Comprehension monitoring

One can learn to listen to one’s own reading and to monitor one’s own comprehension. Instruction in comprehension monitoring during reading helps readers manage their inner speech as they read. Self-listening and self-monitoring of one’s own understanding during reading promote more careful reading and better comprehension.

To teach comprehension monitoring, a teacher, when reading aloud to a class, demonstrates the strategy by interrupting her own reading to “think aloud.” She articulates to the class her own awareness of difficulties in understanding words, phrases, clauses, or sentences in a text. When a text poses potential comprehension breakdowns, such as unfamiliar concepts or logical inconsistencies in a passage, the teacher might look back in the text to try to solve a problem, restate the text content in more familiar terms, or look forward in the text to find a solution. After observing a teacher model the comprehension monitoring strategy, readers are encouraged to carry out the same procedures—first with teacher scaffolding and then on their own. Eventually the student readers take responsibility for recognizing comprehension difficulties and for demonstrating ways to overcome them (e.g., by guessing and looking back or reading forward in the text).

The teaching of comprehension monitoring is very effective. The NRP found twenty studies of comprehension monitoring instruction with readers in grades two through six that met scientific criteria. In them, readers who were taught to self-monitor comprehension improved one of the following: their detection of text inconsistencies, their memory for the text, or their performance on standardized reading comprehension tests.