Reading with Meaning: Teaching Comprehension in the Primary Grades

Reading with Meaning: Teaching Comprehension in the Primary Grades

Reading with Meaning: Teaching Comprehension in the Primary Grades

Reading with Meaning: Teaching Comprehension in the Primary Grades


If you have ever wondered how to teach comprehension strategies to primary-age children, read on.

First, imagine a primary-grade classroom where all the children are engaged and motivated; where the buzz of excited, emerging readers fills the air; where simultaneously words are sounded out and connections are made between the books of their choice and the experiences of their lives. Then, open these pages.

Welcome to Debbie Miller's real classroom where real students are learning to love to read, to write, and are together creating a collaborative and caring environment. In this book, Debbie focuses on how best to teach children strategies for comprehending text. She leads the reader through the course of a year showing how her students learn to become thoughtful, independent, and strategic readers. Through explicit instruction, modeling, classroom discussion, and, most important, by gradually releasing responsibility to her students, Debbie provides a model for creating a climate and culture of thinking and learning.

Here you will learn:

  • techniques for modeling thinking;
  • specific examples of modeled strategy lessons for inferring, asking questions, making connections, determining importance in text, creating mental images, and synthesizing information;
  • how to help children make their thinking visible through oral, written, artistic, and dramatic responses to literature;
  • how to successfully develop book clubs as a way for children to share their thinking.

Reading with Meaning shows you how to bring your imagined classroom to life. You will emerge with new tools for teaching comprehension strategies and a firm appreciation that a rigorous classroom can also be nurturing and joyful.


There is a mystique about fine primary teachers. There is something transcendent about them—almost superhuman. As a young intermediate teacher, I regarded the fine primary teachers in my building with something like bewildered awe. There was magic in the air down their hallway: those teachers were teaching kids to read, and although I had studied reading theory, I still couldn't figure out how they could do it. What were they doing? What was their secret?

When I approached the primary teachers I most admired and asked them to describe how they taught kids to read, they were often unable to articulate just how all the pieces came together. [I'm not sure,] they would say. [I just know what to do. I follow the kids' lead.]

When I first met Debbie Miller, my awe grew tenfold. Colleagues had described the warmth of her classroom environment, the depth of her rapport with young children, the seamless way children managed their own behavior in her classroom, her unconditional respect for each child. I couldn't wait to meet another fantastic primary teacher from whom I could learn. But I discovered a profound difference between Debbie and the other fine primary teachers I had known. When I asked Debbie about her beliefs, her approaches, her teaching strategies, she was able to define and describe not just what she did with children, but why

Debbie began one of our early conversations by sharing a researchbased belief statement she had written to guide her practice. She laid out what was working as well as what was puzzling her about the children. She didn't pretend to have the answers, but she knew that through study of chil-

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