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Comprehension: Research and Teaching Strategies

Research Digest No. 8 defines comprehension, provides suggestions for assessment and instruction, and lists additional resources and references. You will find the PDF under the “Comprehension” heading.



Breaking News English

This website is a source of current event articles written at Levels 0-6. The printable PDFs and online quizzes and activities may be useful for Beginning and Intermediate level students.


Britannica School Elementary

In order to access Electronic Library of Minnesota (ELM) for FREE, a Minnesota public library card is necessary. After entering the bar code, the Britannica School Elementary website becomes fully available. It offers non-fiction articles at Reading Levels 1-2 and related images, videos, maps, and learning games. The articles are categorized by Animals, Language Arts, Plants and Other Living Things, Social Studies World Religions, Fine Arts, Places, Science and Mathematics, Sports and Hobbies. Users can select the reading level, adjust the font size, email or print copies, and listen to the text with a Read Aloud option. Elementary appears to most useful for High Beginning-Intermediate-Advanced ABE/ESL students, Middle and High for ASE and GED students.


Center for Adult Literacy Text Library

Center for the Study of Adult Literacy (CSAL) has organized an electronic library of over 1600 texts at grade levels 3.0-7.9. Users (teachers or learners) select from “easier, medium, or harder” stories and subjects or topics such as Health, Food, Babies, Children, Teenagers, Families, Advice, Non-Fiction (real life), Fiction (made up), Jobs and Work, Money, History, Science, and Other. All of the stories or articles have been reviewed by the CSAL team and are recommended for use with adult readers (at High Beginning-Intermediate-Advanced levels).

Comprehension - Challenges & Possible Solutions

Common comprehension strategy instructional challenges and solutions developed by Minnesota STARs and Trainers.


Comprehension Instruction for STAR/EBRI Volunteers

This handout describes what STAR/EBRI volunteers “need to know” about evidence-based and explicit comprehension instruction. It focuses on teaching five strategies: 1) asking and answering questions, 2) finding topics, 3) identifying main idea sentences, 4) identifying key details or important steps, and 5) writing summaries.


ESL Literacy Readers

This collection of 40 stories was developed by experienced ESL instructors from Bow Valley College, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. They are theme-based and organized by three Canadian Literacy Benchmark or CLB Phases. CLB I (Initial, Developing, and Adequate) is similar to Low/High Beginning ESL, CLB II is similar to Low/High Intermediate ESL, and CLB III is similar to Advanced ESL. All are FREE to preview, download, print, fold, and staple into reader booklets. There is also an ESL Literacy Readers Guide with ideas for before, during, and after reading activities and extensions.

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Newsela (comprehension)

From the Newsela homepage, teachers and students can sign up for FREE and unlimited access to relevant news articles (and quizzes), at 5 different lexile scores, all aligned with CCRS reading anchors. This varied and vertical text selection allows an entire class to read, discuss, and comprehend the same non-fiction content! The high-interest categories include: War & Peace, Science, Kids, Money, Law, Health, Arts, and Sports. The newest grade equivalent (GE) to lexile range (L) correlation is: GE 2-3=450L-790L, GE 4-5=770L-980l, GE 6-8=955L-1155L, GE 9-10=1080L-1305L, GE 11-12=1215L-1355L. It is useful for Beginning, Intermediate, Advanced, and Adult Secondary level students.

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Reading Skills for Healthcare Workers

This NEW website from SW ABE Marshall has a goal of making 175 CNA (certified nursing assistant) and general healthcare passages and audios available to adult readers at grade levels 5.5 to 8.5 (Intermediate level). All were written by licensed language arts or ESL teachers, most with pre-CNA course experience. All are intended to supplement direct instruction and support fluency and comprehension skills. All are printable and include pre-reading questions, definitions of healthcare or high frequency vocabulary, and text-dependent questions.

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ReadWorks is a non-profit organization "committed to solving the nation's reading comprehension crisis by giving teachers the research-proven tools and support they need to improve the academic achievement of their students." Their website provides a wide variety of FREE, research-based units, lessons, and authentic, leveled non-fiction and literary passages. A login is require to view and print over 2,200 passages at K-12 levels, each with question sets to support text comprehension.

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Stellar Comprehension Ideas

These “stellar” (meaning outstanding) ideas for comprehension instruction were collected from participating MN STAR administrators and teachers during 2009-2012. Note: Some of the contributors’ original wording was reduced or revised for clarity and consistency.


Teaching and Assessing Understanding of Text Structures Across Grades

This article by Dr. Karin K. Hess, a recognized leader in developing practical approaches for increasing instructional rigor in the classroom, summarizes the research on teaching text structures and discusses implications for instruction across grade levels. Because some text structures are more complicated, she highly recommends that students begin with simpler structures (sequence, time order or chronology, relationships, compare/contrast) and scaffold to the more challenging ones (cause/effect, problem/solution, argument/support, judgement/critique). She also lists signal words by text structure and offers a paragraph frame or template for using them when writing text summaries. Finally, she describes a continuum of text structure skills from Grade 3 (simple sentences) to High School (multiple paragraphs).


Text Structures

Each printable, text structure activity provides six short passages and a worksheet for (1) identifying each passage’s text structure (chronological, compare and contrast, cause and effect, sequence, problem and solution) and (2) completing a related graphic organizer. There are also answer keys and suggested reading grade level ranges: 5-9, 6-10, or 7-11. Completing these activities may align with Reading Standards, CCR Anchor 5: Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole. It appears most useful for High Intermediate ABE, Advanced ESL, ASE, and GED students.

The Change Agent

This subscription-based, online or print, social justice newspaper is published twice a year (March and September). It includes student-written articles (leveled according to readability), discussion topics, and lesson plans. It is useful for Intermediate, Advanced, and Adult Secondary level students.


The Times in Plain English

This website offers FREE "Plain English Version" articles about current world and national news or events. It is not affiliated with The New York Times, but the writers often use this renowned newspaper as a source of reliable information. All of the articles are edited by Arthur Schiff and grade-leveled according to Flesch-Kincaid. This readability formula is used because "it seems to work well and is readily available from Word" (

From the blue HOME tab, users can view excerpts from recent articles and corresponding photographs. Clicking on a title opens up the entire article for reading or printing. From the blue ARTICLE INDEX tab, users can browse past articles and Tips for Teachers, which provides text-dependent questions. There is a SEARCH feature, and past articles are also categorized by the topics: News, Money & Work, Health & Education, Immigration, Law, Politics, Of Interest, New York, World, and Features. This website was recommended by several members of the LINCS Reading and Writing Group.

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