Improving Reading Comprehension




The primary objective of teaching reading is to enable you to make meaning out of printed text.

The focus of any reading task is meaning because reading is the medium through which we acquire new information, analyze ideas and evaluate the text.

After pupils have mastered the letters of the alphabet. acquired sufficient words read sentences, and paragraphs, they should be taught reading passages of different materials to acquire information locate main ideas and details and learn to evaluate texts for various purposes.



At the end of this unit, you should be able to:

1. discuss the use of different teaching strategies in reading comprehension activities:

2. practice different types of activities for promoting reading comprehension; and

3. discuss levels of reading comprehension – literal, inferential and crucial levels.




Pre-reading activities are meant to introduce and raise interest in the topic, to motivate the pupils by giving them a reason for reading and to provide language preparation for the text.

These may be by:

  • providing questions for them to think about before they read.
  • revising the language structure that the pupils will encounter.
  • the use of visuals. such as photographs. maps. diagrams to discuss some aspects of the reading passage.


Activities while reading usually start from a general understanding of the entire text to understanding smaller units.

The traditional comprehension questions placed either at the end, at the beginning or inserted at various points within the text. are typical examples of questions during reading activity. Completing diagrams or maps. making a list and taking notes are other types of activities while reading.

When selecting reading activities, you should keep in mind factors such as text structure and development, text content. language to be learnt, and reading styles to be practiced.

When comprehension is the goal, train pupils to read silently-discourage conscious and unconscious vocalization of the words as they read-train them to be able to use context clues to find meaning of words in the passage-train them to anticipate what comes next as they read. 



These enable pupils to reflect and consolidate their reading and to relate it to their own knowledge, interests, or views as post reading activities. Pupils may be asked to say whether they like the text and the activities or not.

Other post reading activities may be:

  • writing an outline of the text
  • listing the main ideas or arguments
  • matching such (such as event with characters)
  • creating topic sentences for positions of the text and so on
  • summarizing the major points

One practical way of teaching reading is through the print and visual images seen in the community.



Basic reading competence can be developed through sensitizing techniques which offer practice in the strategies, since the pupils need to cope with unfamiliar words and structures.

Techniques to pay attention to in reading comprehension include:

  • Inferring
  • Understanding relationship within sentences and
  • Understanding relationship between sentences and paragraphs.



This refers to discovering the meaning of unfamiliar words/phrase. making use of context.

When reading a new passage, the teacher does not have to explain the difficult words and structures beforehand all the times.

The pupils should be encouraged to give the meaning of the unknown words based on the word formation or context.

In most cases, the meaning of a text may not be explicitly stated.

Pupils should also be led to understand the relationship between sentences and paragraphs.

This will help to bring out good inferential comprehension.



For proper understanding of a reading passage, it is important to train the pupils to look first at the base sentence pattern (subject + Verb) and the other elements and their contributions to meaning.

These other elements will include relative, subordinate and embedded clauses as well as complex structures. To practice this, pupils may be required to divide the passage into sense groups and analyze the important element.

The teacher can do this by asking appropriate questions to direct pupils thinking and draw their attention to them for understanding to take place.



Teach pupils to understand how a paragraph is organized. For example, each paragraph is associated with keywords that readers can use to assist them in identifying how it is organized.

For example, firstly, secondly, and then, finally; teach pupils to understand that when they come across such words they should understand that the paragraph is listing ideas, events, or process.


Similarly, teach pupils to recognize the various devices used to link sentences and ideas together.

We may offer them exercises in recognizing the functions of connectors, finding equivalents, and completing texts with link words,

Name any two reading comprehension competences to develop in the pupils.



There are different types of comprehension that we need to develop in our pupils.

These are literal comprehension, inferential comprehension and crucial comprehension.



This refers to the ability of the pupils to understand what is overtly stated in the text.

This is the most familiar and simplest form of comprehension.

To understand, at this level, pupils need to follow up the printed ideas as presented.

There is the need for teachers to ensure that the pupils can follow the storyline, the structure as well as the exposed meaning by the author.

To do this they need to ask appropriate questions so as to bring out students understanding at literal level.

Most often questions such as what happened? Who said what? How many did what?

Are questions that will require the pupils to lift up the answer from the text.

Comprehension at this level is a pre requisite for comprehension of the other level.



This refers to discovering the meaning of unfamiliar words/phrase. making use of context.

When reading a new passage, the teacher does not have to explain the difficult words and structures beforehand all the times.

The pupils should be encouraged to give the meaning of the unknown words based on the word formation or context.

In most cases, the meaning of a text may not be explicitly stated.

Pupils should also be led to understand the relationship between sentences and paragraphs.

This will help to bring out good inferential comprehension.



Critical comprehension refers to the comprehension level where the pupils understand the text and are able to relate it to their experience and/ or views.

Questions that will help pupils develop critical comprehension include:

what do you like in the character of…? Would you say that the text is real? Why?

Answer to these questions would acquire information outside the text but certainly relevant to it.



Probably, the ambition of all teachers is to make their pupils a critical reader of stories.

Try and practice the activities in the italic below – sustained silent reading with your pupils and see how it goes.



Practice these in your class and see the difference they make in the reading ability of the pupils.



1. Collect interesting books, magazines and stories written for pupils that are at an appropriate level with your pupils.

Involve pupils and the community in collecting suitable texts or use books you have made in class.

2. Set aside 15-20 minutes every day or three times a week for sustained silent reading

3. Ask pupils to choose a text to read silently. Read yourself as they read.

4. At the end, ask them to put a bookmark in it so they can easily find their place next time

5. Ask pupils to keep a reading record on the back page of their book or a reading diary.

6. Every week. ask pupils, in small groups, to tell each other about what they have been reading.

7. Move round the groups to listen to what pupils are saying. Check their reading records.

8. Reflect on these activities by providing answers to the following questions:

Do pupils enjoy the activities and are they making progress with their reading? How can you help more?


