Reading in Primary Schools: Guide

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Making meaning from print requires the brain to use a complex array of cognitive strategies. Competent readers do this automatically without conscious effort. Learning to reading, requires we identify what our brains have learned automatically and teach children to do this consciously.

5 Essential Components of Reading

In this guide the five elements of reading were identified. These according to Armbruster et al. 2001 are:

Phonemic awareness





As with any skill that requires an individual to coordinate a series of smaller actions to create a unified process, it is practice that allows the learner to develop expertise. (Kuhn & Stahl, 2003).

Reading with fluency requires both strategies for accuracy. Firstly at letter level to allow quick and effortless identification of letter sounds. At word level for quick word recognition or decoding  and at text level to allow a fluid pace in reading connected text.

It requires strategies of automaticity. At letter level. Lack of strategy here can impair decoding accuracy and fluency. Word level strategies to avoid slow decoding which impairs understanding and reduce cognitive load. At text level, referring to fluidity of text reading, typically measured in correct words per minute (CWPM). This allows attention to focus on the connectedness of text. To read with comprehension, developing readers must be able to read with some proficiency and then receive explicit instruction in reading comprehension strategies.

General Strategies for Reading Comprehension

The process of comprehending text begins before children can read, when someone reads a picture book to them. They listen to the words, see the pictures in the book, and may start to associate the words on the page with the words they are hearing and the ideas they represent.

In order to learn comprehension strategies, students need modelling, practice, and feedback. The key comprehension strategies are described below.

Using Prior Knowledge/Previewing

When students preview text, they tap into what they already know that will help them to understand the text they are about to read. This provides a framework for any new information they read.


When students make predictions about the text they are about to read, it sets up expectations based on their prior knowledge about similar topics. As they read, they may mentally revise their prediction as they gain more information.

Identifying the Main Idea and Summarization

Identifying the main idea and summarizing requires that students determine what is important and then put it in their own words. Implicit in this process is trying to understand the author’s purpose in writing the text.


Asking and answering questions about text is another strategy that helps students focus on the meaning of text. Teachers can help by modelling both the process of asking good questions and strategies for finding the answers in the text.

Making Inferences

In order to make inferences about something that is not explicitly stated in the text, students must learn to draw on prior knowledge and recognize clues in the text itself.


Studies have shown that students who visualize while reading have better recall than those who do not. Readers can take advantage of illustrations that are embedded in the text or create their own mental images or drawings when reading text without illustrations.

See here.

Further classroom strategies

Environments are influenced by teachers’ knowledge of children’s texts and their children as readers and by the complementary approaches to reading

  1. Create a comfortable environment
  2. Develop book areas/nooks/corners for reading
  3. Create reading displays
  4. Foster interactive reading environments
  5. Resource the reading environment
  6. Use children’s ideas to celebrate reading
  7. Develop role play areas based on fictional texts
  8. Develop story boxes/bags based on texts
  9. Liaise with the local library
  10.  Developing reading environments beyond the classroom in wider communities.

Full text from Research Rich Pedagogies.


Kuhn M.R. &  Stahl S.A. (2003) Fluency: A review of developmental and remedial practices. Journal of Educational Psychology. (95) pp. 3–22

Further resources

Teaching and learning Alliance Inc.  

Reading Horizons

Reading Rockets