How we teach reading comprehension

How we teach comprehension



Comprehension refers to children's ability to understand what they are reading by using logic and reasoning. This is an important skill in that it helps children think deeply about a text, considering not just what it says explicitly, but also what is implied.


Book Banding:

Children’s comprehension with book-banded books is measured using Benchmarking. Once children have read with appropriate accuracy, automaticity and prosody, the teacher can then give children the comprehension assessment.  This assessment tool asks children to read and answer a range of retrieval and inferential questions to determine whether they have understood the text they are reading. Teachers use the mark scheme to ascertain whether the questions have been answered correctly with sufficient detail and to calculate the final score. Children need to have answered 80% of the questions correctly before moving to the next book band level.


Children who do not answer 80% of the questions correctly remain on their current book band level. Quality first teaching is then adjusted or an appropriate intervention is selected; these can be found in the ‘Intervention’ section. 




At Blackhorse, we use VIPERS to teach reading comprehension.  VIPERS is an anagram to aid the recall of the 6 reading domains as part of the comprehension side of the reading curriculum.  They are the key areas which we feel children need to know and understand in order to improve their comprehension of texts.


The 6 domains focus on the comprehension aspect of reading and not the mechanics (decoding, fluency, prosody). As such, VIPERS is not a reading scheme but rather a method of ensuring that teachers ask, and students are familiar with, a range of questions.


In Reception and Year 1, VIPERS questions are taught and asked through whole class reading sessions when reading the FAB Five books of the term. Alongside practising fluency, important questions are asked about the text using the 6 domain foci. From Year 2-6 the children are given questions after the main reading sessions; these are answered in their books. Teachers model how to answer the 6 different domain types through the ‘I do, You do, We do’ process. In Year 2-3 the VIPERS will be taught individually so the children understand what each of them mean and the skills they need to answer each question. In Year 4, teachers will begin to teach 2 or 3 VIPERS together, allowing the children to answer multiple questions. By Year 5 and 6, the children will be answering a mixture of VIPERS reading questions throughout reading lessons.


Below are simplified definitions for each of the VIPERS progressing throughout the school. These are taught to the children and placed on reading working walls when the children are learning about a particular domain.


VIPERS in 'child-speak':

Teachers choose from a range of differentiated questions stems which progress as children move through the school. Children have the opportunity to practise answering these verbally before answering them in a written format in their books. This follows the ‘I do, We do, You do’ teaching method