Monitoring Comprehension Activities title image

Monitoring Comprehension is the first skill I work on with students in my intervention groups. If students are unable to comprehend the text, then they will not be able to complete other reading tasks (such as making inferences, identifying the main idea, or analyzing the text). Help your students improve their reading comprehension with these monitoring comprehension activities.

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What is Monitoring Comprehension?

Monitoring comprehension means actively engaging with the text to ensure we comprehend what we are reading. This requires us to have an awareness of when our understanding breaks down and be able to implement fix-up strategies to improve our comprehension.

Metacognitive Strategies

Metacognitive strategies help us to think about our thinking. These strategies are especially important when monitoring our reading comprehension. As students actively monitor their comprehension they may:

  • predict what might happen
  • create mental images to understand what they’re reading
  • summarize what they have read
  • ask questions to clarify understanding
  • make inferences about what is not explicitly stated
  • connect new information to background knowledge
  • synthesize new information into their schema

Fix-Up Strategies

Becoming aware of when understanding breaks down is just one aspect of the Monitor and Clarify reading strategy. Students also need to know what to do when this happens. They can use Fix Up Strategies to clarify their understanding.

monitoring comprehension anchor chart with fix up strategies

Fix-up strategies can include:

  • make a picture in your mind
  • reread for understanding
  • ask clarifying questions
  • connect to schema

Introducing the Monitoring Comprehension Skill

When introducing the monitoring comprehension reading strategy, this is the learning sequence I’ve used to make the skill accessible for students.

  1. Cover the Monitor & Clarify anchor chart with sticky notes to hide the strategies.
  2. Display unusual pictures that require students to analyze in order to understand.
  3. Have students share what details in the picture they find confusing.
  4. As students naturally share the strategies they used to clarify their understanding, remove the sticky note to reveal the corresponding strategy.
    • If they do not naturally mention strategies, explicitly ask them what they are doing to help understand the picture.
    • Students might automatically begin asking questions about the picture, making connections to what they already know, or pointing out specific details or clues.
  5. At the conclusion of the lesson, introduce the Monitor & Clarify anchor chart. Point out to students that these are things they were naturally doing as they analyzed the picture. Inform them that they can use these same strategies during reading.
Monitor and Clarify Anchor Chart
NY Times What's Going on in This Picture?

Whole Group Instruction

These whole group monitoring comprehension activities will help to introduce the strategy through teacher think alouds and modeling.

Animated Shorts

Similar to pictures, animated shorts allow students to naturally implement monitoring comprehension strategies. Using animated shorts helps students to realize that they naturally use these strategies when their understanding breaks down. It helps the skills feel less intimidating for students who struggle with decoding as they can focus on applying the comprehension strategy without worrying about reading the words.

While watching an animated short, explicitly state the strategies you notice students naturally implementing. They may:

Pixar's Lifted Animated Short for Monitoring Comprehension
  • ask questions about what is happening
  • make predictions about what might happen
  • request to rewatch a portion to clarify understanding
  • point out specific details
  • make connections to their background knowledge

Teacher Tip – Be sure to watch the short before showing it to students. This allows you to find stopping points where you know they may need to clarify their understanding.

Click or Clunk Strategy

Inform students that readers notice when things “click” (make sense) or “clunk” (do not make sense) as they read.

I tell students that after each sentence, paragraph, page, or chapter (depending on the reader) I hear either a click or a clunk sound in my head.

Click or Clunk reading strategy for monitoring comprehension

I read part of a text aloud and model my thinking for students, telling them if the text makes sense to me or if something is unclear. I play the Click or Clunk sounds as I’m reading (you can get the Click or Clunk sounds I use for free!). As we continue reading, I have students share when something clicks or clunks for them by showing me thumbs up or thumbs down. I’ll play the corresponding sound and ask individual students to share their thinking aloud. This is a fun way to help students develop an awareness of when their comprehension breaks down.

Think Alouds with Modeling

Monitoring comprehension requires plenty of teacher modeling to help students think about their thinking. During your think alouds, tell students exactly what you’re thinking about the text as you read. You’ll also want to spend time modeling the specific fix up strategies you want students to use.

Reread with Background Knowledge

Our background knowledge has a major impact our ability to comprehend a text. If we lack the necessary schema about a topic it can make comprehension more challenging.

To demonstrate this with students, I select a nonfiction text about a topic the students are unfamiliar with. As we read it, we identify when things “clunk” for us. After reading, I share a short video or different text about the topic to provide students with the necessary background knowledge. We then reread the first text and discuss how the new information we learned on the topic makes it easier to comprehend the text.

