Interpret to Increase Comprehension
Good reading habits can be developed by using specific cueing strategies. These cueing strategies assign readers a set of tasks to perform while reading to maintain interactive dialogue with the text.
The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has developed five cueing strategies, using the SCRIP acronym, which work equally well with expository and narrative text. The SCRIP acronym stands for Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict. Here is a nice set of SCRIP Bookmarks to download, print, and distribute to your students.
Both good and struggling readers can practice these cueing strategies to improve comprehension. Despite what many believe, reading is not a natural process; it needs to be taught, and not just caught. Teaching students to question the text they read by prompting themselves with the SCRIP strategies will help them understand and better remember what they read.
Teaching students to carry on an internal dialog while they read is critically important. Cueing strategies prompt the reader to talk to the text and the author. Check out how to get developing readers to carry on this conversation here.
Interpret to Increase Comprehension
The fourth cueing strategy in the SCRIP comprehension strategies is Interpret. Interpret means to determine what an author means in a section of narrative or expository reading text. The meaning may be implied, not stated.
Reading researchers have generally described two skills of interpretation or inference: Cromley and Azevedo (2007) discuss text-to-text and background-to-text interpretations. Others label the two reading skills as coherence or text-connecting and elaborative or gap-filling.
The meaning may necessitate synthesizing two or more reading sections to arrive at what the author means. Or the meaning may be derived from breaking up what the author says and examining each part independently as in analysis.
The meaning may necessitate filling in the gaps between what the author says and what the author expects that the reader already knows. Correct interpretation can depend on the readers prior knowledge. Pre-teaching necessary prior knowledge may be necessary if the author assumes a certain vault of knowledge or experience to be able to correctly parse what the author adds to, comments upon, or argues against.
Make sure to stress that interpretations are not simply the reader’s opinions. Good interpretations derive from the textual evidence and arrive at what the author means. Interpretations can be right and also wrong.
Unlike the summary, connect , and re-think cueing strategies, in which the reader needs to divide a reading into meaningful sections for the reader to pause to summarize and make connections, the re-think and interpret strategies are applied when the reader pauses following a section which is confusing or seems inconsistent with the previous section.
Because teaching the Interpret cueing strategy is the focus of this article, let’s work through a teaching script to teach this Interpret cueing strategy.
“Interpret means to focus on what the author means. Authors may directly say what they mean right in the lines of the text. They also may suggest what they mean with hints to allow readers to draw their own conclusions. These hints can be found in the tone (feeling/attitude) of the writing, the word choice, or in other parts of the writing that may be more directly stated.”
“When you reach a confusing part of a story, an article, a poem, or your textbook, go back to re-read the last part of the section that you understood completely and then read into the confusing section. Ask yourself what the author means in the confusing section. Often what the author means is not exactly stated. The author may choose to hint at the meaning and require the reader to figure out what is really meant.”
“Additionally, an author might require the reader to figure out the meaning by putting together what is said in one portion of the reading with another. It’s just like explaining a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to someone who has never eaten one. You’ve got to explain what peanut butter is and what jelly is first. Then you can tell how the combination of the two creates a salty and sweet flavor experience.”
“Let’s take a look at a fairy tale that many of you will have read or heard about and practice how to interpret some confusing passages.”
Here is a one-page version of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” for you to download, print, and distribute to your students. Have students read, break the reading into sections, and complete the summaries, connections, and re-thinks in their heads. Direct students to answer the Interpret questions. Share out the student answers.
If you have found this article to be helpful, check out the next comprehension strategy, “Predict,” and the resources.
The author, Mark Pennington, has written the comprehensive reading intervention program, Teaching Reading Strategies, the accompanying Reading and Spelling Game Cards, and the accompanying 54 take home decodable Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These books include teenage characters and themes and are perfect for older readers.