The FIVES, or Everything You Need to “Get It” When You Read ANYTHING!

The FIVES Strategy for Reading Comprehension, by Mary Shea and Nancy Roberts

By Nancy Roberts and Mary Shea, authors of The FIVES Strategy for Reading Comprehension

Working with students from K-12 and beyond, you will always find students who struggle with reading. Being able to phonetically decipher the words is one thing, but for some, that is where it stops. They connected and cracked the phonemic/phonics “code” but now only call the words; their understanding is at a base level. They lack the ability to collect and make deeper sense of what they read. They need to be taught why we read, and how to read various types of text with success.

Reading needs to be more than sounding good; it has to collect information we can then apply, analyze, evaluate, and/or create. Reading a book, text, magazine, newspaper, blogs, and even people and situations requires us to read for each of the following five elements:

  1. Facts: the names, dates, society, locations, etc. that are given to the reader
  2. Inferences: the suggestions, hints, or ideas that the reader gets from the Facts and the Vocabulary used
  3. Vocabulary: the words used, both academic and descriptive
  4. Experience: the connections made with what is being shared which can come from self, news, other texts…
  5. Summary: the application of tying it all together in sequence, in chunks that are meaningful and memorable


It is fun to realize how important this is to our making sense of our world by using it to “read” another person, or a situation. It can be done by role playing a character and having students note each area of the FIVES.

The most difficult is Inferencing, as students will give an Inference but call it a Fact. An example of this is a student upon observing a characterization of a four-year-old having a tantrum in a store to state, “The kid was a brat” as a Fact, when the child being a “brat” is an Inference based on Facts (such as throwing things, screaming, hitting, etc.)

You actually hear the kids when they get this exclaim, “Oh, I get it now!”

Vocabulary also plays a role in our ability to Infer. As part of the role of above, the four-year-old character used words that also informed us—words or phrases like, “Stupid, I’m going to break your eggs. I’m not moving a muscle!” would go a long way to helping us make Inferences on this character.

Kindergarteners to graduate students have fun learning how these pieces all fit together to give us our best comprehension of a disciplinary text, novel, new, person, situation or even a political debate!

The FIVES Strategy for Reading Comprehension

The FIVES Strategy for Reading Comprehension

By Mary Shea & Nancy Roberts

Available at the Learning Sciences bookstore



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