Reading Comprehension in High School
Reading to Learn or Learning to Read?
Collaborative Comprehension Strategies

Strategies that involve peer collaboration are powerful for two reasons. First, they capitalize on adolescents’ growing interest in and desire to work with peers. Second, research findings indicate that students construct meaning through social interaction, especially when the conversation or dialogue is guided by a set of procedures, or steps.

Two collaborative comprehension strategies that many teachers find to be particularly beneficial: (1) Think, Pair and Share and (2) Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR). Both can work in high school classrooms, especially in conjunction with modeling strategies.

Think, Pair and Share

Collaborative Strategic Reading


Phase 1. Teaching the Strategies

Students learn four strategies: preview, click and clunk, get the gist, and wrap up. Preview is used before reading the entire text for the lesson, and wrap up is used after reading the entire text for the lesson. The other two strategies, click and clunk and get the gist, are used multiple times while reading the text, after each paragraph.

Preview. Preview is a strategy to activate students’ prior knowledge, to facilitate their predictions about what they will read, and to generate interest. Preview consists of two activities: (a) brainstorming and (b) making predictions.

A teacher introduces previewing to students by asking them to think about the previews they have seen at the movies. The teacher prompts students to tell what they learn from previews by asking questions such as, “do you learn who is going to be in the movie?” or “do you learn in what historical period the movie will take place?” Then the teacher asks them to skim information such as headings, pictures, and words that are bolded or underlined to determine (a) what they know about the topic and (b) what they think they will learn by reading the text.

Click and Clunk. Click and clunk is a strategy that teaches students to monitor their understanding during reading, and to use fix-up strategies when they realize their failure to understand text. The teacher describes a click as something that “you really get. You know it just clicks.” After students understand, the teacher explains a clunk: “A clunk is like when you run into a brick wall. You just really don’t understand a word the author is using. That’s a clunk.” Then, the teacher reads a short piece aloud and asks students to listen carefully for clunks. The teacher asks students to write down their clunks and then teaches fix-up strategies to figure out the clunks. The teacher can use “clunk cards” (see Materials for detailed description) as reminders of fix-up strategies.

Get the gist. Get the gist is a strategy to help students identify main ideas during reading. One way to identify the main idea is to answer the following questions: (a) “who or what is it about?” and (b) “what is most important about the who or what?” In addition, students are taught to limit their response to ten words or less, so that their gist conveys the most important idea(s), but not unnecessary details.

Get the gist can be taught by focusing on one paragraph at a time. While students read the paragraph, the teacher asks them to identify the most important person, place, or thing. Then the teacher asks students to tell what is most important about the person, place, or thing. Finally, the teacher teaches students to put it all together in a sentence containing ten words or less.

Wrap up. Wrap up is a strategy that teaches students to generate questions and to review important ideas in the text they have read. Wrap up consists of two activities: (a) generating questions, and (b) reviewing.

A teacher initially teaches students to wrap up by telling students to pretend they are teachers and to think of questions they would ask on a test. The teacher suggests the following question starters: who, what, when, where, why, and how. The teacher also encourages students to generate some questions that require an answer involving higher-lever thinking skills, rather than literal recall. Finally, the teacher asks students to write down the most important ideas from the day’s reading assignment.