Level 1: Comprehension Strategies Instruction

Explicitly Teaching Comprehension Strategies


To support students’ to develop the academic literacy and learning skills needed to succeed at post-primary the NBSS looks to the research, nationally and internationally on Adolescent Literacy and to the most effective practices and strategies for addressing the literacy needs of all adolescent learners (Biancarosa, C., & Snow, C.E. 2006; Blachowicz, C., & Ogle, D. 2001; Keene, E. O., & Zimmerman, S. 1997; Duke, N., & Pearson, D. P. 2002; Pearson et al. 1992; National Reading Panel 2000; RAND Reading Study Group 2002; Pressley et al. 1989; Marzano et al 2001; Kosanovich, Reed & Miller, 2010).

As part of NBSS support partner schools implement research validated strategies, approachesand programmes to develop key reading and literacy skills (research validated or evidence-based means that a particular programme or collection of practices has a record of success and that there is reliable and valid evidence to suggest that when used with a particular group of students, the students can be expected to make adequate gains in literacy achievement). For example teachers in NBSS partner schools have explicitly taught comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, writing and study skills or implemented specific literacy and reading programmes such as: Corrective Reading, Toe by Toe, Acceleread Accelewrite, Rapid Plus, ARROW, Spell Write Right, Wordsworth, SNIP Literacy and the Vocabulary Enrichment Programme.

One element of NBSS academic literacy support is to enable teachers to explicitly teach specific comprehension strategies. In 2012 the NBSS introduced the Comprehension Strategies Instruction (CSI) resource intervention into several NBSS partner schools.


Key comprehension strategies such as making connections; asking questions; visualising, drawing inferences; determining importance; synthesising information; monitoring and clarifying understanding are the cognitive and metacognitive strategies readers and successful learners use to accomplish the goal of comprehension. Evidence strongly points to significant benefits to students when teachers provide specific comprehension strategy instruction before, during, and after students read… The process helps students link new ideas to what they learned previously, remember what was read, and think critically (Sturtevant, 2003).

The CSI resource explicitly teaches before, during and after comprehension strategies that help students construct meaning during the reading-thinking process and provides teachers with the tools to model the effective use of comprehension strategies to increase understanding of subject-area texts. Features include: Whole-Group Strategy Lesson Plans, Interactive Digital Texts CD-ROM, Cooperative Learning Activities with Texts, Graphic Organisers, Audio CD, Student Reflection Journals and Teachers' Guide with implementation and assessment support.

CSI uses a variation of the Gradual Release of Responsibility model developed by David Pearson (1985). The model was built on the assumption that when a new concept is to be learned, high levels of teacher modeling and explicit instruction gradually give way to students using the strategy independently.

Through the use of short, levelled texts, teacher scaffolding, peer interaction and audio/visual support seven key comprehension strategies are taught. The CSI teaching model provides multiple opportunities to learn each comprehension strategy within each lesson and in the reinforcing activities that follow the lesson. For example, think, pair, share and cooperative student activities, writing activities, graphic organisers and journaling reinforce the learning from the whole-group interactive teaching.

The resource can be used in mixed ability settings as well as with struggling readers and EAL students. For example during the whole-class lesson the students who are unable to decode the text used for instruction (either because they are struggling readers or EAL students), are scaffolded by their teacher and their peers in a shared-reading context. During the cooperative learning activities, appropriate pairing of students can allow the struggling reader to be scaffolded by their partner and/or by the audio recording of the text.

The CSI resource was implemented in NBSS partner school with whole class groups and as a targeted small group intervention. Implementation varied based on school and student needs.