Literal comprehension

Retelling and locating information provides a model of explicit instruction for students on how to retell the key events from a text using their own words. The purpose of developing the skill of retelling is to teach students to monitor their understanding whilst reading and to develop the prerequisite skills required for the more difficult task of summarising.

Student learning opportunities should include:

  • decode the text
  • developing and exploring topics and vocabulary presented in a passage or text
  • developing and applying comprehension strategies across a range of texts
  • developing and applying skills and strategies to answer who, where, when and why questions and discussing their interpretations.

Activity 1

Using teacher selected text, students consider the structure of the text and discuss what information they would expect to be included. Provide students with a copy of the text, post-it notes and the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How scaffold. (PDF 173.07 KB)

The teacher discusses the scaffold (Who, What, Where, When, Why and How). The teacher then models constructing a question (for example When does Andy Griffiths use a computer for his stories?) and uses the scaffold to record the answer. The students can then be either paired or grouped (teacher discretion) to construct questions that can be answered from the text. Students can either write their questions in their individual books or on post-it notes. Once students have written questions each pair or group can then either exchange their questions with another pair or group to answer or regroup as a class to review the questions and cooperatively find the responses and then record them in the scaffold.

Students need to be given an opportunity to discuss their selections and use evidence (located) from the text to support their answers. The students should then have an opportunity to retell or summarise the text verbally prior to creating a written summary.

This activity may be repeated with a range of texts and with differing levels of teacher support.

Identifying and locating key words

The identification and location of key words relies on the students’ knowledge and understanding of text structure and the ability to question and link information together. The students need to develop an understanding that particular words, diagrams and pictures carry the key concepts and ideas in a text and enhance the readers’ ability to work effectively with the text.

The words (and/or phrases) visuals, diagrams and tables connect information together to enable readers to:

  • answer questions
  • summarise and sort information
  • interpret and infer meaning.

The strategy can be used to assist both literal and interpretive levels of comprehension and needs to be used with a variety of texts. The development of the interpretive level of comprehension involves discussion of the key word meanings and how they develop and enhance the main message of the text.

Activity 2: navigating the text

Provide students with copies of the text, highlighters, post it notes, butchers paper, scissors and glue.

Pair students up to view and discuss the organisation of the text. Students should particularly note the headings and sub-headings and how they relate to the organisation of the text.

Have students orally complete 'I wonder why ...', 'I wonder how ... ' 'I wonder where ... ', 'I wonder when ...' and 'I wonder what ...' and share with the class.

Students then work with their partner to note the layout of the text, how any diagrams are featured within the text or any use of labels/headings or tables.

Have pairs complete 'We have noticed ... ' in relation to the text organisation and the information contained within the text. Discuss pair findings.

Student pairs then reorganise the text onto butchers paper and share how their new text is navigated and compare to the original layout. Discuss which is easier in relation to navigation and accessing information.

Activity 3: what is it about?

Students use a graphic organiser to find key information from the text and create a succinct summary from the text.

During the activity students may need to be prompted to question the text including the visual and labels.

This activity can be completed at a class level, group level, pair level or individually. Students need to be clear they are to record key facts from the text. The teacher may pose a few questions to assist, such as: 'What ...? Who ...? How ...?'

The facts then lead to a general statement regarding the text subject matter with students including at least one or more key facts taken from the text.

Students discuss their facts and summary.

This scaffold   (PDF 19.04 KB) and strategy can be applied to a variety of texts.



Australian curriculum – ACELY1680: Interacting with others: Use comprehension strategies to build literal and inferred meaning and begin to evaluate texts by drawing on a growing knowledge of context, text structures and language features. ACELY1691: Interacting with others: Read different types of texts by combining contextual , semantic, grammatical and phonic knowledge using text processing strategies for example monitoring meaning, cross checking and reviewing.

NSW syllabus – EN2-4A: Uses an increasing range of skills, strategies and knowledge to fluently read, view and comprehend a range of texts on increasingly challenging topics in different media and technologies.

NSW literacy continuum – Comprehension, Cluster 9, Marker 6: Identifies and interprets main ideas and important information in a text to provide an accurate retelling of a text.

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