The Stenhouse Blog

Use The Art of Comprehension to Create Equity Across Grade Levels

Posted by Trevor A. Bryan on Sep 23, 2019 11:52:38 AM

By Trevor A. Bryan

Teaching reading comprehension and writer’s craft can be tricky. If your building or district is focusing on reading comprehension or writer's craft this year then you might want to check out the approach to exploring texts outlined in The Art of Comprehension. It might be the perfect fit to your instructional puzzle.




Through meaningful conversations about visual texts (illustrations), The Art of Comprehension offers an accessible, consistent, and manageable approach to helping students of all abilities engage meaningfully with texts so that they can develop the comprehension and writing skills they need for success.This means that striving readers, emerging readers, and even non-readers are able to engage with the comprehension strategies they need, such as:

  • noticing key details
  • inferring
  • recognizing patterns
  • synthesizing key details
  • making text-to connections

Using visual texts to build your students’ comprehension skills allows ALL students to easily engage with the concepts of symbolism and themes. It’s never too early to introduce meaning-making and comprehension strategies. Here’s how it works.

How It Works

The Art of Comprehension uses three main tools to build comprehension skills, two of which are visual documents, and therefore accessible to non-readers and English language learners.

  • The Access Lenses, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds and pictured below, is at the heart of The Art of Comprehension. It shows students what key details to look for and where they should be looking using visual texts, which will start building their comprehension strategies. By building these strategies through thinking about art, they can eventually transfer those strategies when they read written texts.
  • The Framework provides a simple scaffold to help students consider such things as key details, and using those key details to support their thinking, and possible themes.
  • The Mood Structures provides a visual so students can easily recognize story structures, which helps them make predictions, identify key moments in narratives, and make strong-link, text-to-text connections. It can also help students to learn to summarize.


Access Lenses


One of the great strengths of The Art of Comprehension is its consistency. Students learn to use the tools to build their comprehension skills through exploring, thinking about, and discussing highly accessible and manageable visual texts. They can then apply the exact same tools, using the exact same skills and thinking to written texts. This consistency helps students to approach fiction and informational narrative texts with confidence and independence.

The Reading-and-Writing Connection

Another strength of The Art of Comprehension is that it makes visible the relationship between reading and writing. When students use the tools from The Art of Comprehension to explore and comprehend visual and written texts, they are also exploring and noticing writer’s craft. This means that the tools not only support students when rereading but they also become valuable support for students when they write. Using these tools can help students with idea generation, hooks/leads, narrative structure, elaboration, showing vs. telling, and crafting narratives that resonate with their intended audience.

If building comprehension strategies is the goal for you this year, the consistent, student and teacher friendly approach in The Art of Comprehension might be the missing piece. To preview and learn more, go here.

If you have questions or want to discuss how The Art of Comprehension can help your building or district, please reach out. I’m more than happy to help you help your students succeed. As far as I’m concerned, this would be time well spent.


Reach me through…

Twitter: @trevorabryan

Facebook: The Art of Comprehension


Topics: Reading, Writing