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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…


In my search, I discovered the Prove It reading strategy.

During my first year of teaching, the reading specialist 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.

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 gives kids a purpose for reading and helps them stay engaged with the text.

Related: For more literacy-focused mini-lesson ideas, check out our readers’ workshop page filled with a variety of reading and writing instructional strategies.

Implementing the Prove It Reading Strategy

Step 1: Choose a Book.

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 of the book aren’t available.

Choose a book that aligns with what you’re teaching in class. You want to ensure that whichever 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 how to create leveled questions, 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 wheelI’m sure many of the texts you’re already using with students have free questions and statements somewhere online.

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.

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 Prove It

Once all learners 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…


After the student answers, the class responds…


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.

Now the student shares his proof.


Here’s another example…

“Define jiffy.”


Students respond…


The student provides evidence to support her response.


Here’s one more…

“Why was the route named the Underground Railroad?”


Students respond … “PROVE IT!”

The student provides proof to support his response…


Prove It Reading Strategy as a Test-Taking Technique

The Prove It reading strategy is powerful as a test-taking technique.

If possible, encourage students to “prove” their answers by underlining evidence in the test booklet.

They record the corresponding page numbers where that evidence was found somewhere near the test question.

Prove It Reading Strategy Poster

To use this strategy to prepare students for standardized testing, provide 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?”

Wrapping Up

The Prove It reading strategy will boost your elementary students’ reading comprehension levels and consequently their test scores.

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

Happy teaching and learning

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