Are you looking for a non-boring way to increase your students’ reading comprehension and boost reading test scores?

If so, then the Prove It reading strategy is your answer!

The Prove It reading strategy encourages readers to refer back to the text they’re reading in order to find evidence that “proves”, or supports their responses. This powerful technique creates student accountability and motivates readers to thoroughly “think and search” within a text.

Have you ever asked students a comprehension question and received some bizarre answers?

I mean, I’ve at times looked on in amazement at some of the responses they come up with that have nothing to do with the text at hand.


Or maybe they answer correctly but don’t really know how to explain very well the “why”. Why is that the correct response?

I’ve left school many a days, scratching my head, thinking…

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In my search, I discovered the Prove It reading strategy! During my first year of teaching, the reading specialist from my school introduced me to this game-changing instructional technique.

I taught upper elementary ESL students at the time, and she, through her teaching experience, had observed the power of this strategy with second language learners.

And boy was she right!

The strategy worked wonders for ALL of my students not just the second language learners.

Those students who struggled with reading comprehension especially benefited.

I’ve used the Prove It reading strategy every year since.

The Prove It reading strategy really works! It gives kids a purpose for reading and helps them stay engaged with the text.  It’s a lot of work for the students up-front, but the payout is worth it!

I’m going to show you exactly how I use the Prove It reading strategy in my upper elementary classroom.

So let’s dig into it!

Step 1: Choose a Book for the Prove It Reading Strategy

For this example, I’m using two books: James and the Giant Peach (Roald Dahl) and What was the Underground Railroad? (Yona Zeldis McDonough).

I’m using two books only for the purpose of showing you how well this strategy works with both fiction and non-fiction books.

For the Prove It reading strategy to be most effective, students need a personal copy of the text.

A photocopied chapter or section of a book works fine if individual student copies aren’t available.

Choose a book that aligns with what you’re teaching in class. You want to ensure that whatever book you choose has sufficient information/enough words.

That will make the Prove It reading strategy more engaging.

Step 2: Create Leveled Comprehension Questions and/or Statements from the Texts

Now that you’ve chosen a book, it’s time to write questions and statements.

Ideally, these questions and statements are leveled. If you’re not sure what I mean by leveled, check out these Question-Answer Relationship question stems.

The idea is that some questions are harder to answer than others.

Write a variety of statements/questions: some that students will easily find the answers to and others that will require much more searching and thinking.  Throw in a couple of questions that can’t be answered directly from the text. These questions rely on readers’ prior knowledge and personal experiences.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

I’m sure many of the texts you’re already using with students have free questions and statements somewhere in cyberspace.

Tweak them a bit for your needs, and you’re good to go!

Below are the questions and statements I created for my two book examples.

I purposely put the questions in a different order from how they are placed in the book because doing so makes it a bit more challenging for students.

As a accommodation, however, for those students who might need more scaffolding, order the questions as they appear in the text.

James and the Giant Peach (Chapter 1)

    • What animal killed James’ parents?
    • Define jiffy.
    • Besides sad and lonely, how does James feel about living with his aunts?
    • What is a nuisance?
    • Name a simile from chapter 1.
  • Describe James’ two aunts.

What was the Underground Railroad? (Chapter 5: The Great Conductor)

    • Why was the route named the Underground Railroad?
    • Define overseer.
    • Why did Harriet decide to escape?
  • Why wasn’t Harriet able to read or write?

Step 3: How Students Use the Prove It Reading Strategy

Once all student have had an opportunity to view the questions/statements and locate the answers, it’s now time for them to “prove” their responses with evidence from the text!

Here’s a snapshot of what a “Prove It” session looks like.

One by one, I read each statement or question.

The first question:

“What animal killed James’ parents?”

Students volunteer to answer.

I choose one student or a group (if working in small groups).  The chosen student responds…

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After the student answers, the class responds…

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The student shares his proof.

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The kids really get a kick out of saying “Prove It”, but you don’t have to do it like that.

You yourself could simply ask the reader for his proof.

No hoopla necessary.😋

However you do it, some students will begin comparing their evidence to others.  

They learn from each other, revise responses, reframe their thinking, etc.

There’s learning magic in those moments! A teacher’s dream!!

Here’s another example…

“Define jiffy.”

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The students respond…

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The student provides evidence to support her response.

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Here’s one more…

“Why was the route named the Underground Railroad?”

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Students respond…

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The student provides proof to support response.

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Prove It Reading Strategy as a Test-Taking Technique

The above examples focus on reading comprehension, but the Prove It reading strategy is just as powerful as a test-taking technique.

For standardized tests, when possible, I have always encouraged my students to “prove” their answers by underlining evidence in the test booklet and recording the corresponding page numbers where that evidence was found somewhere near the test question.

In fact, one school in which I worked required teachers to use the Prove It reading strategy as a test prep routine.

We were an at-risk school, which you know comes with its own unique set of challenges.

We still, however, scored well on reading standardized tests. This strategy was definitely a contributor to that.

NOTE: I’m NOT a fan of standardized tests (that’s another post), but I realize they’re a HUGE part of school systems and not going away anytime soon.

I can go on and on about the reasons why I dislike them, but the reality is that my opinions don’t help teachers who need real test-taking strategies now. 

I’m sharing the Prove It reading strategy because I know it will support teachers as they prep kiddos for reading standardized tests.

Prove It Reading Strategy Poster

To use this strategy to prepare students for standardized testing, give them a mini-poster to guide them in “proving!” their answers.

Though the poster can’t be used during the actual standardized test, if you use it throughout the school year, your students will eventually know the steps by heart!

Here are the steps for students to follow…

  1. P review the set of questions.
  2. R ead the text carefully and at least twice.
  3. O mit answers that are the least best choice.
  4. V erify your answers with proof.
  5. E xplain your answers to a group or partner using evidence (proof).
  6. I nfer using prior knowledge and clues, if necessary.
  7. T est your answer. Ask yourself, “Does the answer make sense?”

How Readers Record Their Evidence for the Prove It Reading Strategy

If each student has a personal copy of the text, post it notes are great for collecting evidence.

Students write the evidence, and it’s even better if they put the page number where the evidence was found.

Expect sticky notes to be everywhere!

Know that some responses have very little evidence (because the answers are directly stated), and others have lots of evidence that could be sprinkled throughout several pages.

For photocopies of text, highlighters work well. Students simply highlight the evidence.

I even have readers write the question number next to the highlighted evidence so that I know exactly which evidence supports each question or statement.

Wrapping Up

The Prove It reading strategy works equally well for whole group, small group, and one-on-one instruction.

Even more wonderful is that it can be used for elementary, middle, and high school learners.

You’ve got to try out this instructional gem!

I’m confident that the Prove It reading strategy will boost your kiddos reading comprehension levels and consequently their test scores.

Happy Teaching and Learning!