Thriving School Psych Thriving Students


Many of my posts are about the glamorous side of being a school psych, the fun n’ games dealing with bureaucracy monsters*, and the general tomfoolery of working in public education. I thought it was high time I offered up something actually useful for those of you in the trenches along with me, who sit in intervention meetings and everyone turns to you for the good suggestion.

For those who read for the cute stories and/or have a morbid curiosity about 10 year olds who pack heat in their backpacks (true story), we’ll see you next post!

For the hard core intervention peeps who believe in having a huge arsenal of weapons of mass instruction,** I give you:

Strategies for Students with Reading Comprehension Problems

Here’s a little side lesson about roots and suffixes before we begin.

Dys = abnormal or difficult

Lexia = word

So “Dys-lexia” is a reading disability that affects students at the word-level of reading. These are the kids who struggled with phonics in elementary, can’t decode multi-syllabic words easily in middle school, and laugh in high school when you ask, “do you ever read for fun?” because it is so laborious to try and decode every single word you come across. Their reading fluency is impaired and they lose the meaning. I tell my yoots: reading is like riding a bicycle—if you go too slow, you fall off. These students “fall off” in terms of comprehension because they are spending all their mental energy on decoding the individual words.

But there are other kinds of reading disabilities. There are the kids who can decode, but haven’t a clue what they just read. It is not unlike when you “read” a whole page in a book and then realize you didn’t really read it. The eyes were moving across the page, and the words were being “read,” but there wasn’t any comprehension. These kids are typically really smart and they can articulate thoughts in class, but have a surprisingly low level of understanding what they read, given their intellect.

These kids (and all kids, really) benefit from a number of strategies for reading comprehension. Some of the strategies I pulled together from watching great teachers, some are “classics”, and a few are from the New Teacher Project. Enjoy!

Rapid Reviewing
• Rapid reviewing improves both reading comprehension and memory
• After reading a section of text, students write down everything they can remember without looking back at the text.
• If they can’t remember at least 80% of the key points, they have read too much material before reviewing.
• They then reread the material and repeat the process until the key points can be recalled

Metacognitive Journals
• Students analyze their own thought processes in a journal, in which a page is divided into two columns separately titled: “What I learned,” and “How I came to learn it.” They record their thinking during and/or after reading
• The format can be modified with other prompts as well, such as “Passage/Text,” “What I think it means” and “Thoughts/Questions/Connections I had to the text”

The Insert Process/Marking the text
• Readers remain active while using symbols to represent their thoughts as they read, such as, “!” when you agree with the author, “?” for questions and “*” for new learning. Students can use sticky notes (Post-it notes) if they are unable to mark in the text.
• These markings should be revisited for further reflection/clarification after reading.
• A chart of possible symbols can be downloaded at

Questioning the Text/Author
• As readers notice the breakdown of meaning, they come up with questions to ask the author about the book for clarification and understanding.
• The questions are intended to help the reader better understand any confusing areas, and assists the reader in targeting appropriate strategies to repair meaning.

Graphic Organizers
• Graphic organizers are visual representations that show how key concepts are related and/or organized. They are important because they help readers visualize connections between ideas within the text and organize the new information.
• The visual representation and organization of information helps students build their text base and make sense of the text.
• Examples include problem/solution, statement/ support, sequence, cause/effect, compare/contrast, and argument.

In this strategy, students use a graphic organizer to establish:
• K- what they already know about the topic;
• W- what they want to know or learn about the topic;
• L- what they have learned after reading.

There are two popular modifications of the KWL teaching strategy:
• KWWL- what I know, what I want to know, where can I find the information, what I have learned
• KWLH- what I know, what I want to know, what I have learned, how I learned it

This strategy is an acronym for the five steps that comprise the strategy:
• S-Survey – students survey the reading material to develop an idea of its contents.
• Q-Question – students formulate questions about the text. These questions become their purpose for reading.
• R-Read – students read the text to answer the questions they formulated.
• R-Recite – students either jot notes about the text or discuss with a partner.
• R-Review – students review what they have learned by discussing their process with a partner and reviewing their notes. Finally, they answer their questions

Connection Chart
• This strategy calls for students to keep a running record of connections made as they read. Students are given a chart with three columns labeled for each of the different types of connection (text-to-self, text-to-world, text-to-text). As students read, they record their connections on sticky notes and place them in the appropriate column.

Using Social Networking for Character Analysis
• Students create a mock “Facebook” or “Myspace” page for a character in a book, a historical figure, or a current political figure.
• Students “characters” can interact, depending on if they would have been “friends” or not.
• This technique allows students to put themselves in the shoes of the characters and understand the underlying motivations, behaviors, etc.

*e.g. I called HR nine times yesterday to find out a simple thing. Nine times. No answer. Really? No voicemail there either? I guess they like the “While You Were Out” 1980s pink notes as much as my schools do. Which would be fine if they answered the phone to take a message. I’m gonna have to drive to the ‘hood tomorrow to ask a question, I just know it.