As a guide to preventing obstacles against reading speed, the following are suggested:

1. Get pupils to sit still during reading.

2. Ensure that pupils do not move their heads during reading.

3. Pupils should not be allowed to hold anything while reading for speed to prevent finger or pencil tracing of reading words.

4. Train the pupils to use their eyes to cover many words, phrases or sentences at once rather than reading word by word.

5. On the whole, the more the teachers engage pupils in reading constantly, the more these obstacles are removed.



1. Find a story in which the characters, setting, and events are written and illustrated from a particular point of view (e.g. the ‘good’ the parents of a naughty child).

2. Read this story to the class, making sure to show pupils the illustrations.

3. Ask some questions that encourage them to think critically about how the story has been written and illustrated.


4. Next, help your pupils work in pairs to write a letter to the author to explain what they like/do not like about the way the story they have just read is written and illustrated. Write and outline of the letter on the chalkboard and discuss ideas with the class before the pairs such as in to write.

What did pupils achieve in these critical reading and writing lessons?

How do you know this?

What evidence do you have?

Did they do anything that surprised you, pleased you or disappointed you?

Is there anything you would do differently if you were teaching these lessons again?



Materials that you can improvise for teaching reading and writing include:

1. Flash cards

2. Flannel graphs

3. Charts or rhymes and songs

4. Collection of excerpts and cuttings from magazines, journals, newspapers and textbooks

Mention 2 improvised materials that you can use in teaching reading and writing.




You need the following:

1. A piece of cotton blanket

2. A piece of ceiling board

3. Pins or nails

4. Gum

5. Cardboard paper

6. Pencil

7. Assorted markers



1. Cut a piece of blanket, about one metre long and 75 centimeters high.

2. Get a piece of ceiling board on vertical legs.


3. Stick the piece of blanket on to the ceiling board, either temporarily with pins or nails, or permanently with gum (juice from cactus, pap from cassava powder, prepared amala, and so on)

4. Draw and colour diverse sceneries on the flannel graph surface.

Your flannel graph is now ready for pasting reading materials like words on flash cards, sentence strips short passages, excerpts from magazines, newspapers, content area course books, and so on.

5. Write words, sentences, passages on flash cards, strips of paper and cardboard.

6. Read these aloud a number of times, while pupils listen attentively.

7. Drill pupils individually and collectively

You could also paste cuttings from newspapers/magazines on the flannel graph. The purpose is to drill pupils adequately to get them accustomed to different aspects of reading.

8. Place the flannel board in a strategic position so that each student can see it.

9. Information on the board can be alternated fortnightly.

As you progress with your class you can also collect pupils’ stories, short folktales, and so on which you paste on pages of exercise books and make these accessible to pupils.

Most essentially you need to create time for leisure reading in which improvised materials are used.



Experience has shown that no teacher. whatever. his experience or expertise. can give pupils all the skills they need to be good readers as well as users of English.

Rather, it is important that pupils are allowed to independently read diverse materials outside English lessons.

This informs the idea of the classroom reading corner.

You should create this worthwhile device to ease off yourself as you guide pupils to develop the culture of reading as well as becoming good users of English.


For the reading corner.

You need,

1. A spacious corner in the classroom

2. Assorted novels

3. Elementary science, technology. social studies. moral instruction. drama and poetry books

4. Magazines, newspapers. collections of excerpts from different sources

5. Write-ups collected through pupils’ efforts

6. Dictionaries

At least two periods a week dedicated to the reading exercise


You can source materials for the corner in a number of ways:

1. By appealing to the PTA of your school to donate such materials.

2. By asking each pupil to buy at least one novel a term to be added to the collection.

3. By appealing to philanthropic bodies or individuals to contribute to the venue.


Some simple novels that you can include in the library, among others, are:

1. The Drummer Boy

2. Chike and the River

3. The African Child

4. Cinderella

5. Things fall Apart

6. The River Between

7. Mine boy, and so on.



1. Create the reading corner

2. Put some shelves for the books, and arrange the books in different compartments of the shelves

3. Provide reading chairs and tables

4. Provide a couple of dictionaries

5. Encourage you pupils to have one exercise book which they will use as a catalogue for

6. new words and idioms, and another exercise book for summaries of books they have read

7. Create a reading time for your students in their class time table

8. Make room for evaluation to determine the progress your pupils are making.

Ensure that you keep record of all the books available and of new ones as they come in, to avoid loss.



1. The reading corner is a good device for teaching pupils reading – True/False

2. Write the names of any ten novels you would like for your pupil’s reading corner.

3. State any three sources from where you can get materials for your library corner.


Other resources for teaching reading are:

1. Flash cards/flash boards:

These are used for initial reading practice of sentences with which the pupils are already familiar through oral work.

2. Reading cards with pictures prepared by the teacher.

They are used for reading practice for weaker pupils.

3. Jigsaw puzzles of pictures and/or reading passages.

They are used for reading practice in group activities.

4.Reading corner

This is used for individual silent reading.

Readers should be of a language level just below the current language level of the class so that most pupils can tackle them on their own.



In this unit, activities for teaching reading before, during and after reading the text are discussed.

Similarly. reading comprehension competence needed such as inferring. understanding relationship with sentences and paragraphs are crucial to reading comprehension.

This unit ends with the discussion and strategies for the development of types of comprehension.

The unit ends with some ideas regarding the improvisation of reading materials for enhancing comprehension.

It was observed that for proper development of reading comprehension, the pupils must be properly guided.

Therefore, the teaching of reading in which pupils are asked to open to a particular page and thereafter answer questions amounts to testing reading, rather than teaching reading.