As if teaching the basics of reading is not enough, you are responsible for teaching the most important skill of reading… comprehension. So your students can read. GREAT! But, if they can’t understand what they read… Huston, we have a problem. I always wondered when I would see posts that say, “If you can read this, thank a teacher” how many people can’t read it? How many can read it, but still don’t understand what it means? While looking at ways to improve your literacy instruction, try these 5 strategies to improve reading comprehension.
- Activate Prior Knowledge
- Analyzing Text Stucture
When you use these five strategies, students will begin to comprehend naturally. Activating prior knowledge is one of my favorite ways to engage students in reading. Research has shown that comprehension improves when students are engaged. What better way to engage students than to bridge their old knowledge with new knowledge? For example, if we are going to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, I might ask students to share stories of when they saw a caterpillar or when they felt really hungry. You will notice that when one student shares a story, they usually all do. That should not irritate you. When students are all wanting to share their prior knowledge, YOU GOT THEM!
Of course improving vocabulary skills, fluency, phonics and phonemic awareness are ALL pieces to the puzzle when it comes to comprehension. Teaching reading can be complex with all the skills needed to be competent readers. Using the five strategies suggested is a great way to ensure students are comprehending what they read.
Here are some free reading passages with questions for you to enjoy.
I was recently asked what I do for St. Patrick’s Day with students. I am a huge fan of engaging students through various holidays! St. Patrick’s Day has always been an exciting day with the students joining me in looking for a little trickster leprechaun on campus!
I made a small pair of pants out of green fabric. I would mess up the room when the kids where at lunch, sprinkle some glitter around the room (even in the toilets), and hang the pants on a cracked open window. The students would look for the trickster everywhere. When they would find the pants, we would laugh about how there was a little leprechaun running around without pants. He would always leave a gold coin on the desk for the students. Now, how does this fun tie into education? First, we would read a book about a tricky leprechaun. I also have a fantastic activity called The Paper Leprechaun where the kids have to make their own paper leprechaun using fine motor skills after listening to a poem, and the pot of gold goes missing. They write out a personality for the paper leprechaun and then write about how to catch one! For a home project, the students would make leprechaun traps working on problem solving skills at home with their parents. These would be shared with the class during the week. I would sometimes display them in the media center. During centers, students made rainbow art. Each student would get to make their own LUCKY Shamrock Hat to wear for the day.
For math, we would sort, count, graph, and eat Lucky Charm cereal. Who doesn’t like a little snack while learning!
Play some Irish traditional music while the kids are working using Pandora, YouTube, or Amazon.
Need some great books to share with your students? Look below…
Taking time to talk and read with children is a great way to help them hear and read new words. Adults who have conversations regularly with children allowing them to ask questions about things that are interesting in a non-threatening way, help build children’s vocabulary. Children enjoy learning new big words.
Everyone wants children to do well in school. Building their vocabulary is one way to help them become better readers. The more background knowledge a reader knows, the better they become at comprehending what they read. Talking to and reading with children are two great ways to help children hear and read new words.
Sharing a new word with children is quick. Choose words that are of interest to children. Usually words that are common with adult speakers, but less common in children’s books are popular.
Provide an example of a new word: Gigantic means something really big.
Then use it in a sentence that relates to daily life: That monster truck is gigantic.
Next, have the child come up with an example: The elephant was gigantic.
Last, use the word frequently during the week: Look at this gigantic ball!
Take time to share new words with children every day. The payoff is GIGANTIC. You can find some activities in this Yearlong Vocabulary Reading Blocks Program.