Monitoring Comprehension

Updated: Jan 28, 2020

An important aspect to teach readers is how to self-monitor their misunderstandings. Good readers have a few fix-it strategies in their toolbox that help them understand difficult text. The good news is that we all experience difficult text, the trick is to find a strategy that helps unlock the comprehension potential. I am always telling my struggling readers this truth,

Everyone struggles. Even good readers struggle. The fact that you're struggling proves that you're a living, breathing human being, because every human being struggles! Therefore, I'm not worried about the struggle. What I am worried about is what you do when you struggle. That's my job! To give you the tools to help you overcome that struggle.

What tools do you give a reader to fix their understanding?

You teach them to Self-Monitor. If they find that they're not understanding the text pick a fix-it strategy:

  • Go back and reread the text out loud.

  • Determine the meaning of unknown words.

  • Read the previous sentence or paragraph.

  • Read the next sentence or paragraph.

  • Ask, "What does the author mean by __________?" then come back to it later.

  • Did you visualize the text as you read it? Playing out the characters, setting, descriptions in your head like a movie?

  • Can you connect to the text? Is there anything in the text that reminds you of something you saw, read somewhere else, or experienced in your own life?

  • Are there any repeated words or ideas that come up over and over again?

  • Look for headings, titles, pictures, graphics or charts to help you understand.

  • Reread the text slowly.

Teach Them One at a Time

Grab a difficult text and put these strategies to work in a think-aloud.

  1. Read through the text once and tell your students that you did not understand what you just read.

  2. Make sure you display these strategies so that your students can easily see them and have constant access to them. (I use it as a bookmark, feel free to do the same.)

  3. Then try each of these strategies one by one out loud with your students.

  4. Now it's time to apply it to their own reading. Go to a section of your book that you're struggling to understand and try these fix-it tools one by one.

Encourage Them

Encountering difficult text can be discouraging. It takes a lot of brain power, confidence, and work to overcome any struggle - even reading. Don't exasperate the problem by degrading your reader. Encourage them with phrases like,

  • I know you can do this because these tools work for me when I struggle.

  • Have you tried _______?

  • Can we solve this problem together or would you like more time to work on your own?

Feel free to steal the speech that I have on repeat (set aside in quotes above and in an easy to pin graphic below). It really does work wonders to encourage readers - helping them realize they are not alone in their struggle.


If your child is past 4th grade and still struggling, I have a lesson in my Teachers Pay Teachers store that is just for you: How to Self-Monitor Reading Lesson

. And if that doesn't work, please contact me. Don't let them waste any more time struggling alone. I can help.

Contact Me

If your reader is still struggling, it is my job to help. We will meet in a FREE consultation where we will discuss your reader and what they're facing with reading at home, at school and how they might feel about reading as a whole. Then I will assess your reader to pin point the problem, create a personalized plan that would best help them, give them the time and tools to improve as a reader, which will in turn motivate them to read more, thus creating little readers who actually enjoy reading for reading sake! That is my ultimate goal for any reader - that they love reading and what they can discover in a book. I love my job and I know I can help, so contact me!

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