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Comprehension [Grades K-12]

Comprehension [Grades K-12]
The Skill, Will, and Thrill of Reading

September 2020 | 208 pages | Corwin

Radically change the way students learn from texts, extending beyond comprehension to critical reasoning and problem solving. 

Is your reading comprehension instruction just a pile of strategies? There is no evidence that teaching one strategy at a time, especially with pieces of text that require that readers use a variety of strategies to successfully negotiate meaning, is effective. And how can we extend comprehension beyond simple meaning?

Bestselling authors Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and Nicole Law propose a new, comprehensive model of reading instruction that goes beyond teaching skills to fostering engagement and motivation. Using a structured, three-pronged approach—skill, will, and thrill—students learn to experience reading as a purposeful act and embrace struggle as a natural part of the reading process. Instruction occurs in three phases:    

  • Skill. Holistically developing skills and strategies necessary for students to comprehend text, such as monitoring, predicting, summarizing, questioning, and inferring.
  • Will. Creating the mindsets, motivations, and habits, including goal setting and choice, necessary for students to engage fully with texts.
  • Thrill. Fostering the thrill of comprehension, so that students share their thinking with others or use their knowledge for something else.
Comprehension is the structured framework you need to empower students to comprehend text and take action in the world. 

List of Videos
Chapter 1: The Point of Comprehension Is Not Comprehension
But What Is Reading?

Teaching Students to Comprehend

Skilled Readers or Strategic Readers

Constrained and Unconstrained Skills

Is Comprehension Enough?

Chapter 2: Skill in Reading Comprehension
Skill in Reading Comprehension

Background Knowledge in Reading

The Sounds of Language

Phonics: Sound and Print

Fluency in Reading

Vocabulary in Reading

Comprehension Strategy Instruction


Chapter 3: Will in Reading Comprehension
Will in Reading Comprehension

Dispositions That Underpin Learning

Creating the Classroom Conditions for Will to Flourish


Chapter 4: Thrill in Reading Comprehension
Thrill in Reading Comprehension

The Right and the Responsibility of Criticism

Reading Through a Critical Literacy Lens

Goal Setting Through Student-Generated Questions

Taking Action

Chapter 5: Tools for Reading Comprehension Instruction
Texts as Tools for Fostering Comprehension

Text Readability and Text Complexity

The Special Cast of Digital Texts

Texts in Primary Grades

Tasks as Tools for Fostering Comprehension

An Instructional Framework That Works


"Fisher, Frey, and Law take components of effective reading instruction—skills, engagement, relevance—and show teachers how to focus their work in a meaningful way. Plenty of rich, classroom examples from all grade levels illustrate that this work is for everyone!"

Lynn Angus Ramos
DeKalb County School District

"Comprehension inspires me to take action! I want to be deliberate in my selection of texts for students, in my conversations with them, in my questioning, and in my listening to them. We all need to better understand what can make or break a student’s motivation: whether it’s the skill, will, or thrill! I want to make book lovers out of my students, and not just create answerers of uninspiring questions with me expecting the same verbiage year after year. Thank you for fueling the fire to go out and do better by students, especially in this era where often we speed through things for task completion."

Hilda Martinez

"Comprehension challenges the view of teachers as facilitators of literacy activities and begins to demonstrate how teachers can be knowledge builders who break the vicious cycle where students most in need of high-quality reading and writing opportunities end up getting the least. It is particularly relevant for teachers who are working with students that are reading to learn. It illuminates (psychological) variables that can promote a love of reading or contribute to reading avoidance and signals actions that teachers can take to foster a culture of deep reading.
This text contributes to the important debate about knowledge-rich curricula and the role that comprehension plays in an era dominated by smart devices and search engines. The authors elucidate the enduring importance of deep reading as an apprenticeship into ways of thinking and knowing that cultivates what Professor Maryanne Wolf calls cognitive patience: the gateway to contemplative thought, critical analysis, analogic reasoning, and empathy."

Peter Nielsen
Department of Education, South Australia

"In their new book, Comprehension: The Skill, Will and Thrill of Reading, Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and Nicole Law challenge teachers to rethink the meaning of comprehension with its emphasis on “what and how” instead of offering students opportunities to think about the “when and why.” The authors explain the thrill of comprehension, showing how reading can shape our identities, how we think about ourselves and others, how we view the world, and ultimately why we take social action. Carefully, this groundbreaking book guides readers into rethinking and re-imagining strategy application, with an emphasis on quantitative measures of readability over the nuances that qualitative measures reveal. Our re-imagining journey continues as the authors discuss the skills young readers practice to develop fluency and automaticity and those such as vocabulary and background knowledge that continue to grow over a lifetime. Using examples from primary grades through high school, they discuss the teaching of comprehension and students’ reactions to the practice that emerges from instruction. They explain the importance of will—student agency—and its relationship to developing literate minds through thinking, questioning, discussing, and problem solving. This is a seminal book that you will read again and again no matter what grade you teach."

Laura Robb

Sample Materials & Chapters


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ISBN: 9781071840740

ISBN: 9781071812839