of information.

Example A
The mnemonic “IT FITS” (King-Sears, Mercer, & Sindelar, 1992) is an acronym providing the following steps to create mnemonics for vocabulary words:

dentify the term (vocabulary word, e.g., “impecunious”).
ell the definition of the term (e.g., “having no money”).
nd a keyword (e.g., “penniless imp”).
hink about the definition as it relates to the keyword, and imagine the definition doing something with the keyword. For example, “an imp tried to buy something but found that his pockets contained no money.”
tudy what you imagined until you know the definition (Foil & Alber, 2002).

Example B
Another mnemonic device for creating keywords for new vocabulary is LINCS (Ellis, 1992). During a unit on medieval history, students must learn a new vocabulary word,“catapult.” The teacher gives the following instructions:

ist the parts. Write the word on a study card, and list the most important parts of the definition on the back. On the front side of the card write the word “catapult” as the term to be defined, and on the backside of the card write “to throw or launch as if by an ancient device for hurling missiles.”
magine the picture. Create a mental picture and describe it. For example, something being launched over or through a barrier.
N ote a reminding word. Think of a familiar word that sounds like the vocabulary word. For example, a “cat” and a “pole” sounds similar to “pult” — write this on the bottom half of the card.
C onstruct a LINCing story. Make up a short story about the meaning of the word that
includes the word to be remembered, for example, a cat pole-vaulting over a castle wall.
S elf-Test. Test your memory forward to back; for example, look at the word “catapult” and “cat pole” on the front of the card, and say aloud the definition on the back of the card, as well as the image of a cat pole-vaulting over a castle wall. Reverse this process by looking at the back of the card to self-test the vocabulary word and keyword (Foil & Alber, 2002).

General Comprehension Strategies

  • Comprehension monitoring: Involves students using a set of steps to recognize when they have difficulties understanding.
  • Story Structure: Knowledge of story parts (e.g., characters, setting, problem sequence of events, problem resolution) facilitates comprehension.
  • Cooperative learning: Students work together to apply comprehension strategies. Effective with clearly defined tasks and content-area reading.
  • Multiple-strategy instruction: Students use different strategies flexibly as needed to assist their comprehension

Courtesy of:
Using Progress Monitoring as Data-Based Decision-Making: Materials for Trainers, Presentation for ESU #1, Spring 2006, Dr. Erica Lembke, University of Missouri

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Text Comprehension
Moderate/Intensive Interventions

Story Mapping

Advanced Story Map Instruction
Students are taught to use a basic ‘Story Grammar’ to map out, identify and analyze significant components of narrative text (e.g., fiction, biographies, historical accounts). Reserve at least a full instructional session to introduce this comprehension strategy. (For effective-teaching tips, consult the guidelines presented in “Introducing Academic Strategies to Students: A Direct- Instruction Approach”).


  1. Overhead transparencies of short stories or other narrative texts, transparency markers
  2. Student copies of Advanced Story Map Worksheet, and practice narrative passages
  3. (optional) or reading/text books


  1. Prepare overheads of sample narrative passages.

Intervention Script:

  1. Introduce the concept of a Story Grammar to students and preview main elements. (Refer to the Advanced Story Map Worksheet as a guide.) Tell students that a Story Grammar can help them to better understand a story’s characters and events.
  2. Set aside at least four successive instructional days to introduce the major components of the Story Grammar: (A) Identifying important characters and their personalities and motivation, (B) Identifying main problem and significant plot developments, (C) Noting characters’ attempts to solve problems, and (D) Identifying a narrative’s overarching theme. Interactive Instruction: Make the instruction of each story component highly interactive, with clear teacher demonstration and use of examples. ‘Think aloud’ as you read through a story with the class to illustrate to students how you arrive at your conclusions. Elicit student discussion about the story. As you fill out sections of the Advanced Story Map Worksheet on the overhead, have students write responses on their own copies of the worksheet.
  3. Error Correction: When students commit errors, direct them to the appropriate section of the narrative to reread it for the correct answer. Use guiding questions and modeling as necessary to help students to come up with an appropriate response.
  4. After students have been introduced to the key Story Grammar elements, the group is now ready to use the Grammar to analyze a sample narrative passage. Have students read independently through a story. Pause at pre-determined points to ask the group key questions (e.g., “Who is the main character? What is she like?”). After discussion, encourage students to write their answers on the Advanced Story Map Worksheet while you fill out the same worksheet as an overhead. Give specific praise to students for appropriately identifying Story Grammar elements.
  5. When students are able to use the Story Grammar independently, have them read through selected stories and complete the Advanced Story Map Worksheet on their own. Check students’ responses and conference individually with those students requiring additional guidance and support.


