How to Teach Reading Comprehension - 11 Teacher's Tricks You Must Use
So how do you know just how to teach reading comprehension to your child to encourage excellence in reading? Check out the list below for a good start.
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This article explains more about how to teach reading comprehension, in particular. If you would like additional or more general strategies, check out this page on how to teach reading.
But, before we even begin, let's talk about what reading comprehension is exactly. One way to define it is to have an understanding of, and ability to interpret and personalize what you are reading.
Reading comprehension is to **ahem** "comprehend" what the writer/author is attempting to convey with words. (And then to take it in, to respond to it.) Lots of readers out there can decode words, whether from phonics or memory (or both), but still be so focused on individual words and the mechanics of the reading itself that the meaning or idea behind the text is not understood or retained.
When you work on reading comprehension with your child, you are also working on their reading fluency, so that is a plus!
So let's start! Here are 11 activities and strategies to improve reading comprehension:
1. First, to know how to teach reading comprehension to a beginner, take into consideration that your student needs to:
- Have a grasp of letter sounds and phonics, with some sight word recognition.
- Be able to read with a measure of fluency (although this goes hand in hand with comprehension and grows as comprehension grows).
- Have a prior set of knowledge of most of the words of text on the page. (For instance, a five-year-old is probably not going to understand an adult book on physics, no matter how well he decodes words).
2. Use reading comprehension activities as a way to teach & reinforce the text.
To reiterate what your child just read, come up with activities to reinforce and dive into the story. There are many ways to do this! Here are a few to get you thinking:
- Make puppets to recreate the story.
- Come up with different crafts to enhance different parts of the story.
- God on field trips that have to do with the story.
- Have your child make a video acting out the story.
- Make a video with your child with one of you "interviewing" the other like a newscast as if you were a character in the story.
- Act out the story with stuffed animals or dolls.
- Use a beach ball to throw back and forth with comprehension questions about the story.
- Draw, paint, or color a picture about the story.
- Draw a cartoon strip of the story in the right order.
- Order the story on a hopscotch grid.
- Draw parts of the story (written on strips of paper) out of a bag and put them in order.
- Use your imagination!
3. Let your child be the teacher! Have him read the book to you, and then ask you questions about it.
When you know something well enough to teach it, that is when you truly have a connection and fuller understanding of what it is you are talking about. It will be the same with your student. If you can get him to try to teach you (or a sibling, or friend, anyone!) about the story you just read, that's a win.
4. Keep a reading comprehension strategies list of questions you can ask your child as she reads her book.
A lot of books have "reading guides" that already have great questions at the end of the book. You can always check those out, or come up with questions on your own. This may depend upon the level of book your child is reading (and whether you have read it yourself for upper grades!) You can even have a handy list of general, non-specific questions that would work for any situation. (Why did the author put that in? What is the main idea here? What do you think really just happened? How do you think the character felt about that? How do you know?)
5. Specifically ask predictive questions.
By that I mean, questions that get your child to start thinking about what is going to happen next. This technique is useful for all ages. (Not just older kids!) But also for teaching reading comprehension in grade 1 - 6 and even before in the pre-k ages. Every so often stop and say, "What do you think will happen next?" or, "What do you hope will happen next?" "Do you think that will happen?" "Why or why not?"
6. Ask her questions about how this book affects what he thinks about things in his past, or what he thinks will happen in the future.
Reading should be personal with good books. What we read (especially as young children) affects who we are. We relate to the main characters and root for the best in them. Secretly we aspire to be the heroes of the stories we read. Choose books that apply to situations in your child's life and let those be great talking points to get your child talking about things that are BIG in his world. Things that have happened to him, things that he fears for his future.
In doing this, your child becomes attached to books. Because of this attachment, reading comprehension will come more naturally. (As a side note, because good readers will become attached to their books, be sure to cultivate a great home library of stories with great characters, good moral foundations, happy endings and lots of positive messages to grow on. - Check out this article on how to cultivate a great library.)
7. Let your child ask all the questions she likes about the story and talk about it in discussion.
When your student asks questions throughout the story or book, that means she is "getting" it enough to move past the letter and words and move onto the meaning of the text. Yippee! Take advantage of this opportunity and let her talk and discuss so that she will continue this pattern as she goes on to read more difficult books.
8. Show emotion as you read.
Engage emotionally with the characters in the story you read aloud to your child and make comments like, "OH, I am so SAD that happened to him. He didn't deserve that!" Or, "YAY! She finally won the race! I knew she could do it! I'm so happy for her!" Make the character come alive for your child so he'll be excited to see what comes next.
9. Argue with the characters. Shout at them, tell them, "NO!! Don't go that way!" "What are you thinking?" "Don't open that door!"
Argue or be devil's advocate for something the book or a character in the book tries to make you believe. Put yourself in the opponent's position and consider a situation from several different angles. This requires a higher level of thinking that we can foster in our kids. It goes right along with reading comprehension! In order to be "devils's advocate" or have a different opinion of the author or of the book's character, your child will have to understand the text and the meaning of the text very well.
10. Use reading comprehension worksheets to help your child order his thoughts about the book, or as a final step to test his comprehension.
So many worksheets are out there to choose from! Pinterest has a lot of great reading comprehension worksheets from teachers that you can use to solidify reading comprehension in your child. If your child is in school out of the home, he is probably already reinforcing comprehension in this way. If you are homeschooling, you may choose to have your child do worksheet - type comprehension activities more as an evaluational tool, to see if he is picking up the meaning of the text from activities you have already done.
11. Create a reading comprehension test of sorts after chunks of text, by asking recap questions.
I'm not really sure why I put this one last. It's my go-to for reading comprehension with my kids and it's just automatic now. But are you doing it? It's so easy to implement, yet if you are not doing this, you aren't helping your child to retell/repeat/ingrain the story as she goes. And she should be! Remember back during your college days or high school days when you would read a paragraph out of one of your textbooks, get to the end, and then realize you had no idea what you just read? So you had to read the paragraph again. It's the same with our kids! If they don't "catch" what they just read, they need to realize that for themselves and re-read.
After you read a page or paragraph or chapter (depending on the skill level of the child), just ask her straight up what she just read. Say, "So tell me, what happened to (the main character) in this last chapter"? "How did she respond?" "What did she do next?". Encourage your child to pay attention, because you'll ask her to tell you again after the next chunk of text what happened. You'll get a good idea of what she is picking up, just by doing this simple exercise.
Great reading comprehension can be the "holy grail" that a teacher would desire for her student. If a child is properly decoding and fluently reading text on a page, the next logical step to becoming an excellent reader is to "get" the story, to have an opinion about it, to translate it to others, teach it, argue it, support it, or just enjoy it. I wish you much success in the teaching of your child!
Forever a reader for life,
How to Read: a Kick-Start for Beginners of Any Age
An excellent "kick-start" for beginning readers to learn 125 first words taken from the Fry and Dolch word lists in 56 short daily lessons (about 5-10 minutes a day). With beautiful color illustrations and lauded for it's simplicity, How to Read nicely pairs phonics and sight word instruction into an old-made-new method for beginners of any age.