Reading Comprehension Fix-Up Strategies for Upper Elementary

Comprehension difficulties happen to everyone… good readers, and struggling readers alike.

They happen to adults too! Every time I read directions for a complicated IKEA assembly or a technical-scientific article, I find my comprehension skills being challenged!

The important thing we need to teach our students, especially the struggling readers, is that those moments of uncertainty are bound to happen as part of the reading process. Good readers though are constantly monitoring their own comprehension.

They NOTICE when those moments occur and take steps to repair the comprehension break using fix-up strategies.


Here is a list of comprehension fix-up strategies for upper elementary students.

Most of these fix-up strategies are not for single words, although that may sometimes happen. These strategies are best used when readers are struggling to understand a whole section of text.

Note: Beginning readers and struggling readers would also have additional fix-up strategies involving knowledge of letter sounds too. Without a strong knowledge of phonics, real reading comprehension is unlikely to occur.

1. Re-read

This strategy is one of the most effective, but it can be difficult to get reluctant readers to go back and read something again.


2. Read a Little Ahead

Sometimes when the reader reads a bit ahead, things start making sense.


3. Read Out Loud

If the reader is reading out loud for comprehension purposes, and not as a fluency practice, generally the reader will slow down (another good strategy) and will think about what is being read.


4. Use Context Clues

Good readers know that sometimes unknown words may not be crucial for understanding the text in its entirety. Other times, a single word can be so impactful that not knowing that word can hinder reading comprehension. By reading a little before and after the unknown word, readers can sometimes infer the word’s meaning.


5. Look Up the Unknown Word

If context clues aren’t helping, knowledge of word sounds, affixes, and roots aren’t helping, and the word is key to the reader’s understanding of the text, looking it up in a dictionary or glossary might be helpful.


6. Read More Slowly

Readers who speed through sections are bound to lose some comprehension. Slowing down, combined with re-reading, is a great reading comprehension technique!


7. Use Text Features

At the upper elementary level, most students are reading chapter books with little or no pictures which can be used as clues. When reading informational text though, readers might be able to look at text features like pictures, labels, close-ups, cutaways, captions, and graphs to clarify information.


8. Ask Questions

Asking questions mentally and answering them is one of the strategies good readers use. It helps readers interact with the text more deeply. When comprehension breaks down though, asking questions can become a fix-up strategy. Readers should ask themselves questions like what do they know so far, when did they started to lose understanding, and what can they do to get back on track.


9. Stop and Think

This is the ultimate fix-up strategy! If upper elementary students read actively, they should be monitoring their own comprehension. Stopping and thinking every now and then (each paragraph for some, each page or several pages for others) is a key comprehension tool.


So, how do we teach these fix-up strategies?

I think one of the best ways to do it, whether that be in a Reader’s Workshop mini-lesson or in a Guided Reading group, is to use the Think Aloud technique. I’ll explain this technique in-depth in another post but basically, here’s how to do a Think Aloud:

  • The teacher reads a mentor text or a single short passage out loud.
  • The teacher stops at certain points and explains what she/he is thinking to model what good readers do.


For example, after reading a bit, I might stop and say, “So, I just read this sentence that has the word flat. Usually, when we say flat, we’re talking about something that’s not tall, like a pancake is flat or someone has a flat tire. But that doesn’t make sense here. So, to figure this out, I think I’ll use context clues and read around the word. It says that she took the groceries into her flat and then rested on the sofa. Ah, so a flat must be some kind of home in England.”


These quick, fix-up lessons are a great way to model what good readers do.

Want a FREE set of Reading Comprehension Fix-Up bookmarks? These look especially great printed on Astrobright/colored card-stock!

Click here to grab the FREE bookmarks!


For more information about the key reading comprehension strategies for upper elementary students, you might want to read these posts:

The Best Reading Comprehension Strategies for Upper Elementary

Using Think Alouds to Increase Comprehension in Upper Elementary



Lastly, if you’re looking for time-saving reading comprehension resources, I have created lots of units and activities geared to upper elementary students!

Click here to take a look!


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The Teacher Next Door - Creating upper elementary resources that target standards for busy teachers

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The Teacher Next Door - Creating upper elementary resources that target standards for busy teachers

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