Educational technology tips for teachers, librarians and schools.

7 Tools to Improve Reading Comprehension

7 Tools to Improve Reading Comprehension

By Jessica Sanders

reading too much? Whooos ReadingNearly one third of fourth- and eighth-grade students read at or above the proficient level for reading, according to That leaves you with a large portion of students—in every grade, not just fourth and eighth—that are not reading at a proficient level.

Reading comprehension lays the groundwork needed to improve these numbers. Comprehension ensures students can read proficiently, eventually allowing them to take those skills a step forward, making connections beyond factual, literacy recall.

Luckily, there are a seemingly endless number of techniques that you can use to improve your students’ reading comprehension, from building curiosity to breaking down characters and plot lines.

This variety of techniques, combined with technology, which allows for a more personalized approach to learning, makes it easier than ever to help students improve their skills, their own way.

These seven tools are all valuable assets in a classroom where students are working on reading comprehension. Each one touches on a different technique that can be used, allowing you to pick and choose the ones that will be best for you and your students.

1. Reading Bear

Technique: Audio, self-listening and highlighting

Help your students learn and practice phonics with this simple, yet impressive, website. Developed by WatchKnowLearn, Reading Bear takes students through a thorough and progressive process of learning letter sounds. Each section starts with students sounding out a specific word, both slowly and quickly, progressing to picking the various words and sounds out of sentences without audio.

Students can use this tool at their own pace, repeating words and sentences as needed.

2. Whooo’s Reading

Technique: Comprehension monitoring and gamification

This online reading log not only motivates students to read more, but improves their reading comprehension without making it feel like “work.” Learn2Earn analyzed the data of 2,700 students and saw a significant increase in the Lexile Level of the books students were choosing after just six months of using the tool. This improvement was significantly pronounced in struggling readers, who were choosing books up to 300L higher than when they started.

What makes this tool so effective is both the gaming and comprehension aspects: Students are rewarded with Wisdom Coins for logging reading and answering open-ended, CCSS-aligned questions. The responses to these questions are sent to you, where you can read and score them. You can encourage students to improve their comprehension by asking them to modify their answers or finish incomplete or inaccurate thoughts for a better score—which also translates to more Wisdom Coins.

You can also turn to the Data Dashboard to see how students have progressed based on the Lexile Level of books read, the scores they received and more.

3. MindMeister

Technique: Graphic organization and recognizing story structure

Graphic organizers help students break down an otherwise complex plotline, text or thought process and understand it more clearly. A great way to do this is with MindMeister, a free mind-mapping program. Using this simple platform, students can add a singular thought, question, character or idea and then break it out into its component parts.

Students can build these from scratch, or you can build a framework for them to follow. For example, create a plot framework, where students use the mind map to fill in various aspects of the plot, such as conflict, climax and conclusion. At the end, they are able to put all the pieces together.

Learn More: How to Improve Reading Comprehension With Mind Maps

4. Newsela

Technique: Approachable non-fiction text

When students don’t understand a text, and don’t have the skills to recognize that the text is simply too difficult, they become frustrated and often give up. The more this happens, the less likely they are to read and therefore improve their comprehension. This is often the case in classrooms where students are asked to read the same book as a class.

Using a leveled-reading website like Newsela allows all of your students to read the same text, or dive into new and more interesting texts, while struggling less. Each article can be read in five different reading levels, and includes a writing and quiz component, to ensure comprehension.

The content on Newsela is all non-fiction and functions as a news site (such as CNN or New York Times) for kids. With a focus on non-fiction reading in the new Common Core standards, this is a great tool to use.

5. Rewordify

Technique: Highlighting

This unassuming website allows you to use a valuable reading comprehension teaching technique: highlighting. You can use this with individual students or as a class, or offer it to them as a resource to keep close by as they read on their own.

The idea is simple: you (or your students) enter a URL, sentence or paragraph, and the tool simplifies the difficult words. For example:

  • “Don’t let an abstruse lexicon heighten your trepidation. can assuage your anxiety.”


  • “Don’t let a difficult and confusingword list increase your fear and nervousness. can calm your fear and stress.”

Students can click on the highlighted text to learn more about the original word and you can change the way the highlighting works to match the needs of your students. Create an account to access a teacher dashboard, called Educational Central, where you can track the progress of all of your students.

6. Rainbow Sentences

Technique: Highlighting, audio and gamification

Rainbow Sentences helps students learn the various components of a sentence with bright rainbow colors and self-recording. The app provides students with a scene and a few words in a sentence describing that scene. Students must then fill in the other words, which are provided to them in a list, to complete the sentence.

Rainbow Sentences uses colors to help students differentiate between the who, what, where and why parts, showing them how to combine these into a proper sentence. Once the sentence is formed, students can also record it in their own voice, allowing them to improve their language skills.

7. Storia

Technique: Comprehension monitoring and approachable text

Use Storia, a reading tool from Scholastic, to build a large ebook library and monitor the progress of your students. Customize your ebook library for your students’ needs and assign certain ebooks at both a class- and student-level to ensure you’re reaching every reader in your classroom. Having access to this wide variety of titles allows students to broaden their vocabulary knowledge, become stronger readers, and discover the kind of books they love to read.

Be sure to check out the reading reports, as well, to see what can be done to improve their reading comprehension. In the reading report, you’ll find information about how much your students have read, which books they chose, which words they looked up and how well they did in their reading challenge quizzes.

There is a variety of reading comprehension strategies that are valuable in every classroom. Combine them with technology to create a powerfully personalized and differentiated approach and watch every student soar.

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7 Tools to Improve Reading Comprehension

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