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Reading Comprehension Strategies: How Writers Organize

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 2/8/2012

I used to lose my car keys a lot. One day my wife, while trying to hammer my skull to the wall, hammered a nail into the wood cabinet above my head. Quickly, I hung the car keys on the nail and promised I'd never lose the keys again. Organization saved my life. It can help your students read too.

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    Reading Comprehension Strategies

    Teachers who know how to teach cause and effect and know how to teach compare and contrast already teach reading comprehension strategies and produce students who are capable of analyzing and interpreting difficult reading selections. Struggling readers need to be aware of the following ways writers organize and be able to assimilate these reading comprehension strategies into their reading practice.

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    Cause and Effect

    Students who can figure out why things happened see relationships that allow them to interpret, analyze, and evaluate. Here are some tips to facilitate the analysis of cause and effect:

    • To help students determine cause, ask why?
    • To help students determine the effect, ask what is the result?
    • Teach students to look for clue words: because, since, as a result, so, etc.
    • Teach students that cause and effect is not always obvious.
    • Teach students that one effect can have several causes and one cause can have several effects.
    • Use a cause and effect graphic organizer.
    • Explain that presidents of huge companies make millions of dollars determining cause and effect and training others how to teach cause and effect.

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    Comparing and Contrasting

    Students are better able to construct meaning from a passage if they are able to see similarities and differences in events, people, and ideas.

    • Identify signal words: also, like, both, same, yet, although, instead, etc.
    • Instruct students to look for details.
    • Explain why a writer might compare or contrast items. Is there a larger purpose?
    • When signal words are not present, instruct students to look for descriptive details to infer differences or similarities.
    • Use a compare/contrast graphic organizer.
    • Explain that making wise purchases, choosing a spouse, making a wager, picking a stock, and choosing a president requires the ability to compare and contrast.
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    Problem and Solution

    Executives get paid millions of dollars per year to solve problems. Teachers get paid hundreds of dollars a year to solve problems (for tips on becoming a wealthy teacher, click here). Perhaps we should have learned how to compare and contrast better. Analyzing problems and solutions enables students to see the complexity of issues or ideas a writer presents.

    • Ask students to define, evaluate, or determine a solution to a given problem.
    • Teach students to identify clue words: because, if/then, therefore, hence, etc.
    • Ask students to identify the main problem.
    • Instruct students to identify logical steps in solving a problem.
    • Instruct students to identify the results and ramifications of a possible solution.
    • Instruct students to identify additional actions to provide a final solution.
    • Instruct students to evaluate why a particular solution did or did not work.