The renaissance in comprehension instruction launched by Mosaic of Thought has led to changes in hundreds of thousands of classrooms, where teachers now model reading strategies, and students probe meaning more deeply. But no book in the field has satisfactorily answered the question: What does it really mean to comprehend?

In To Understand, Ellin Oliver Keene not only explores this important question, but reveals what teachers can do to encourage all students to engage in deep understanding far more consistently than before. In discovering what’s really behind comprehension, To Understand goes well beyond comprehension strategy instruction.

Keene identifies specific Dimensions and Outcomes of Understanding—characteristics identified in readers with a highly developed ability to make sense of text—to help you rethink what comprehension is. She demonstrates how to leverage the Dimensions and Outcomes into relevant, provocative, memorable instruction.

To Understand proposes a model that incorporates all aspects of literacy instruction—word learning and comprehension—and describes how teachers can focus on what matters most in literacy content. Keene shows that when teachers target the most essential content, they have the time to help every student engage more deeply with texts and discover a passion for reading and learning. The model is founded on four simple, but powerful concepts:
  • Focus on what’s important by teaching vital concepts in depth rather than skimming over nonessential skills
  • Use research-based teaching and learning strategies, including proven-effective comprehension and language-based strategies, then taking them further by showing students how the strategies lead them to a fuller understand of a text
  • Teach the essential concepts over a long period of time so that children have an opportunity to learn not only a comprehension strategy, but to explore where that strategy leads in their understanding
  • Give students numerous opportunities to apply the concepts in a variety of texts and contexts.