Technology for Reading Comprehension : 7 Best Strategies

In my previous post, I listed the 7 Best Reading Comprehension Strategies. Below are suggestions for how to use technology to work on each goal. Those of you who were at my Everyone Reading lecture will recognize many of these, though I’ve added a few new ones! While the research paper was for these strategies being used K-3, I use them through middle school, so you’ll see many of these activities are more Upper Elementary and Middle School appropriate.

1. Activating Prior Knowledge (or Making Connections to the Text)

I like to use graphic organizers to help students connect to the text: text-to-self comes most easily, but I also focus on text-to-text (which includes diverse “text” types, including movies, art, etc.), and text-to-world.

My favorite graphic organizers are:

I also use visuals as a way of activating prior knowledge: I use instagram to find interesting pictures related to a topic, National Geographic has vivid pictures and videos, I just do my own Google searches for relevant images that can inspire conversations and build connections (which enhances reading comprehension!).

2. & 3. & 4. Predicting & Questioning & Fixing Up Strategies

I have grouped these since my intervention approaches to the three are pretty similar… They also interact: predictions are implicit questions (“Will this happen?), and to do accurate fixing up, you’re always questioning, “Does this make sense?”

With both predicting, questioning, and fixing up or monitoring, I find that I do a lot of modeling (which I subsequently fade).  Initially, I read a text and take a screen cast video of my thinking (“think aloud”). I used to use Screen-cast-o-matic, but QuickTime now does easy video casts with newer Macbooks. With these, you can read along & speak what you are thinking, modeling any of the interventions.

With time, I use Google Docs to annotate texts with questions: I practice Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR), so I begin with making Comments that ask different types of questions: Where did she move to? Who is in the basement? I then move on to putting in comment with just the first question word (Who… ? When…?). Thereafter, I’ll put in a Comment but not write anything on it (it signals to students when they should be asking a question or making a prediction). Finally, students annotate their own texts with their own questions and predictions.


Probably too tiny to see, but a sample of a highly structured Google Doc, with several teacher-written questions

5. Visualizing

The internet is an amazing resource for finding images. For fiction, my favorite activities are: “casting” a movie (using imdb or Google searches to find various characters), being location scouts (finding images that match the settings), and being a producer or prop consultant (finding other images that are relevant and important to the story). These can all be combined to make a movie poster. Photo editors I like are:

Students can also combine these elements to Summarize visually (see “7” below).

6. Making Inferences

I always begin instruction about inferences with visuals. Visual Thinking Strategies is a way of interacting with an analyzing visual texts, which is structured and evidence-based, but you can find any art that you like and have students make inferences based on the picture. I like this picture… it tells such a tale:

Tornado Over Kansas inference

Tornado Over Kansas. So many inferences to be made!

I also use Graphic Organizers to help with inferences. Readwritethink has one about character changes (here). I also link Questioning with Drawing Inferences a lot (for Why? and even How? questions), so students have multiple exposures about how to make inferences.

For some low-to-no-tech options, check out minds-in-bloom.

7. Retelling or Summarizing

Summarizing and retelling can be done via slideshows. If they’ve already found images while working on Visualizing, then they’re one step ahead. Some apps and sites I like for creating slideshows are:

Students can also make super-short videos to summarize a short passage, poem, or chapter of a book. I like the following apps for that:

More tech-y and not-so-tech-y techniques to come! Stay tuned…

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