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Tracking Comprehension

Tracking Comprehension

Author: Sydney Bauer

This lesson explains how to track your comprehension when reading.

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Tracking Comprehension

As you read, it’s a good idea to track your understanding of the information that you read. There are several strategies that you can use to track your comprehension of an assigned reading.



  1. Before you begin reading, take a minute to choose some stopping points like the end of a section or chapter, or even a change in tone or point of view.
  2. When you hit one of those stopping points, close the book, pull out a piece of paper, and write a short summary of what you’ve read so far (just a couple of notes).
  3. Make sure to write the summaries in your own words. Putting summaries in your own words is the best way to make sure that the information makes sense to you. Using the author’s words might help you remember what was said, but it won’t help you process and understand it.
  4. If you get stuck and can’t think of what you could say to summarize, go back and skim through the section you just read looking for words that will help jump-start your summaries.



  1. Before you start, skim through the reading and look for ways that you can break it into “chunks” of bite-sized information.
    1. Chunking fiction (novels, short stories): here are some ways to chunk a work of fiction
      • chapters,
      • changes in point of view,
      • changes in setting,
      • moments when the timeline jumps forward or backward (flashbacks, memories, dream sequences, flash-forwards),
      • white space (some chapters are broken into parts that are separated by more than two lines of white space on the page)
      • speeches or long conversations (whenever characters give a long speech or have an extended conversation)
    2. Chunking nonfiction (textbooks, articles): here are some ways to chunk a work of nonfiction
      • Sections/subsections (usually chapters are broken down into sections, and even sub-sections, and each section will have a specific focus that is related to the chapter)
      • Ideas, topics, or concepts (the author might be making several points that support their main idea, it would be good to isolate them from each other)
  2. After you read each chunk of information, stop and close the book.
  3. Review the information in your mind
  4. Make predictions about what will happen next, or what you can expect to discover/learn from the information you’re about to read next.
  5. Connect each chunk of information to the other chunks you read before it. If you can’t make connections yet, make a predictions as to how the chunks of information will end up connecting.



  1. As you read, consider each paragraph to be it’s own unit of information. At the end of each paragraph take 1 – 2 minutes and jot down a word or phrase in the margin that describes or summarizes the information from the paragraph. The words or phrases should act like a label for that paragraph.
  2. When you get to the end of a section or chapter, go back and review the notes you made in the margin.
  3. It might be helpful to collect these notes on a separate sheet of paper. They act as an outline of the information. They also show how ideas/events connect to each other. 

Tracking Comprehension