3 Ways to Target Reading Comprehension In Special Education

Comprehension of language in general can be very challenging for students in special education. Most of my students have been diagnosed with autism or another language based disability. As a result, understanding what others say to them, vocabulary and text comprehension is difficult. Here are 3 activities we do to help students understand language better.

Getting students in special education to understand what they have read can be really tough. Here are 3 different ways to ensure students are understanding what they are reading and can use it in a functional manner.


Story Mapping

Story mapping can be great for teaching students the different elements of text. For example, title, characters, setting, etc. When we do story mapping, I usually do it in  a small group setting, I use these free story map labels from Teaching Special Thinkers.



They visuals on the labels are great nonverbal prompts for helping students understand what we are talking about. The first thing we do is review the different elements of a text while we put the story map labels up. Then, we fill in the sections starting with the title.  We alternate writing in the info and filling it in with pictures. The pictures we used to fill in the sequencing section below are from The Mitten: Interactive Companion Set.

Getting students in special education to understand what they have read can be really tough. Here are 3 different ways to ensure students are understanding what they are reading and can use it in a functional manner.


After we get finished filling out the entire story map, we work on comprehension questions. Having the story map in front of the group helps the students answer deeper or novel questions about the book. For example, I might ask a student to tell me 3 characters or animals in the book. Or, I might ask the student to tell me where on the book would I find the title.... that leads to a nice conversation about where to find things in texts, what an author or illustrator does, etc.  There is so much you can do!


Journal Entries

Another way we extend or work on comprehension is to do journal entries. After the story map, you could carry it over to the journal page by asking students to draw a character or animal from the book. Another option, is to ask students how they would change something or how they would do something. Here's an example,



Another option would be to have students make text to self connections. Have students draw or write abut how they and the character are the same. For example, Matthew could have drawn a picture of him and Nicki from the book with a sentence about how they are both boys, children, etc. All of the book companions in my TPT store include journal pages with and without sentence starters. Click HERE to see the book companion sets. 


Read and Do

One of the most important things to remember about reading comprehension is, to be functional, students need to be able to read something and do something with it. For example, it isn't enough to read the word "pull" on the door, you also need to know what that means AND be able to put it into action. I usually start this during direct instruction at our work centers time.  I start with simple directives that can be done at our table. You could write them on idex cards or on paper...



For some of my students, this doesn't start at a low enough level. For those students, I start with a picture cue paired with a word or short sentence.


Getting students in special education to understand what they have read can be really tough. Here are 3 different ways to ensure students are understanding what they are reading and can use it in a functional manner.


As students start understanding the cards, the pictures get smaller (or fade out completely) while the text gets longer. 

Getting students in special education to understand what they have read can be really tough. Here are 3 different ways to ensure students are understanding what they are reading and can use it in a functional manner.

This can progress to reading and following recipes, completing worksheets, etc. 

Getting students in special education to understand what they have read can be really tough. Here are 3 different ways to ensure students are understanding what they are reading and can use it in a functional manner.



Looking for more reading comprehension ideas? Click HERE to read about ideas for beginning comprehension activities.


Getting students in special education to understand what they have read can be really tough. Here are 3 different ways to ensure students are understanding what they are reading and can use it in a functional manner.


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