  • Edit student creative writing using the Story Map Worksheet. Students can use the Advanced Story Map Worksheet to check the structure of stories that they have written. Peer editors can also use the worksheet to give feedback to students about the clarity of their story structure.
  • Consider the Story Grammar as a tool for analyzing historical narratives. Many historical accounts are structured as dramatic narratives — with central characters taking part in key events. Students can productively use elements of a Story Grammar to analyze these historical narratives.


  • Students do not seem motivated to use the Story Grammar framework. To make a Story Grammar analysis more inviting, consider screening a video of a popular movie or television program. At key points, stop the tape, have students complete relevant sections of the Advanced Story Map Worksheet and discuss the results. This exercise can be highly motivating and also makes clear to students that a Story Grammar is a universal tool that help us understand narratives presented in any medium.
  • Some students do not appear to be successful in using the Story Grammar independently. Pull aside individuals or small groups of students who might be having similar problems mastering the Story Grammar. As you read together through a story, have students “think aloud” the strategies that they follow to identify Story Grammar elements. If you discover that a student is using a faulty approach (e.g., routinely selecting the first character named in the story as the main character) you can gently correct the student by modeling and demonstrating more appropriate strategies.

Gardill, M.C. & Jitendra, A.K. (1999). Advanced story map instruction: Effects on the reading comprehension of students with learning disabilities. The Journal of Special Education, 28, 2-17.

Advanced Story Map Worksheet
(Adapted from Gardill & Jitendra, 1999)

Student: __________________ Date: _____________ Class: _____________

Story Name: ___________________________________________________

1. Who is the central character? ____________________________________

2. What is the main character like? (Describe his/her key qualities or personality traits)________________________________________________

3. Who is another important character in the story? _____________________

4. What is this other important character like? _________________________

5. Where and when does the story take place? _________________________

6. What is the major problem that the main character is faced with? _________

7. How does the main character attempt to solve this major problem? _______

8. What is the twist, surprise, or unexpected development that takes place in the story?______________________________________________________

9. How is the problem solved or not solved?

10. What is the theme or lesson of the story?

Other Story Mapping links:

Courtesy of:
Jim Wright http://www.interventioncentral.org

Collaborative Strategic Reading

Collaborative Strategic Reading is a procedure for teaching reading skills to mixed level classrooms. It incorporates and builds upon effective, well-tested tactics (i.e., cooperative learning and reciprocal teaching) to offer a systematic yet practical approach to reading comprehension. There are four complementary strategies: Preview, Clunk and Click, Get the Gist and Wrap Up.

Program: Collaborative Strategic Reading
Publisher/Source: Sopris West or Manual available for professional development downloadable off the web.
Educational Level: Grades 3 – 6 or Remedial Grades 7 -12
Author: Sharon Vaughn et al

Reading Mastery

Reading Mastery I teaches basic decoding and comprehension skills. Intensive, explicit phonics instruction helps use the words immediately as they read stories. Reading Mastery II expands basic reading skills. Strategies for decoding difficult words and answering interpretive comprehension questions are introduced. Reading Mastery III focuses on the development of reasoning skills, building background knowledge and higher order comprehension skills. Reading Mastery IV continues to stress reasoning and reference skills and the development of higher-level comprehension skills. Reading Mastery V focuses on building students understanding of literature, literary language and analysis, reasoning strategies and extends writing are incorporated with story selection. Reading Mastery VI helps students gain insight into literary language and a variety of literary strategies.

Program: Reading Mastery (Rainbow)
Publisher/Source: Science Research Associates
Educational Level: Grades K -6
Author: Siegfied Engelmann et al

Read Well

Read Well is a reading program that combines systematic phonics, mastery-based learning and rich content. From the beginning, children develop strong decoding skills, comprehension strategies and sophisticated content knowledge. Read Well systematically introduces and reviews skills and strategies. It utilizes narrative and expository content that piques learner interest. A teacher/student “duet story format” and students ”solo story format” promote student reading independence while ensuring education and enjoyable material. Reading and writing activities include story maps, story retells and guided reports. Read Well stories are scaffolded to support increasing independent reading by students. As students gain independent reading skills, student-read text gradually increases and teacher-read text is gradually withdrawn.

Program: Read Well
Publisher/Source: Sopris West
Educational Level: First, Special Education 2nd and 3rd. Current version appropriate for some kindergarten students
Author: Marilyn Sprick

Dyad or Buddy Reading

In Buddy Reading, a person [or a parent] who knows how to read well reads with a person [or a child] who can’t read as well. Together they choose a book that isn’t too hard and find a good spot to read.

Buddy Reading helps the person who can’t read as well hear the sounds of words when someone else reads with them. When they learn the sounds of the words better, they are able to figure out the pronunciation of the words. The better reader helps the other reader as they read the book together. The readers can take turns reading, or read the words together. The better reader can help with pronunciation, the meaning of words and understanding the story. They can ask questions as they read. The buddy can give clues when the student reader gets stuck on a word.

Questions like:

  1. “What sound does the word start with?”
  2. “What word would make sense there?”
  3. “Does that sound right?”
  4. “Will the picture help you?”

