Do My Secondary School Students need Comprehension Instruction?

The short answer is a resounding YES!

Here are the issues that have been identified by numerous studies. We are sure you can identify with these.

  • TextBook Difficulty
    As students move from a skills based curriculum (primary) to a predominantly content based curriculum (secondary), the main instructional resources tend to be content area text books. Because of the textbook design, many of these resources place heavy demands on even the best readers. The inability of students to extract meaning from this content and the pace of instruction required to cover all the content result in huge comprehension issues. This has resulted in the call for the introduction of comprehension strategy instruction at the secondary school level.
  • The Secondary Teacher Skill Set
    Unfortunately, effective comprehension strategy instruction is not usually part of the secondary school teacher's instructional tool kit. That is more than likely not what you signed up for!  
  • TIME!
    Even if you had the skill set for this, you are already time poor when it comes to meeting course / content requirements. The reality is that comprehension strategy instruction requires considerable teacher preparation time and considerable student practice to achieve fluency, all of which are going to impact your normal content delivery! 

Our entry level solution to this is a simple 10 minute routine that can be introduced at the beginning of any curriculum lesson as an energiser activity or as an opportunity to review important content from a previous lesson. Once the teacher understands and can implement the routine quickly and efficiently, no preparation time is required apart from selecting a piece of text for the exercise. 

The routine forces the students to do two very important things
1. Unpack the literal meaning of the words at a sentence level. You will be surprised at what they are NOT doing.
2. Acknowledge roadblocks (usually vocabulary) that get in the way of fully understanding the author's message, and then know what to do to unlock that roadblock.

Once the students are secure with this habit (and you the teacher are quick and efficient with your implementation) layers of additional cognitive complexity can be added. Stage 5 "Text Analysis" is the most beneficial for Secondary students followed by Stage 6: Text Evaluation. 

The course also provides training in small group comprehension instruction which may be more suited to the role of the literacy support teachers in your school.

Most approaches to comprehension instruction revolve around equipping the learner with many strategies (intentional actions students can use during reading to guide their thinking) which the student then selects from and applies to problem solve comprehension issues.

Our approach is aimed at a more automatic, subconscious level. We focus on 'training the brain' into an active reading habit which results in a more automated processing of the information being read  WHILE the learner is reading. We have our own research which identifies significant improvements in student understanding and retention of information as a result of this approach.

All secondary students will benefit from this comprehension skill instruction and practice.

  • High ability students who are intuitively efficient readers will sharpen their ability to process and hold onto text.
  • Mainstream students who are good decoders but weak comprehenders make rapid progress once they are introduced to unpacking sentences.
  • Lower achievers with reasonable decoding ability gain newfound confidence and are motivated to read more.
  • Students who have been using our SharpReading approach during the primary years certainly benefit from this ongoing practice.

If you have students who are still grappling with decoding issues then we suggest you look at our Struggling Older Reader ONLiNE Course.

This ONLiNE Course Gives You...

Clear, Concise Step-by-Step Learning

We explain the process, model the teaching, you go away and practice in the classroom. Come back for the next step.

At-Your-Own-Pace Flexibility

Twelve months access to the course means plenty of time to build your expertise across the SharpReading stages we recommend. 

A person running up steps to indicate that we have a step by step approach to developing reading ability

Learning Pathway for your Students

Quickly identify your students starting point and add increasingly complex layers to your lesson by moving through our SharpReading Stages.

Resources and Templates

Everything you need to get started.
PDF and Powerpoint texts, teacher scripts, data templates.

Expert Video Models of the Teaching

See the classroom delivery. Subtitles and important notes make it very easy for you to process. View as many times as you need.

A person running up steps to indicate that we have a step by step approach to developing reading ability

Watch the Confidence Grow

Watch the confidence levels grow as your students become active readers and engage more deeply with text.


Add On a Start-Up Webinar

Request an 'event' to get you started.
Have the course writers answer your questions.
CLICK HERE to request the ONLiNE Course PLUS Start-Up Webinar Package.

Expert, Individualised Feedback

Find out how your implementation is going. Contact us for Virtual Feedback on your lessons.
CLICK HERE for more information and to book a Virtual Feedback session.

"I like this. It is easy to implement and gives me a clear process to follow. I am starting to use unpacking sentences in all of my teaching."

Julia, Year 9 teacher.

Feel Confident that there IS Something YOU can do!

Whether you are using the 10 minute whole class routine or working with groups of students in a full-on comprehension strategy program, this course will provide you with the tools you need to feel that you ARE making a difference.

You can take this as far as you want. Stage 3 "Unpacking Sentences" has a profound effect on all readers who have never experienced this kind of instruction before. Going further, Stage 5 will develop the mental flexibility for your learners to be able to preform high level critical thinking skills WHILE they are reading.

Course Overview

Start your course at any time – all year round.


GST will be added to NZ purchases.



Click on the link to request the ONLiNE Course PLUS Start-Up Webinar  package. 



Unit 1 is a course overview and a library of resources provided for the course.
Units 2-5 are each self-contained modules of the course.
Each unit will require approximately 45 minutes of reading, viewing and processing time before heading into the classroom for the practical component.



We provide you with 12 months access to the training so that you have plenty of time to complete the practical component of each unit before moving on to the next step.

12 months


Video examples showing you how to teach and improve the reading routine.



Working online means you can
start the course at any time.


If you need an event to get you going, click here for more information and we will arrange a 4 hour webinar that will get you well immersed in the train. COST: Additional NZ  $56  per person, minimum 3 people.

ONLiNE Course Contents

UNIT 1 : Overview and Resource Library

All the teacher scripts, resources, and other templates can be found here.

UNIT 2 : The 10 Minute Whole Class Routine

This unit focuses on the explanation and delivery of the 10 minute '5 Steps' routine for unpacking sentences which will be the foundation of your Comprehension Strategy Instruction.

UNIT 3 : The 5 Steps Routine with Small Groups

This unit contains all the information and modelling for small group instruction. This is an ideal variation on the 5 Step routine for the Learning Support teacher or where to go if your school wants to get involved in a deeper literacy intervention.

UNIT 4 : Stage 5A - Fiction or Narrative Text

Going beyond the generic unpacking of sentences (the same approach applies to fiction and non fiction), Stage 5 splits off into two separate units as we teach students to identify elements of text structure as they are reading (Analysing Text)..

UNIT 5 : Stage 5B - Non Fiction or Expository Text

This will be of most interest to Science and Social Science teachers as this is the text that will be used in most of your teaching. Analysing expository text trains the brain to look for organisation and patterns as the reader reads.

Course Writers - Your Tutors

Hilton Ayrey

Hilton and Brian began collaborating on this project while working at the New Zealand Graduate School of Education, Christchurch, NZ. With responsibility for training primary and secondary teacher trainees in literacy, what followed were 10 years of action research working alongside teachers and students in the classroom to develop efficient and effective routines for the teaching of comprehension strategies across all levels of the school.

As with all of our ONLiNE courses, this is a tried and proven stand-alone course that will equip you to be a teacher of comprehension strategies in your secondary classroom.

Brian Parker

However, we are always available to discuss your training during your 12 months access. For face-to-face introductions you can register for our webinars and workshops and even sign up for our Virtual Feedback sessions to get a very non-threatening appraisal of what is going well and your own 'Next Steps' as a SharpReading teacher.




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