As a Special Education teacher, I often see students who struggle with longer reading passages which have comprehension questions which they must answer. Students who struggle with the very act of reading don't know how to attack a passage and be successful with it. Here is a strategy called RUNRAVEL that I have used with both special education students as well as basic ed. students:
R read through the questions first.
U underline the title and look at the pictures.
N now predict.
R run through and number the paragraphs.
A are the important words circled?
V venture through the story.
E eliminate obvious wrong answers.
L let's prove our answers.
The first things the students need to do is to flip to the back and read the questions first. The main reasons they need to read the questions before ever reading the story is so that they know what to look for while reading. Good readers attack reading differently when they are reading for pleasure than when they are reading for information. If you are reading for information, you need to know what information it is that you are looking for. Reading the questions first will let the students know what information they will need in order to answer the questions.
After they have read the questions, students underline the title. This is mainly to get the students to actually read the title. Many times students jump right into the story and never even look at the title which often gives many clues to what the story is about. After they have read and underlined the title, they quickly flip through and look at all the pictures.
The title and the pictures should give them plenty of info to make a prediction on what they think the story will be about. This can be done either orally, written in the margin or however you want. Predicting is an important skill that students will need to know how to do as they progress through school.
The students should number the paragraphs so that later on when they are proving their answers, they can quickly and easily list what paragraph they found the answer in.
Important words can be names, dates, numbers, places, etc. that seem like they may be important in the story. Students should quickly skim and either circle or underline words that they think may be important. Often students need to be taught how to skim because they don't know how to quickly run their eyes over a passage without actually (slowly) reading it. As with predicting, this will get the student's brain ready to read.
When students venture through the passage, they actually read it. Rather than jumping right to this step, all the previous steps makes students slow down a bit and prepares their brain to comprehend what they are reading.
After they have finally read the passage, as they are answering questions, students should be taught how to identify and "throw out" any obvious wring answers. For example, in a multiple choice question, there are typically 1 or 2 answer choices that are way off base. If students can mentally toss those out, they are left with only two possible answers leaving them a better chance of figuring out the correct one.
Proving answers means the students go back into the story and actually FIND the answers rather than guess at answers they think they remember. The answer, or the clues used to come up with the answer can be underlined in the text with the question number circled next to it. The paragraph number can be placed next to the question so that you can easily find their proof. By making them prove their answers, they are less likely to get questions wrong, and you can easily see why they may have chosen the answer that they did.
This strategy has worked very well for students of all abilities and walks of life. It has worked so well that I thought I would pass it along to anyone who may be interested in helping a child with reading homework!