Need to learn how to teach reading comprehension, but don’t know where to start? Here are the 5+ best reading comprehension strategies to build strong readers in K-2.
The Basics of Teaching Reading Comprehension
As educators of small children, we have so much to think about when it comes to teaching reading. Essential components, such as phonics skills, sight words, word families, and fluency, all need to be addressed. But don’t forget about the skill of reading comprehension.
Have you ever had a student who could decode any word you threw at them, but when it came to understanding the text, you got blank stares?
What about that child who seems to “get” the gist of the story, but can’t express themselves or describe the parts to give you confidence that they truly get it?
Although we may assume that the ability to understand and glean meaning from text comes naturally, that is not necessarily true for children. Kids learn differently and need to be taught in a variety of ways. Incorporating a mixture of approaches and practices to check for understanding is key.
Why Reading Comprehension is So Important
By challenging students to look deeper into the text, we teach valuable skills that they will use to increase their reading comprehension. Developing decoding skills and fluency are vital skills. But we must not forget to make sure our students are grasping what they are reading.
Children can benefit from being explicitly taught the key skills needed for good comprehension of text. It is true that some kids naturally grasp these strategies with little to no outside help. But a much greater number of early readers need these concepts to be modeled and directly taught to them.
Reading Comprehension Strategies by Grade
Using reading comprehension strategies doesn’t just start when a student can fluently read a passage. Skills should be emphasized from the beginning, even before children can accurately decode text.
Below are helpful strategies you can use during the first few years of literacy instruction. Find a few that will work for your students and incorporate them into your lessons today!
Reading Comprehension Strategies for Kindergarten
Kindergarten kids are just beginning to become “readers.” They are still learning letter sounds, simple sight words, and basic sentence structure. But we can develop comprehension skills even now.
For now, many of these activities will revolve around text that you, the teacher, read aloud to them. As they begin reading independently, they will be able to apply the concepts.
- Vocabulary – Building a child’s vocabulary is necessary for boosting comprehension. As they learn new words, have them draw pictures to represent the words or have them match pictures and words. This helps you check for understanding.
- Take a picture walk – Before reading a book together, have children look at the book’s pictures. Don’t read the words yet. Just discuss what is happening in the pictures. This encourages them to begin thinking about what the story will be about before they are asked to decode words.
- Wordless Books – This is another way to let pictures create a story for kids. Have students narrate what is happening by looking at the pictures. Here are some wordless books that would be helpful for this.
- Questioning – You can build so many skills while reading aloud with students simply by asking questions. See what children already know about the topic in a book. Then, have them predict what will happen. Alternatively, ask what they would like to learn (for nonfiction books). By stopping and discussing the book, you are modeling higher-order thinking skills to early readers. You are also getting a good check of their understanding.
- Retell the story – After reading a story aloud, ask students to recap what the story was about. This will reveal who understands what is being read and who is struggling with an aspect of comprehension.
- Sequencing – Help students grasp a story’s flow by asking them to record or draw what happened at the beginning, middle, and end of the story.
Reading Comprehension Strategies for 1st Grade
At this point, students are developing greater fluency in their reading. They may be reading independently. Therefore, we can delve deeper into details about the stories that they are reading.
- Characters – As you read together, discuss the characters in the book. Ask questions such as: Who was the main character? What were they like? Have students draw a picture of their favorite characters and list two or three words about them.
- Learn Elements of a Story – Kids should begin to identify the parts of a story: characters, setting, plot, and solution. A story map is useful for looking at these elements. For this age, create an anchor chart and work together on it as a class. Another idea is to divide kids up into small groups and let them work together.
- 5-Finger Retell – Read the story together. Afterward, have children tell you 5 things from the story, using their fingers to remind them of each item: characters, setting, events, end, favorite character or part of the story.
- What did you learn? – Use K-W-L charts (What you K-“KNOW,” What you W-“WANT” to know, and What did you L-“LEARN” after reading) to record what students know, want to know, and learned from books.
- Book Trailer – Record a student giving a summary and recommendation of a book. This is like a mini-book review. For example, they tell about the book and what they liked about the story. Then, let them watch themselves!
Reading Comprehension Strategies for 2nd Grade
As students are now developing into stronger readers, they may be reading books that do not have as many pictures. Perhaps they are reading simple chapter books. This can present a comprehension challenge because now, kids cannot rely on the pictures, but must gather information directly from the text. With that in mind, there are some things we can do to strengthen these skills.
- Visualization – This is a strategy that encourages kids to make the stories come alive in their heads. Without looking at pictures in a book, a student is asked to “picture” what is happening in the text and then draw it. This is a great tool for getting kids thinking about the meaning behind the text.
- Illustrated timelines – Using post-it notes, have students develop a timeline of events from the story. Then on each post-it, they illustrate or write about each event. Line these up on the wall, a board, or the floor and have the child retell the story.
- Character analysis – Talk with students about the characters in the story. For example, ask them: What were they like? Why did they act that way? How could they have reacted differently?
- Comprehension mats – These are daily activities that include a reading passage and comprehension questions. In a handy printable “mat” format, these reading comprehension mats are easy and simple to use and fun for the kids. Learn more and grab a free sample below!
- Online games and activities – Many online games can boost elementary kids’ reading comprehension levels. These can also serve as assessment tools.
The strategies above are simple and can be easily incorporated into your homeschool or classroom reading program. Seek to build comprehension and teach the mechanics of reading to create a balanced literacy program.
Reading Comprehension Mats
To get started today implementing reading comprehension practice in your classroom, check out Proud to be Primary’s reading comprehension passages!
These one-page printables provide valuable practice of the strategies listed in this post. Plus, high-interest reading passages that kids love to read!
They are printable and digital to meet your teaching needs.
If you need a quick reading activity to make the most of your small group time, or provide extra practice at home, Comprehension Mats are for you!
Want to give them a try? Click the image below to download a free sample !
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