Reading is essentially a problem-solving task. Comprehending what is read, like problem solving, requires effort, planning, self-monitoring, strategy selection, and reflection. As students move through school, reading materials become more complex, thus more effortful. Students who approach reading as a problem solving activity take an active and strategic approach to reading, and are metacognitively aware of how well they understand what they read.

Here are some strategies to enhance students’ comprehension by focusing on problem solving skills.

Helpful Hints

  • Provide students with guidance in using various reading comprehension strategies, such as paraphrasing and summarizing techniques. For example, when teaching paraphrasing and summarizing, provide information about differentiating main ideas from supporting details, knowing what to include or exclude, condensing a long passage into a brief restatement, etc.  
  • Discuss the benefits of various reading comprehension strategies with students. Have students choose a strategy to use during an activity and then rate its effectiveness in helping their reading comprehension.  
  • Provide a wide variety of texts for students to read. Discuss how certain strategies may be best suited for certain types of texts, e.g., textbooks, narratives, poetry, newspaper articles, etc.  
  • Ask students to write down the reading comprehension strategy or strategies they will use before they start their reading, for example, using guiding questions, underlining important details, summarizing after each paragraph, etc.  
  • Model the process you use to determine which strategies of higher thinking will be effective during reading. For example:  
    • Show students how you elaborate on a reading passage by making connections between the text and your prior knowledge about the topic.  
    • Cite the story evidence you used to make an inference or draw a conclusion when reading.  
    • Describe a picture that you created in your mind to help you understand and remember what you read.  
  • Encourage students to preview reading passages. For example, have students write down or talk about what they think a passage will be about before they read it, or have them preview questions that go along with the passage before reading, etc.  
  • Encourage students to self-monitor while they read by giving them guiding questions, such as: “Does what I’ve read make since to me so far?,” “Do I need to re-read any parts, or talk with someone to help me understand?,” etc.  
  • Help students learn how to pace, or control, the tempo of their reading rate by having them think about the time they have to read a given passage, and the time needed to achieve full comprehension. Students may compare “easy” passages with ‘difficult’ passages, noticing the “difficult” passage may require a slower pace.