Organizers to Help Your Students with Reading Comprehension

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Cross Country Education
March 17, 2021 02:09 AM (GMT-04:00)

Reading comprehension can be challenging – for both students and teachers. But not if you have the right tools! Students can improve their reading comprehension with the aid of reading organizers. These simple but effective tools allow the reader to break text into focused, manageable parts, creating a more approachable and enriching reading experience.

Reading organizers narrow the amount of information in focus at any given time, so it’s easier to comprehend without the distraction of what may seem like an overwhelming amount of writing. Students can also use reading organizers to keep track of their thoughts as they read. These practices build upon reading comprehension, significantly improving this skill set over time.

Here are some helpful reading organizers compiled by our team of educators. Most of these suggestions require little more than the reading material, a surface to write on, and something to write with, though we’ve also included some links to free templates and paid resources. Enjoy!

Sticky Note Strategy

This simple, low-stress strategy prompts students to respond to questions prepared on sticky notes, helping them organize their thoughts while reading.

  • Sticky notes
  • Writing utensils
  • Reading material

To better understand the text at hand, prepare questions or prompts for the types of questions you want students to think about while reading. Have students write out these questions on their sticky notes, then stick them near the part of the text where you want them to pause and answer the respective prompts.


Once completed, students can re-stick their sticky notes on a poster board, grouped according to the sections of text or types of prompts. Students can compare responses, and the poster can serve as a visual reminder of what they’ve read.

KWL Chart

Students respond to a prompt/question with things they Know, Want to know, and Learned about a topic.

  • KWL chart: print out an online template or have students make their own
  • Writing utensils
  • Reading material

The KWL organizer has a column for each of the following: Know, Want to know, and Learned. Tell the students which topic you will be covering for the activity. Instruct students to write everything they already know about the topic in the “K” column, and what they want to know in the “W” column. During or after reading the material, students will write what they learned in the “L” column.


Students can add to the “want to know” column if there are even more things they want to know after reading the material. If they don’t have a vocabulary word for an idea, they may draw a picture to supplement.

CATCH Reading Strategy

When reading, students Circle unfamiliar words, Acknowledge confusion, Talk with the text, Capture the main idea, and Highlight important details

  • Provided text
  • Writing utensil
  • Optional: provide printed instructions such as this free download

Students annotate the text following the C.A.T.C.H. guidelines. Circle and define all unfamiliar words; Acknowledge when they are confused by either writing “A,” a question mark, or a written question; Talk with the text by jotting down any thoughts, questions for further reflection, or reactions they experience while reading; Capture the main idea by identifying introductory and conclusory statements, and/or summarizing their understanding of the text; Highlight important details such as events which drive the story/main idea, or words which share themes.


Students may use different colored pens for each step of the C.A.T.C.H. process. Students may work in small groups to brainstorm during or after reading.

Jigsaw Articles

Students read different articles or different parts of an article and present what they learned.

  • Writing utensils
  • A jigsaw template
  • Reading material

Divide the reading selection into four segments and put students into groups of four, which will be their “home groups.” Students will be responsible for teaching one segment or selection to the group they are sitting with now. Then break the students into “expert groups,” a group of students assigned to the same reading segment or selection. Students will read their segment, then use the jigsaw template to help answer questions and gather information on each segment or selection. Students reconvene to their “home groups” and present to each other according to their segment of expertise.


Each “home group” may present their group’s findings to the class as a whole.


Students organize their ideas in two separate columns. This is best for compare/contrast activities or any other binary lens for interpreting text.

Materials Needed:
  • Writing implement
  • Writing surface with large “T” (can be individual student worksheet classroom whiteboard or virtual whiteboard)
  • Reading material

Instruct students to write what they notice or understand about the text through the lens of any two criteria. This could be comparing and contrasting something about the material, pros and cons, reality versus fantasy, fact vs. fiction, scientific dichotomy, or any two facets of the reading material.


Students can use the T-chart to inform further writing exercises, such as a persuasive essay or any assessment of the two facets considered.

More Reading Comprehension Organizers

Reading A-Z – Their collections for primary (grades K-2) and intermediate (grades 3-6) are arranged according to the reading strategy, comprehension skill, or learning process they best facilitate. The majority of the organizers in both collections can be adapted for use in all classrooms and for learners of all abilities. – These downloadable templates include organizers to help students summarize, define story elements, identify main ideas, paraphrase text, and more. They are easy for students to follow and include ample explanations and examples.

Scholastic – Organized by the types of lessons you want to teach and tailored to grades 1-8, Scholastic has an extensive collection of reading organizers to fit any assignment. Some are available for purchase, or you can peruse their collection for ideas and create your own.

Reading Rockets – From their website, “Reading rockets is a national public media literacy initiative offering information and resources on how young kids learn to read, why so many struggle, and how caring adults can help.” Below is an excerpt on why reading organizers work, and they provide five different visual reading organizers you can either print out or re-draw by hand.

Teachers Pay Teachers – This site offers over three million free and paid resources, made for and by educators. Included is this bundle of digital reading organizers for distance learning with Google apps.

Reading organizers come in many forms and are useful at any age where reading ability is a component of learning. There are reading organizers for any subject area, and educators can tailor them to help with just about any reading assignment. From classroom-wide activities, small group work, and independent reading to distance learning, there is a reading organizer to help your students get the most out of texts and continue building their reading comprehension skills through continued practice and encouragement.

Thanks for reading! Be sure to bookmark these reading resources and browse through our other helpful resources for educational professionals.

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