Supporting Comprehension of Informational Texts

Instructor: Derek Hughes

Derek has a Masters of Science degree in Teaching, Learning & Curriculum.

Reading and comprehending informational texts is an important skill for students. This lesson will detail several strategies you can use to support student comprehension of these texts.

Informational Texts Defined

You need only look as far as this page to figure out what an informational text is! Still don't get it? Put simply, an informational text is a piece of nonfiction that serves to tell (or inform!) you about something. This lesson is an informational text that is going to tell you about helping students comprehend informational texts!

There are several strategies you can use to help students comprehend informational texts. These differ from other reading comprehension strategies because informational texts can be technical and use more specific vocabulary than you might not find in other kinds of text.

Preview the Text

If you've ever read an informational text (which I hope you have at this point and you are reading one right now, so there's no excuse), you may have noticed that they are usually organized with headings and subheadings. These aspects of an informational text usually provide key information that the reader can easily pick out before reading the rest of the content.

A strategy for supporting comprehension of these texts is to allow students to preview it by flipping through and reading the title, headings, and subheadings. If you were to do this with the lesson you are reading now, you'd find that the headings used give you a general overview of what you are about to read.

Allowing students to preview the text helps them get an idea of what they are about to learn. They can then make predictions, come up with questions, and begin to organize their thoughts before reading more closely. This helps students see the text as a collection of topics instead of a wall of information.

Teach the Vocabulary First

You may have noticed that I put something in bold at the beginning of this lesson! I did that on purpose (no accidental bolding here!). I put the words 'informational text' in bold font because it is a key vocabulary word for this lesson. You need to know what an informational text is before you can start thinking about strategies for supporting student comprehension.

Not surprisingly, this strategy of teaching key vocabulary before reading will help your students comprehend informational texts. Often, there are many technical or topic-specific vocabulary words in an informational text. If your students come across these words, they will get stuck and be unable to comprehend since they don't know what the word means.

Therefore, before you even begin reading an informational text, you can help your students pick out these key vocabulary words and learn their definitions. This can be done in a variety of ways and using different activities. For example, students can work in groups to find some of the words and definitions. Then, the class can create a master list for everyone to consult when they come to one of the words while reading.

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