Strategies T Chart

During some of my minilessons, I have created a T Chart. On one side we list the part of the text that was confusing. On the other side, we write what strategy helped us to clarify our comprehension. This creates an awareness of ways we can fix up our understanding while reading.

Here is a simplified T Chart in which the student recorded a quick note about the confusing part and which fix up strategy they used.

This is a quick way to help them actively monitor comprehension. Through our discussion, we expand on their thinking and allow students to explain what they wrote.

monitoring comprehension t chart to record fix up strategies used

Another alternative is to use a T Chart to write about thinking. List a specific detail from the text on one side and our thinking about that detail on the other.

Notice and Note Strategies

Kylene Beers and Robert Probst’s book Notice and Note is full of other strategies students can use to monitor their comprehension while reading. They’ve identified 6 “signposts” to help students read closely and deepen their understanding.

Beers and Probst's Notice and Note book

6 Signposts:

  • Contrasts & Contradictions
  • AHA Moment
  • Tough Questions
  • Words of the Wiser
  • Again & Again
  • Memory Moment

Literacy Centers

These monitoring comprehension activities can be used during literacy centers for students to practice the strategy with a partner.

  • Practice Whole Group Strategies with Partner – Students can practice any of the monitoring comprehension activities you taught whole group with a partner.
  • Graphic Organizers – Some students may need graphic organizers to structure their thinking. They can record their thinking on a graphic organizer as they read.
  • Mixed up Sentences/Paragraphs – Create short sentences or paragraphs that purposefully include confusing details. It could be an unknown word, a word that is misused, or incorrect information. Students can highlight the part of the text that is confusing then record their thinking and fix up strategy they used.
3-2-1 graphic organizer for monitoring comprehension
text annotations graphic organizer for monitoring comprehension
asking questions graphic organizer for monitoring comprehension

Small Group Strategies

These monitoring comprehension activities can be used during small group instruction to provide additional teacher modeling and student practice with the strategies.

Stop, Think, Paraphrase

Students can use 3 retelling strategies at the end of each paragraph/page to check for understanding as they’re reading. If they’re unable to retell what they’ve read it shows that they are not comprehending the text.

  • Stop Think Paraphrase – SAY what happened
  • Stop and Sketch – DRAW what happened
  • Stop and Jot – WRITE what happened
Stop, Think, Paraphrase, and Stop & Jot Independent Reading Poster

Download the active Retelling Poster or learn how I teach these Retelling Strategies.

Who/What Strategy

Students who struggle with monitoring comprehension may need to try the Who/What strategy. After each page, paragraph, or chapter (depending on the reader) they should state WHO the text was about and WHAT happened. Similar to the Stop, Think, Paraphrase strategy, this slows down their reading and encourages them to actively think about the text.

Visualize to Understand

When we visualize as we read, it helps us to create a movie in our minds. This brings the story and the characters to life, which makes it easier to understand the text.

Learn specific activities you can do to teach visualizing in reading.

visualizing anchor chart for monitoring comprehension

Talking with the Text

As readers, we have an inner dialogue with the text as we read. We give commentary on what is interesting, surprising, or confusing. We ask questions, make connections, predict, or infer while reading.

Students need explicit instruction and practice to actively think about the text in this way. Place sticky notes at certain points in the book you’re reading together. When students reach the sticky notes, have them record their thinking.

Text Annotations

Annotating the text is a simple way to show our thinking. It helps us actively monitor our comprehension as we read. Decide which symbols you want students to use to show their thinking such as:

  • a prediction
  • a question
  • a connection
  • an important detail
text annotations anchor chart for monitoring comprehension

Who Said That?

Following the dialogue in the text can be challenging for some students and may impact their comprehension of the story. For these students, highlight what each character is saying in a different color. This will help them track who is speaking. You may need to help them identify words that indicate someone is speaking or how to identify which character is being referred to with pronouns.

Teacher Tips

Nonfiction texts naturally work better for monitoring comprehension activities. When students lack the necessary background knowledge to access the text, they will be confused and need more clarification. Readworks, Newsela, and CommonLit are great resources for finding texts.

You may want to give students an opportunity to share reasons why we (ourselves included) may struggle to comprehend at times. These reasons could be beyond academics such as hunger, fatigue, or stress. Take time to share possible solutions.

When teaching monitoring comprehension activities, be honest with your students. Explain how YOU use these strategies yourself! Sometimes they think it is something we just do in school and do not realize it is a real-life strategy!

Resources for Monitoring Comprehension Activities

You may want to check out these monitoring comprehension teacher tips and tools or these resources for additional ideas on teaching the Monitor and Clarify strategy:

Reading Strategies Book
Reading Minilessons Book
Strategies That Work

Want to Learn More?

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Monitor and Clarify mentor texts
monitoring comprehension strategy teaching tips and tools
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