The better reader might ask questions about the story like:

  1. “Who are the characters?”
  2. “Where does the story take place?”
  3. “What problem does the character have?”
  4. “What kind of trouble is in the story?”
  5. “How is the problem fixed?”
  6. “Tell me what is happening in the story so far.”

Anyone can help people who can’t read by reading to them, or reading with them and when they stumble on a word, you can help them sound out the word. A good reader always uses at least two strategies before giving the word to the reader who is learning.

When you read to your buddy:

  1. Practice reading aloud by yourself a few times.
  2. Make your buddy feel comfortable and welcome .
  3. Sit side by side .
  4. Let your buddy hold the book!
  5. Talk about the title and the author.
  6. Look through the pictures – let your buddy predict what will happen.
  7. Encourage your buddy to ask questions and point out details.
  8. Stop and talk about the characters and events from time to time.
  9. When you finish reading, ask about his favorite part or character and tell him your favorite, too!

Reading Buddy Strategies:
These are some things you can try with your little buddy to help them read.

  1. Read Aloud – read to your buddy, but make sure he look at the words while you’re reading!
  2. Echo Reading – First, you read a sentence or paragraph, then let your buddy read the same sentence or paragraph.
  3. Choral Reading – Read at the same time – out loud!
  4. Take Turns Reading – first you read a sentence or paragraph, then let your buddy read the next one.

When Your Buddy Gets Stuck:
Here are some things you should try when your buddy can’t figure out a word.

  1. Wait - give them a chance to figure it out by themselves!
  2. Tell them to look at the pictures for clues about the story.
  3. Ask them what would make sense.
  4. Skip the word, and read the rest of the sentence.
  5. Have them look for words or patterns they recognize.
  6. Have them look for letters or sounds they recognize.
  7. Give them a choice – is it this or that?
  8. Once they know the word, have them reread the sentence.
  9. Never make your buddy feel bad because he can’t figure out the word.
  10. Most of all, praise your buddy! You can say things like:
    • I like the way you read that!
    • I like how you got the first sounds of that word!
    • You’re really smart – you figured it out all by yourself!

Courtesy of:


QuickReads is a research-based fluency program that features short, high interest nonfiction texts designed to be read quickly and meaningfully. It is designed for students who read at grade levels 2 – 4. QuickReads can improve fluency, comprehension, background knowledge and vocabulary.

QuickReads has a classroom-validated instructional routine that is done with students daily that takes 15 minutes. QuickReads promotes fluent reading by:

  1. Supporting automaticity through the use of grade level, high frequency words, and phonics/syllabic patterns necessary for success at each grade level.
  2. Developing content-rich vocabulary, consistent comprehension strategies and critical background knowledge.
  3. Helping students learn more about critical curriculum areas with a focus on social studies and science.
  4. Helping students build background knowledge by reading five connected text passages around one topic.
  5. Modeling fluent reading by teacher model.

Evidence of Positive Effects on Reading Achievement: Field-testing in classrooms demonstrated significant fluency gains for both native English speakers as well as English language learners. For additional information see website:

Local evidence of positive effects: Local School districts within Heartland have data available on fluency gains on students.

Program: QuickReads
Source/Publisher: Pearson Learning
Educational Level: 2nd – 4th grade and remedial 5th – 7th
Author: Alfrieda Hiebart

(Reading Excellence: Word Attack and Rate Development Strategies)

The REWARDS method is a flexible strategy to move students from early elementary reading level to on of increased fluency and comprehension. Many student having mastered basic readings skills have difficulty with multisyllabic words. The REWARDS method of decoding words by segmenting their parts is key to this program. It has been field tested with positive results in intensive remedial programs as well as in general and special education classrooms.

Program: REWARDS (Reading Excellence: Word Attack and Rate Development Strategies)
Publisher/Source: Sopris West
Education level: Grades 3-7
Author: Anita Archer

PALS (Peer Assisted Learning Strategies)

Peer Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) is a class-wide peer-tutoring program providing supplemental practice and instruction on key reading skills. K-PALS focuses on phonemic awareness, alphabetic principle and sight word reading. First Grade PALS focuses on alphabetic principle, fluency and sight word reading. Second-Eighth Grade PALS focuses on fluency and accuracy in connected text and reading comprehension strategies of summarization, main idea and predication. High School PALS focuses on Fluency and comprehension skills within the context of a career, job oriented structure. Lessons are provided to train students to be “readers and coaches.” Students are taught correction procedures and instructional cues. K-8 PALS can be used in general or special educational classrooms. High School PALS has only been validated in special education and remedial settings.

Program: PALS (Peer Assisted Learning Strategies)
Publisher/Source: Vanderbilt University
Educational level: K, 1, 2-6, 7-12
Author: Lynn and Doug Fuchs

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Questions? Comments? Please email Scott or Tracey.