One of the keys to teaching reading comprehension is showing kids how proficient readers think about text.  Teachers have to find a way to make their thinking visible.  One way is with graphic organizers.  Here is a free set:

FREE sequence graphic organizer

The first one is filled in with the steps for growing seeds.  This one gives kids a familiar example of sequence.  It also shows common signal words that they might find in text to indicate that a sequence is happening.  I like to keep this one in a plastic sleeve in my reading group binder so we can refer back to it when we’re talking about text structure or if we have a text that features a sequence.

The second graphic organizer has the same format but it’s blank.  You can fill this in while you think aloud to demonstrate how proficient readers take note of sequence.  You can also have kids fill the boxes in about books that they read.  I use it both as a guided whole group activity and then in reading centers as kids grasp the concept.

Grab your set for FREE here:

Reading comprehension graphic organizer FREEBIE

Strategies to Cover

So what reading comprehension strategies do kids need to know, anyway?  I’m sure there are more but here is a pretty solid list to tackle:
UPDATE (10/10/15) – This chart has been revamped and is better than ever.  Find it for free HERE.
 reading strategy checklist


So Many Strategies!

We teach kids to find the main idea, and to summarize, and to look for story elements in fiction, and then do the same things with nonfiction text which is a related but different process, not to mention just determining the difference between fiction and nonfiction…holy cow!  All of these strategies and skills can start to become a big abstract mess in the brain of an adult or a kid.  Here is an anchor chart to help put many of the smaller strategies into one bigger picture (click for a printable version):
reading strategies
This chart organizes some of the skills and strategies we teach by how much information they contain.  The lowest block on the pyramid represents the whole text.  wouldn’t it be cool if we could remember every word?  That would be the maximum amount of information about the text.  But since we can’t, we learn to look for and remember the important parts of the text.

The next block up (the purple one) represents summarizing.  It’s a little bit less information than the whole text.

The red block is for story elements (fiction) and text features (nonfiction).  Noticing these things helps lead you to finding the main idea.

The orange block is for main idea, once again, a little bit different process depending on if you are reading fiction or nonfiction.  It’s helpful for students to see that the main idea block is smaller than the summary block.  Soooo, stating the main idea should be fairly short and sweet while giving a summary is a little longer.

At the top of the pyramid is the topic which should only be one or two words.  Here’s what usually happens when I ask kids to tell me the topic of a text:

“Well, it’s about birds and the different places they live and the things they like to eat….”

And this is when it’s helpful to have this anchor chart around so I can point to the teeny tiny top of the pyramid as a reminder that it should only be 1 or 2 words.

“Oh yeah, the topic is birds.”

Peek at a Week

Teaching reading comprehension skills and strategies really requires a “gradual release” approach.  The techniques on this chart can be flexed to work with a basal reading program or instruction with trade books.  If you are working with short texts your students may use a different book each day.  If you are using a long text you could stick with the same text all week, just tackling a different part each day of the week.  You can also do a combination of a basal reader and trade books.
a week of comprehension instruction


Teacher Demonstration

Start with all of the heavy lifting being done by the teacher with a reading demonstration.  This is where the teacher reads aloud and makes his/her thinking visible to students.  This can be done with a combination of thinking aloud and recording thoughts on a graphic organizer.  Obviously there are tons of things you could point out during a reading demonstration, but for clarity, stick with observations and thoughts that support the one strategy you are teaching.

Shared Practice

With shared reading, the teacher retains control but students begin to give some input.  Depending on the age of your students, teacher read aloud, choral reading, or silent reading may be appropriate.  Student input comes in when it’s time to discuss the comprehension strategy and add ideas to a graphic organizer.

Guided Practice

At this point, students start to take more control of the process but with teacher guidance.  Once again, choose an appropriate way for your students to read the text for the day.  Then give each student a graphic organizer to work on.  Help them get started as a group and the monitor their progress as they work on their own.

Independent Practice

Now all the responsibility is turned over to the students.  They may read and complete a graphic organizer with a partner or on their own.

Independent practice can continue by having students complete the same graphic organizer for homework or in a reading center the next week.

A Resource to Get You Going

If you need graphic organizers to support your reading comprehension instruction, check out my collection:

Best of luck as you make your thinking visible to your students and help them get the most out of their reading!

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Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun is a former teacher with 8 years of experience in the classroom and a master's degree in early childhood education. She designs engaging, organized classroom resources for 1st-3rd grade teachers.


  1. I LOVE your reading strategies checklist. DO you possibly have them as individual posters?? I love the simplicity of the design!

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