7th Grade Comprehension Strategies and Techniques

By 7th grade, students are expected to understand a text beyond mere plot. They need to comprehend the theme as well as story elements, such as setting and character. Students in 7th grade also use context clues within the reading to define unknown words. If your 7th grader is struggling with these concepts, use the following techniques to help with comprehension at home.

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How to Help Your 7th Grader with Reading Comprehension

Identifying Theme

The word 'theme' might be overwhelming for some students, so you might want to rephrase the question, like this: 'What is the overall message of the story?' or 'What did the main character learn from his experience?' Questions like these will help your child look for patterns in the story, which often relate to the story's theme.

Similarly, you can help your child articulate his thoughts by providing opposite answers. For instance, if the theme of a story is the power of friendship, then you might ask something like, 'Do you think the theme was isolation?' Your child will likely recognize that your answer was wrong, and the opposition will help guide him to the real theme.

Story Elements

It's often the most helpful if your child keeps track of story elements while reading. That way, she won't have to backtrack when it comes time to write an essay or take a test. If your child can write in her book, then encourage her to highlight the elements using different colors. She might, for example, track descriptions of the setting with blue and descriptions of characters with green. If she can't write in the book, then use colored sticky notes.

Not only will your child get a great deal of practice identifying story elements, but she'll also be able to pay attention to how the different elements interact. If the colors overlap, for instance, then the setting might be affecting how the characters look or how they act.

Decoding Words

Stories can often be hard to understand if there are a lot of unfamiliar words. Help your child increase his comprehension skills by developing techniques for decoding unknown words. Begin by looking for familiar parts. For instance, in the word unbreakable, you child might recognize the root word, 'break'. Explain that the prefix (un-) means 'not', so you can make an educated guess that the word unbreakable means impossible to break.

Alternatively, teach your 7th grader to use context clues to decode a new word. Context clues are the words surrounding an unfamiliar word that give clues regarding the word's meaning. In the following example, the unknown word is frequently.

The girl chewed gum so frequently that her jaw was tired and sore.

In this case, the context clues are 'tired' and 'sore'. The only way that a person's jaw could get tired and sore is if she chewed gum a lot. As a result, we can guess that frequently means 'a lot' or 'habitually'.

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