**Trenches and weapon metaphors in an education post? I guess it’s my feeble attempt to make this post relevant to Veteran’s Day.

Sharing is caring!

Comments on "Strategery"

  1. sarah says:

    Good Tips – thanks!
    Unrelated: so glad that you called nine times. Nine Times. Anytime that phrase is uttered, my mind immediately flashes to "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and the scene where the principal & his secretary are discussing his absences.

  2. Rebecca says:

    @Sarah: I don't remember Rebecca calling HR nine times… 🙂

  3. Mimi says:

    Fab ideas! I do loves me a good chart!!

    Good luck with HR. Tenth times a charm?

  4. Kelley says:

    Ahem, I am sensing a lack of a little Brown/Campione reciprocal teaching (were you not even THERE at Berkeley listening to the monologues, errr.. I mean student/teacher dialogues?)? Of course, the technique is quite similar to SQ3R and some of the others you mentioned, but would fit really well into RTI plans that are seeking whole class (TIER 1 interventions). I'll come up with a citation someday.
    In the meantime my absolute favorite is the Facebook/MySpace character page.

  5. Rebecca says:

    @Kelley: Yea! Guest post by Kelley on Reciprocal Teaching–coming soon! 😉 I can't believe I forgot all about the hours of seminars on RT! It is good stuff. 🙂

  6. Angela says:

    Rebecca, you're awesome. Although I love reading about the bureaucracy monster and kid stories, I gotta admit, this post was very helpful. I LOVE the idea about creating a FB page for characters. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to more snark about the yoots soon.

  7. Hi,
    I LOVE the idea. It is good stuff,I really like it! Thanks for sharing with us. Although I love reading about the bureaucracy monster and kid stories.

  8. Kirsten says:

    Thank you.

    I *wish* I could teach this stuff.

    Question: which method would you use for misunderstanding the same sentence again and again?

  9. Rebecca says:

    @Kirsten: It depends on the age of the kid and the kinds of mistakes s/he is making(.e.g do they notice that they read it wrong?). In general, I have kids practice "picture it at the punctuation", a visualization technique. If they can't picture what they read, they read it again. I'll put together some of the decoding "strategery" strategies next post. 🙂

  10. Kirsten says:

    Rebecca, I teach adults (21 to 65 years old, mostly 22-25). They are decoding it correctly, just not translating it into their own words correctly.
    I think that the problem is vocabulary, particularly the skill of figuring a word out from context.

  11. Rebecca says:


    You are probably correct–Vocabulary building is a huge component of reading–especially if they are decoding correctly, but not comprehending. Some of the strategies above will help, but if it is sentence-level comprehension that is impaired, then you'll need something else as well.

    Picture-at-punctuation is still a good way for your readers to check if they are comprehending. For example, if I had you read the sentence: "Poetry need not be perspicuous," you might be able to decode it but not know what you read. Have them underline the words they don't know and look them up. They can keep a personal word dictionary, or a file in their iPhones for new words, to build. They can also do word analysis/word sorting by prefixes and suffixes so they can infer meaning from part of the word (e.g. anything with "hydro" in it means water, "pyro" means fire, etc.)

    Any other suggestions, my talented readers? Teachers, chime in. 🙂

  12. Kirsten says:

    Thank you for your example sentence.

    I could use a word file in my iPhone, also. That's a cool idea.

  13. Corinne says:

    These are great idea's! I love everything you said. I am undergraduate student studying Early Childhood. I work at a local school helping children read. The children I work with struggle with comprehension. When I first started teaching I would have them write down important details about the stories. I soon realized that I had two extremes within my students. On the one end students found nothing important in the story, while on the other had, some children found everything important. I quickly discontinued that process. Then I had children begin to write down everything they could remember after reading the story, like you mentioned. Needless to say,this had much better results! I have found the best way to help children is to have them do role play when possible. The children not only understand the content of the story, they also gain understanding of the emotional context of the story. The empathize with the characters in the story and interact with one another. I think your facebook idea would also help my students. Instead of playing the character, they would be creating it! This would incorporate the use of technology, problem solving, critical thinking, etc. Have you done this with your students yet? I am really interested to see the results of this experiment, and what in fact these pages would look like! The children I teach are not very excited about literature and I know this is because they do not fully understand the stories. I think literature is such a powerful tool. What are some ways you motivate your students to read!? I do not have a choice about the book selection because the school assigns what we read. I am interested to hear some idea's. Like I said I am still a student, so it very helpful for me to gain insight from experienced teachers.

  14. Rebecca says:


    I think that since you don't have the opportunity to have kids pick their own books, you will have to work hard to make them relevant to them. I would start with helping them make text-to-self connections, maybe with sentence starters like "This reminds me of when I…" or "If I were the author, I would…" or "I am like this character because…" to get them to interact with the text in a way that is meaningful to them. That is why I thought the Facebook thing might be fun, because it is what they like to do anyway. Also, they could make up a fake text conversation with a little bubble graphic about how two characters might "speak" to each other if they texted.

    Best of luck to you! Just remember that your relationship with them and your excitement about literature can be very motivating too!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *