Practice Guide Summaries: Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten Through 3rd grade

The What Works Clearinghouse practice guides are designed to provide succinct recommendations that address challenges educators encounter in their classrooms and schools. The Lead for Literacy Center Practice Guide Summaries provide actionable evidence-based recommendations that are most relevant to literacy leaders in the elementary grades.


Teach students how to use reading comprehension strategies.

  1. Teach students how to use several research-based reading comprehension strategies.
  2. Teach reading comprehension strategies individually or in combination.
  3. Teach reading comprehension strategies by using a gradual release of responsibility..


Teach students to identify and use the text's organizational structure to comprehend, learn, and remember content.

  1. Explain how to identify and connect the parts of narrative texts.
  2. Provide instruction on common structures of informational texts.


Guide students through focused, high-quality discussion on the meaning of text.

  1. Structure the discussion to complement the text, the instructional purpose, and the readers' ability and grade level.
  2. Develop discussion questions that require students to think deeply about text.
  3. Ask follow-up questions to encourage and facilitate discussion.
  4. Have students lead structured small-group discussions.


Select texts purposefully to support comprehension development.

  1. Teach reading comprehension with multiple genres of text.
  2. Choose texts of high quality with richness and depth of ideas and information.
  3. Choose texts with word recognition and comprehension difficulty appropriate for the students' reading ability and the instructional activity.
  4. Use texts that support the purpose of instruction.


Establish an engaging and motivating context in which to teach reading comprehension.

  1. Help students discover the purpose and benefits of reading.
  2. Create opportunities for students to see themselves as successful readers.
  3. Give students reading choices.
  4. Give students the opportunity to learn by collaborating with their peers.

This is an abbreviated digest of the Practice Guide cited below. It was created for instructional leaders and supervisors who are responsible for ensuring quality literacy programming but not responsible for implementing the evidence-based practices (EBP). It is designed for awareness only. Access the Practice Guide for full understanding and implementation of the EBP.

Adapted from Shanahan, T., Callison, K., Carriere, C., Duke, N. K., Pearson, P. D., Schatschneider, C., & Torgesen, J. (2010). Improving reading comprehension in kindergarten through 3rd grade: A practice guide (NCEE 2010-4038). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from