Functional Reading Comprehension

Do your students struggle to show that they are able to comprehend what they have read? Being able to demonstrate comprehension is a vital life skill. Here is how we target reading comprehension in my self-contained special education classroom.

Deomstrating reading comprehension can be very challenging for special education students. Here are ideas for targeting functional reading comprehension skills.

Many of my students have language based disabilities. The more words (spoken or written), the more my students struggle. To help, I systematically add more and more words. I have some students that will shut down if they see too many words at once. Slowly building upon skills and adding words boosts my students' confidence and reading skills.

To do this, I use the Read & Do Reading Comprehension materials. The set is already leveled to take my students from one word directives with a picture cue to following multiple step worksheets. We start out with words and pictures paired together. This helps students learn to use picture cues which will help with reading books later on. Here is an example of one of the cards we start with:

Deomstrating reading comprehension can be very challenging for special education students. Here are ideas for targeting functional reading comprehension skills.

When shown this card, students read the word and then show they understand what it means by picking up a nearby crayon and coloring. Once the student has demonstrated this skill three consecutive time with 100% accuracy, we add more words in and begin fading the picture cue. Here is what a whole sequence looks like:

Deomstrating reading comprehension can be very challenging for special education students. Here are ideas for targeting functional reading comprehension skills.

Once students get to the worksheet step, we add them into work task boxes to make sure that students are generalizing the skills. We also use these Read & Do materials during work centers. Read more about work centers: Direct Instruction Work Centers.

Another option is to write out directives on index cards. While this allowed me to customize the directives more for each student, it wasn't enough support for all of my students.

Deomstrating reading comprehension can be very challenging for special education students. Here are ideas for targeting functional reading comprehension skills.


We also work on comprehension as we teach beginning reading by having students read a single word and select the matching picture. This Sound Blending Center can be used as errorless teaching if there is only one picture to select. To make it more difficult, I increase the number of choices the student selects from.

Deomstrating reading comprehension can be very challenging for special education students. Here are ideas for targeting functional reading comprehension skills.

Deomstrating reading comprehension can be very challenging for special education students. Here are ideas for targeting functional reading comprehension skills.

Deomstrating reading comprehension can be very challenging for special education students. Here are ideas for targeting functional reading comprehension skills.

The materials from this Blending Sounds Center can also be added to work task boxes.

Other ways to work on functional reading comprehension is through following a recipe, or directions to complete a work task. Do you have other ways you work on it? Leave us a comment!


Deomstrating reading comprehension can be very challenging for special education students. Here are ideas for targeting functional reading comprehension skills.

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