Functional Reading Comprehension Worksheets for High School and Transition Students

functional life skills life skills special education teachers teacher experience teacherspayteachers transition Dec 05, 2022
Functional reading comprehension worksheet

What is ‘functional reading?’ I believe it’s being able to read and understand enough to get what you want or need AND what you don’t want or don’t need. This includes weeding out the fluff stuff that doesn’t matter.  The fluff detracts you from your goal. 

Functional reading is turning on Netflix, reading the gist of a new movie, and deciding if you would like it or not.  Fluff: Competition Reality TV shows

Functional reading is being able to navigate the library website to find out if your book club meets on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.  Fluff: New children’s read aloud program

Functional reading is being able to pick up a new game, read the directions, and call out the friend who is trying to cheat. Fluff: Manufacturing details

Functional reading is being able to read AND understand what you are reading.  Therefore, functional reading comprehension is a life skill we all use multiple times daily 

Functional reading comprehension is a skill every high school and transition special education teacher should include in their weekly lesson rotation.  You naturally weave functional reading into your lessons, however sometimes specifically reviewing the skill is appropriate.  


Knowing that functional reading stretches FFFFAAAARRRR beyond sales ads and recipes, you probably also value writing IEP goals that are both relevant and meaningful to your students.  The Transition Skills Goal Bank will give you 900+ skill ideas (and yes, functional reading skills are embedded within the goal bank)! 

Special education teachers want better resources and materials that can be used for independent work, partner work, small groups, and when working 1:1 with individual students.  They also want age-appropriate resources for functional academics, including reading scenarios typical modern-day students would encounter, like reading a Netflix show blurb or video game summary.  

To ensure this resource was appropriate, meaningful, and functional, I asked myself, ‘What do I read throughout my day?’  

Here are a few of my answers:

  • I read Hello Fresh meal recipes to make dinner.
  • I read Netflix/Hulu/Apple TV’s new show and movie blurbs to decide if I should start watching a new show.
  • I read emails and Instagram captions and posts.
  • I read websites to find information about hours, programming, etc.
  • I read bills to make sure I wasn’t overcharged. 

Those were my top hits and I think they are pretty universal.  You probably read all of those things on a daily basis too, right?



Our students also need to read and comprehend what they are reading in all those same ways.  

Comprehension is more than just finding a single detail from a reading.  There are layers to reading comprehension, including summarizing, inferring, sequencing, and vocabulary.  

The layers of comprehension and high-frequency reading examples are what make this functional reading comprehension resource so great and you can grab 1 page of the Functional Reading Comprehension Weekly Worksheet for FREE too!  (Try out a Functional Math Skills worksheet for FREE too!)



What Type of Functional Reading and Comprehension Skills are Covered?

Here are the 12 reading passage formats:

  1. Movie theater description (a little more in depth than a streaming service blurb)
  2. Job description
  3. Medication directions
  4. Cooking- recipe directions
  5. Cooking- box directions
  6. Program guide
  7. Game directions
  8. Website
  9. Email
  10. Rental Agreement/Lease
  11. Paying a bill
  12. And a couple others 

There are 2 passages on each page or 72 total passages


Comprehension Questions: 

Each passage has 3 comprehension questions: 

  • One question is about the passage in general to determine if the student understood the main idea of the reading.  
  • One question is about a detail to see if the student can go back and find a specific detail from the reading.  
  • One question, which changes for each passage, asks the student to summarize, infer, identify a sequence, or deduct the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary.  

Perhaps the best part of this resource is the variety of comprehension questions.  While the first two are reading comprehension essential skills (main idea and detail recall), the last question is most applicable to the functional text.  For example, for the medication reading passages, the last question might be about the sequence of the medicine's steps because it would most likely be the reader who needs to apply or use the medicine in a specific order in a real-life scenario.  

Ways to Use the Functional Reading Comprehension Worksheets:

There are different ways this resource can be used

  1. Weekly Morning Resource: This resource includes 36 versions so you can use 1 page per week for a full school year. 
  2. Daily Worksheet: Really hone in on the reading comprehension skill and use a new page every day for nearly two months.   
  3. Hand Pick Based on Comprehension Skill:  With clearly labeled comprehension questions (for example- a question asking the student to infer is labeled with an I), a special education teacher can choose specific worksheets so students will answer comprehension questions specific to the individualized education plan goals.  
  4. Answering Wh Questions: Nearly every question is a wh question (Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How).
  5. End of the School Year: When attention spans are waning and relevant activities are the only way to summer break, this resource can provide the meaningful newness both teachers and students will love!  



Flexible Resource for Different Levels of Students:

  • Perfect for several grade levels, from middle school (6th grade through 8th grade) to high school students and young adults in transition.  
  • This can be used with special education students who have a specific learning disability and need functional reading material, as well as students with developmental or intellectual disabilities who are working to identify important information in a functional text.  
  • For some skills, functional reading is the precursor to functional performance.  Cooking, for example, requires the students to be able to read the recipe and steps in order to execute the steps to make a snack or meal.  Functional reading skills are also integrated into vocational skills, as being able to read the label on a supply to know how to use it can ensure the task is completed with the appropriate materials.  
  • The functional reading comprehension passages can be used to collect baseline data for the special education program IEP team as they consider future goals.   
  • The functional passages and comprehension questions in this resource are opportunities for students to practice the foundational skills of reading Common Core standards. While Common Core doesn't specifically identify standards for students receiving special education services, they can serve as proof of the importance of identifying details and main idea, summarizing, and inferring. 



Now, functional reading comprehension is a skill that should be revisited frequently because it’s a skill we all use every day. 


Other equally (or nearly as equally) important life skills should also be reviewed daily and a Life Skills Daily Warm-Up Worksheet is a great way to cover all the important bases.  And, if routine lesson plans are your jam (meaning you like to have an 'every Tuesday we do this' type of schedule), then the Transition Plan Student Workbook blog post will give your students meaningful and engaging practice to both increase familiarity with their IEP Transition Plan and better understand what they want in the future #DoubleWin.



Grab the awesome Functional Reading Comprehension Worksheet resource to help strengthen your student’s functional reading skills!


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