Overview of the Comprehension ToolKit Lessons

  • Toolkit Cluster 1 – Monitor Comprehension

    When readers monitor their comprehension, they keep track of their thinking while reading. They listen to the voice in their head that speaks to them as they read. They notice when the text makes sense or when it doesn’t. We teach readers to “fix up” their comprehension by using a variety of strategies including, stopping to refocus thinking, rereading, reading on, etc. All of the comprehension instruction suggested in the Toolkit supports readers to monitor and use strategies to repair comprehension and maintain understanding.


    Monitoring comprehension is above all about engagement. When readers monitor their thinking, they have an inner conversation with the text. They merge their thinking with the information. Sometimes reading goes smoothly and sometimes it doesn’t. Kids are more likely to stray from an inner conversation with the text when they are not interested in the content, find the reading too difficult or don’t have sufficient background knowledge to understand it. Readers stay on track when they question, connect, infer, sort and sift ideas, notice new information etc. Engaged readers often show a range of emotions, responding with delight, wonder, sadness, even outrage.

    Toolkit Cluster 2 – Activate & Connect

    The background knowledge we bring to our reading colors every aspect of learning and understanding. Whether we are questioning, inferring, or synthesizing, our background knowledge is the foundation of our thinking. You simply can’t understand what you read without thinking about what you already know. Readers must connect to the world of the known. Sometimes, however, our prior knowledge consists of misconceptions that get in the way of new learning. So we have to prepare kids not only to think about what they already know, but also to change their thinking when they encountered new and more accurate information.

    When readers read nonfiction they are constantly bombarded with new information. To understand, need to notice when they meet new information, think about it and keep track of it. Every student has knowledge, opinions, and experiences to draw upon. But they need to be taught to connect the new to the known in a meaningful way. This means reacting, responding and questioning new information to merge with their thinking in it. In that way, they can make sense of it, and begin to integrate it into their ongoing understanding.

    Cluster 3: Ask Questions

    Questions are at the heart of teaching and learning. They open the doors to understanding the world. Posing questions allows us to seek out information, solve problems, and extend our understanding. As we try to answer questions, we discover new information and gain knowledge. Questions may even spur further research and inquiry.

    Cluster 4: Ask Questions

    Inferring is the bedrock of understanding. Inferring involves drawing a conclusion or making an interpretation from information that is not explicitly stated in the text. Writers do not usually spill information onto the page for all to plainly see. They leak the information slowly, one idea at a time, to allow the reader to make reasonable visual images inferences. Inferential thinking helps readers to make predictions, surface themes, and draw conclusions. Readers may have to crack open language to get at the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary and concepts. Often answers to questions must be inferred.


    Students need to know that inferring is not merely guessing. Inferring requires that readers merge their background knowledge with clues in the text to come up with an idea that isn’t written down in the text. When readers infer, they use implicit information to create meaning. Inferring with nonfiction involves using evidence from the test and features to visualize and draw conclusions about the information and to synthesize big ideas.

    The students will develop thoughtful, insightful questions. To develop critical, analytical readers, student must think about and question what they read. Students will be able to approach everything they read with a skeptical eye and an inquiring mind. Asking questions enriches the reading experience and leads to deeper understanding.

    Cluster 5: Determining Importance

    What we determine to be important in text depends on our purpose for reading it. When we read nonfiction, we are reading to learn and remember information. We can’t possibly remember every isolated fact, nor should we. We need to focus on important information and merge it with what we already know to expand our understanding of a topic. We sort and shift rich details from important information to answer questions and arrive at main ideas. We identify details that support larder concepts. Students will learn ways to use information to develop a line of thinking.


    In order to determine importance in text the reader may find it necessary to integrate other comprehension strategies such as inferring from text evidence or summarizing a list of facts. Readers may need to discern their own opinion from what the author seems to be saying or they may need to think about new information in relation to important ideas. When faced with an onslaught of information, readers need to gain a clear understanding of the facts before being asked to pick out the most important ideas.


    Cluster 6: Summarize and Synthesize

    Synthesizing information nudges readers to see the bigger picture as they read. It's not enough for readers to simply recall or restate the facts. Thoughtful readers integrate the new information with their existing knowledge to come to a more complete understanding of the text. As readers encounter new information, their thinking evolves. They merge the new information with what they already know and construct meaning as they go. As they distill nonfiction text into a few important ideas, they may develop a new perspective or an original insight.

    When we summarize and synthesize information, we combine new information with existing knowledge to form a new idea or develop a line of thinking. WE begin by simply asking readers to stop and collect their thoughts before reading on. Then we teach them to paraphrase information and read fro the gist. Ultimately, we show them ways to think through factual information to arrive at the bigger ideas and reflect on how their thinking changes over time.