Learning to recognize and construct metaphors is
one of the research-based instructional strategies that increases
student achievement (Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock 2001). Educators
can help readers use metaphors to relate the parts of a car and driving at night to the seven reading comprehension strategies. The table below
presents comparisons between a car's parts and the
seven reading comprehension strategies. Students can use these
metaphors to better understand the role each strategy plays in
reading comprehension. The metaphors are found on the downloadable
The Metaphor of Driving a Car at Night
||Just as a driver should always check the rear-view mirror before pulling out or backing up, a reader should always activate or build background knowledge before engaging with a text.
||Using headlights to drive at night is essential. Like night drivers, readers should tap into all of their senses as they read.
||Readers use questioning to be actively engaged while they read; drivers use the steering wheel to direct their vehicle.
||Readers can use making predictions and drawing inferences like an accelerator to propel them through a text.
||Tires bear the weight of the car and allow it to move. Readers can rely on main ideas to form a foundation for comprehending a text.
||Readers use fix-up options to regain control
of reading comprehension like a driver uses the brakes to stop in order to regain control of the car.
||Strategic readers use all of the reading comprehension strategies, the whole car,
and combine information with their interpretations to synthesize
and create knowledge.
Chapter 3: Activating or Building Background
Knowledge: When readers activate or build background knowledge, they have a place from which to begin. A driver pulling out of a parking space, garage, or onto a highway should always check the rear-view mirror.
Chapter 4: Using Sensory Images:
Sensory imagery is symbolized by the car's headlights; drivers must use them to drive at night. Using sensory images requires readers to engage all their senses in order to make
meaning. Sensory connections are also an aspect of our background
Chapters 5: Questioning and 6: Making
Predictions and Inferences: Asking questions, represented
by the steering wheel, and making predictions and inferences, the accelerator,
require higher-order thinking skills that stretch the reader to
go beyond a text's denotation on the page or screen in order to
Chapter 7: Determining Main Ideas:
The tires, or main ideas, are next. An understanding of a text rests on the main ideas. Readers must analyze texts
in order to determine the main ideas in order to compose summaries.
Chapter 8: Using Fix-up Options:
The fix-up strategy allows readers to recover lost
comprehension. What does a driver do when she gets lost? She should pull over and put on the brakes. Comprehension fix-up options can be taught one-by-one,
but altogether they show the complexity of monitoring and recovering
Chapter 9: Synthesizing:
And finally, synthesis, the whole car, requires that the
reader use all the strategies to bring together ideas and evidence
from multiple texts and combine it with their own interpretations
to transform information into knowledge.
Strategic readers apply these strategies seamlessly in their reading
process. Although the how-to chapters in this book isolate individual
reading comprehension strategies, the strategies are interrelated.
Strategic readers utilize multiple comprehension strategies as
they engage with texts. The ultimate goal is to utilize combinations
of strategies when they are appropriate to different types of
texts, purposes for reading, and comprehension challenges. The
order of the chapters reflects one possible logical sequence for building
students' comprehension strategy repertoires, but educators should use their judgment about the best sequence or selection of strategies based on students' needs.
Here is a Go!Animate cartoon that describes the seven reading comprehension strategies featured in my book. I wrote the script, former graduate assistant Liz Sikes animated it, and artist Jonathan Thompson created the illustrations.
Marzano, Robert. J., Debra J. Pickering, and Jane E. Pollock.
2001. Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies
for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association
of Supervision and Curriculum Development.