Students with strong reading comprehension skills typically view the process of understanding texts as an active process. That is, when reading a text of any kind, a strong comprehender is constantly working to construct their understanding of text by actively asking questions, making inferences, and connecting information. This matches how reading comprehension is defined by literacy scholars, who define reading comprehension as an active process in which the reader simultaneously extracts and constructs meaning from the text using cognitive processes such as inference, attention, and reasoning.
By contrast, struggling comprehenders might interact with text in a somewhat passive way – simply reading through the words on the page without any expectation that they should understand and make meaning from those words in some coherent way. Sound like some readers you know?
As teachers, parents, or tutors, we can support students in developing the viewpoint that comprehending text is an active process and one that they are in control of. One way to do this is by having readers annotate the texts they are reading. Importantly, we must keep text annotation simple – making it too complex can distract students from actually making meaning! I’ve suggested four simple markings readers can use to annotate texts as they read. This is one way to develop students’ reading comprehension muscles.