Top 5 comprehension tips from the experts

sat preparation

Good comprehension requires a range of different knowledge and skills. So we’ve gathered together some of our top teaching tips and free resources to support your comprehension teaching.

Advice from Nikki Gamble, Series Advisor, Oxford Reading Tree Story Sparks

  1. Developing vocabulary

During reading, children are challenged by words they don’t understand such as words that are not part of their spoken vocabulary; technical vocabulary which is unfamiliar; and words which have more than one meaning. Encourage children to look at words in different contexts to broaden their understanding of nuances in vocabulary. You could also ask children to record challenging words in a journal, writing the definitions in their own words.

  1. Supporting inference

For successful comprehension, readers need to use their existing knowledge to fill in any gaps to make meaning. To develop this skill, ask children to discuss the story in groups, focusing on any questions they have. Ask them to make predictions about the characters and events in the story.

  1. Building memory

To understand a text, readers have to use both long-term and working memory. This is a challenge for children because their long-term memory can be limited, and because working-memory can become overloaded. To develop their comprehension skills, introduce some background information to children before they read a story. Invite them to take their time during reading, and ask them to re-read any difficult sections they encounter.

You can find more advice from Nikki on the Oxford Reading Tree Story Sparks website.

Advice from Lindsay Pickton, Series Advisor, Project X Origins

  1. Accessing higher-level texts

Graphic Texts are a great way for children to access higher-level texts, and develop inference skills and critical thinking. They require readers to look at the text in a different way, because they have to understand the interplay between both the words and the pictures in order to make sense of the text.

You can find more advice from Lindsay Pickton in this free lesson for Year 5 focusing on the children’s classic story, The Secret Garden.

lindsay pickton free guided reading lesson


Advice from Caroline Derby, Senior Publisher, Nelson Comprehension

  1. Developing speed and stamina

A key demand of the 2016 national tests was the ability to read significant amounts of challenging texts and to answer questions within a tight time frame. Reading under these conditions requires practice. You can help children to develop their speed and stamina by gradually building up the amount of independent comprehension work you set for them.

You can find more about these skills in this free Nelson Comprehension lesson for Year 6.

nelson comprehensive lesson free