The Comprehension Quest

Reading comprehension intervention doesn’t need to rely on endless packets of passages and questions.

Great readers are great thinkers.

Great thinking can be developed through play.

Saturdays at 11am

9/21, 9/28, 10/5, 10/12, 10/19, 10/26, 11/2, 11/16

In The Comprehension Quest, our Clinical Director, Jeanne Tighe, M.A., CCC-SLP, BCS-CL, will turn a group of students into epic adventurers. Using the core mechanics of the tabletop role playing game Dungeons & Dragons, the adventurers will immerse themselves in a collaborative storytelling experience. Each student will create and control their own unique character, who will make choices, take actions, interact with others, and shape the events of the story. Throughout the game sessions, Jeanne will infuse techniques drawn from language and literacy research to promote rich, critical comprehension and sophisticated, effective verbal expression. Targeted skills will include:


  • Identifying clues in the narrative

  • Making inferences

  • Identifying cause-effect relationships

  • Creating mental imagery

  • Retelling and summarizing

  • Perspective taking


The Comprehension Quest Q&A


Q: I’m not sure I really understand what Dungeons & Dragons is. What exactly will you be doing with my child?


A: Dungeons & Dragons is, very simply, a shared storytelling game. The game is run by one player, who is called the Game Master (Jeanne). The Game Master acts as a sort of narrator who gets the story going and keeps it moving forward. Each player (your child) creates a character in the story, then pretends to be that character throughout. Characters have special abilities and items that they use to solve problems and achieve their goals throughout the narrative. The players roll dice to see how their attempts end up. For example, if a player wants to trick the guard at the gate, she will describe the trick she has planned, then roll her 20-sided die to see whether her trick succeeded. The story continues from session to session, and as the characters succeed, they level up in their skills and gain treasure. These elements combine to form a highly interactive, imaginative, funny, exciting, unforgettable shared social experience and tale of epic adventure.


Q: Is this a video game? Does it involve screens?


A: Not at all. Dungeons & Dragons is a tabletop game that can be played with nothing but a pencil, a sheet of paper, and some dice. All the action occurs in our collective imaginations. We might use a few more props like maps and miniatures, just for fun. All materials will be provided.


Q: Isn’t Dungeons & Dragons violent? Is it scary? Will this be age appropriate for my 10 year old?


A: Dungeons & Dragons does not have to be violent or scary. In fact, it is actually a highly pro-social game. The players will need to cooperate, grow to understand each other’s characters, and practice empathy. These are the primary interactions that comprise the game. With that said, some level of conflict is necessary to provide points of action that make the story exciting. Our characters will encounter monsters and villains of some sort, but they will be more silly than scary. The characters will only fight with opponents that are imaginary and abstract. If your child has watched movies from franchises such as Harry Potter, Star Wars, or How to Train Your Dragon and felt comfortable with the level of conflict in those stories, they’ll have no trouble with our game. If you have additional questions about this issue, please reach out to our office and we’d be happy to talk further to ensure you are comfortable with the content of the game.


Q: This group sounds like it targets skills my child needs, but I’m not sure she’s going to be interested in Dungeons & Dragons. What if she doesn’t like the story?


A: Our group will craft a game that draws on the interests of everyone at the table. As Game Master, Jeanne will use a very loose sketch of a story as a starting point, then adjust the flavor of it to suit the participants as they go along. Each character will be built, with Jeanne’s help, to have a personal objective, so that each participant in the game has something that they are playing to accomplish. For one player, that might mean gathering hordes of treasure. For another, it might mean finding a unicorn to befriend and keep as a pet. One of the most enjoyable aspects of D&D is its endless capacity to offer something for everyone.


Q: This sounds really fun. Maybe too fun? How does all this play translate into meaningful work on reading comprehension?


A:  Here’s an important secret about reading comprehension- in many ways, it’s not about reading at all. Robust comprehension comes from thinking about information in a cohesive way. Successful readers use their imaginations, make movies in their minds, create big-picture understanding, connect ideas, and think critically. We will be drawing upon these skills constantly in our gaming. Because Dungeons & Dragons is a storytelling game, the activity around our table will center on listening to information that the Game Master will narrate, and integrating new information with existing context as the game unfolds. Jeanne will infuse explicit instructional techniques for complex language and critical thinking skills throughout the sessions, using the game content itself to keep the students’ engagement levels high, the context rich, and the stakes meaningful.


Q: Will you be able to accomplish much in just 6 sessions?

A: Participation in this 6-week session of The Comprehension Quest is not going to result in your child making years’ worth of gains in their independent reading comprehension skills. (Any summer program that makes such promises should be regarded as snake oil.)  It will, however, provide evidence-based comprehension instruction in a highly engaging, highly motivating setting during the period when many reluctant readers experience a summer slump. Comprehension is a plant of slow growth. Students who struggle with reading comprehension typically need a variety of supports over the course of many years. Our immediate goal is for The Comprehension Quest to comprise a cognitively, linguistically, and socially enriching experience for your student this summer. If, at the end of the summer, you felt that your child benefited from the experience, you will have the option to have them come back for our fall sessions so that they can continue to develop the targeted skills. (Be advised, they just may beg you to let them come back and play some more.)