Literal comprehension

Explicitly teaching students to work through a process and procedure to provide written responses to literal questions on a text requires numerous opportunities using a variety of texts. When teaching the process and procedure, select short texts on a familiar topic at the student's independent reading level.

The development of questioning skills whilst reading texts equips students to become more effective readers and enhances their ability to answer a variety of questions more effectively.

Written responses can vary in difficulty. The lowest level of written literal response requires the students to complete a partially constructed sentence. Teachers can include a selection of responses (taken directly from the text) from which to choose. Questions which require the production of a complete sentence for the answer are the highest level of written literal response. This requires the students to answer questions which can be directly located within the text and uses key word and phrase location. This does not necessarily support deeper comprehension of text and further discussion of the text subject matter should be undertaken to facilitate a deeper understanding. For students to successfully answer questions using sentences, students require knowledge and understanding of sentence structure and spelling as well as handwriting skills. When constructing literal comprehension tasks it is important to be aware of the skills that the students are required to demonstrate.

Student learning opportunities should include:

  • decoding of texts
  • developing an understanding of written instructions
  • developing and exploring topics and vocabulary presented in a passage or text.

Activity 1

  1. Have students view and read a text.
  2. Students need to identify and highlight key words within the text. This can be done in pairs after providing students with highlighters (or small post-it notes if using books).
  3. Ask questions about a text currently being studied and have students identify an answer. Students need to indicate through either circling or underlining where they have located the answer within the text and then justify their response using the text.

This activity can be used with a variety of texts.

The focus should be on developing the skills necessary to navigate and access information effectively from a text.

Activity 2

Select a text that students are able to read. The activity aims to develop the students questioning and information location skills.

Use a scaffold to assist students in asking and answering questions. The scaffold develops students’ skills from the literal through to inferential comprehension of texts and facilitates their ability to effectively answer questions.


Australian curriculum

ACELY1660: Interpreting, analysing, evaluating: Use comprehension strategies to build literal and inferred meaning about key events, ideas and information in texts that they listen to, view and read by drawing on growing knowledge of context, text structures and language features. ACELY1670: Interpreting, analysing, evaluating: Use comprehension strategies to build literal and inferred meaning and begin to analyse texts by drawing on growing knowledge of context, language and visual features and print and multimodal text structures.

Return to top of page Back to top