Having solid phonological awareness skills, affix knowledge, and understanding of a variety of syntactic structures will benefit your students’ comprehension tremendously. Don’t forget to start there and hit those areas hard first! Research supports it, too (Nippold, 2017).
Research also supports working at the sentence level (targeting skills like Sentence Formulation, Complex Sentence Deconstruction, or Sentence Combining first, before expending students to comprehend several sentences linked together (Scott, 2009).
Last, keep in mind that informational texts are, generally speaking, more difficult to understand when compared to Narratives. So if skills like the ones below are still a little too tricky, backing up to narrative-based skills might be a good idea.
Targeted Teaching of Comprehension Skills
Once students are ready for it, teaching text structure, summarizing, and other comprehension strategies can be helpful tools in your students’ toolbox as they encounter and need to understand informational text. And they will encounter this kind of text information every day! Informational text includes things like directions, the description of something they want to buy, and books on topics they want to learn more about.
Being able to determine the Text Structure of information makes many of the later skills (like summarizing) easier. This is why this skill is usually one of the first things I introduce when improving comprehension skills. When you know the structure of a text, it’s easier to identify the main idea and know how to summarize what you’ve read. It also helps you visualize the information!
Building off from the skills learners gain from identifying the text structure, I typically target Summarizing (main idea + details) next.
Last, if my learners would continue to benefit from more comprehension work and practice, I introduce Comprehension Monitoring that they can apply to any text (including their classroom work!).
For more ideas on how to improve comprehension of informational texts, check out the research on the “Sketch and Speak” strategy that is linked towards the bottom of this page for a great, research-based strategy you can incorporate into your therapy!
Comprehension in Context
Once your students can identify the text structure of what they’re reading, identify the main idea and/or details, and use other comprehension strategies, it’s time to apply these skills to their classroom work and other texts.
I often do this using visuals and/or graphic organizers that my learners are already familiar with (either from my previous sessions with them, or directly from what they used and have been taught in the classroom.
Informational text comprehension skills can easily be taught within the context of themed or story units.
Doing this not only makes planning for your caseload so much easier but it can also be a more effective way (compared to targeting skills separately).
I include non-fiction texts in all of my story units and my themed units, making relating this work to an overall theme or topic is easier than ever!
Here’s a little more information on Story System I developed in order to target language skills using a contextualized, narrative-based unit centered around wordless picture books:
Looking at the graphic below, you can see how my Story System contextualizes many skills, including vocabulary, syntax, and comprehension skills.
And it can be easily adapted and used with any story or text!
My top tip? Reread the story often, at least 2-3 times throughout the story unit.
And if your students would benefit from phonological awareness activities, I’d recommend starting the session with ~5 minute practice using words from the story.
If you want robust, contextualized narrative units using the Story System made just for speech therapy sessions, check out my story units!
Each one contains an original, wordless picture book (written by me!) and tons of activities and ideas for using it with a variety of students to target a variety of goals. They make it easy to follow the steps above with minimal prep. I know you’ll love them ❤️