Reading Comprehension: Written Language – About This Unit

Success in school, and in many jobs, depends on being able to read well. Reading well involves more than strong decoding skills and fluency. It involves understanding what is read (also known as “reading comprehension”). Understanding comes from interacting with the text.

Knowledge of two key areas—the components of written language and strategic reading—builds reading comprehension. These domains are so important that we devote two units to them. This unit considers elements of written language, while Unit 8 examines strategic reading.

Core Concepts

One set of tools for improving reading compre­hension involves building knowledge related to several components of written language. These include vocabulary, syntax, textual features and structure, and cohesion and coherence.

Knowledge of these components combines with strategic reading skills to improve reading comprehension. But these components also relate to one another. For example, readers need to understand vocabulary and syntax in order for a text to seem cohesive and coherent.

Key Vocabulary

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  • Antonym
    A word meaning the opposite of another word. Antonym is the opposite of synonym.
  • Cloze Exercise
    A fill-in-the-blank instructional method that asks students to supply a missing word (or words) in a sentence. The words before and after the missing word provide clues about what the missing word could be.
  • Coherence
    The way in which a text's parts (e.g., sentences, paragraphs, chapters) fit together logically.
  • Cohesion
    The way in which a text's vocabulary and syntax work together to give the text meaning.
  • Ellipsis
    A cohesive device where repeated words are omitted.
  • Figurative Language (or Figure of Speech)
    Language that uses roundabout ways of speaking to communicate more than (or something different from) what the literal words mean.
  • Hyperbole
    A figure of speech involving exaggeration.
  • Idiom
    Words and phrases that have taken on a particular meaning different from the literal meaning of the words themselves. "Break a leg" is an example of an idiom meaning "good luck."
  • Pronoun
    A word that can function in place of a noun (e.g., he, she, it, them).
  • Rhetorical Question
    A question asked in order to state an opinion rather than solicit a response.
  • Simile
    A figure of speech that directly compares two things using words such as "like" or "as."
  • Slang
    Informal language used by particular groups. Some slang becomes widely adopted.
  • Substitution
    A cohesive device where a repeated word is replaced with another, usually simpler, substitute.
  • Syntax
    The rules for how to arrange (spoken or written) words in a given language.
  • Text Conventions
    The practices related to written text that most people who read and write English agree on. People understand them when they see them, and they use them in their own writing. For example, everyone agrees that a period goes at the end of a complete thought to make it a sentence. They agree that seeing a period means you should stop briefly in your reading and get ready for a new idea.
  • Text Features
    Various parts of a text, including text conventions; structural components (e.g., paragraphs, headings); and added supports (e.g., tables of contents, textboxes).