Easy Peasy Comprehension Builders and Boosters!

Happy Back-To-School 2019! I’m so excited for you!

Just in time, sharing some of my favorite strategies, time-tested ways to build kids’ understanding when they read. Snap! These hacks work.

What do ‘good’ readers do? Comprehension is the goal of all reading. 

Children make sense of their world through discovery. Meeting new friends, taking trips to unusual, special places, learning about komodo dragons and tiny hamsters are all part of the learning fun.

Successful readers monitor their own understanding by using their prior knowledge, have a purpose for reading, make predictions, (continually), ask questions, adjust speed according to type of material and then respond to text.

Useful practices we teach might include: monitoring, modeling metacognition (thinking about thinking), using advance graphic and semantic organizers, mind mapping and sketch noting. Also, generating and answering questions, using pre and post reading strategies and summarizing. Phew. How about some shortcuts, for sure!

Understanding and Interpreting Meaning.

Be sure to include these in your instruction:

  • Understanding literal meaning of words, sentences and paragraphs.
  • Identifying main ideas and finding important details.
  • Following instructions.
  • Seeing relationships and making comparisons.
  • Predicting outcomes and solutions.
  • Understanding meaning of figurative language.
  • Drawing conclusions and making generalizations.
  • Seeing cause and effect.
  • Capable of sequencing order of events, perhaps chronologically, words such as then, next, finally, etc.

The joy of reading all types of books, including both fiction and non-fiction (info-text) is as natural as learning to walk and talk. It’s up to us, however to provide simple strategies to scaffold as well as help kids learn on their own, with doable, easy comprehension builders and boosters. The secret? ME. Model everything. Besides direct instruction and guided practice through directed reading activities (DRAs), be sure to allow plenty of time to just read for fun. But this is about reading for meaning.

So how do we help kids understand what they read?

  • Why do I need to know this? That’s the first question. Having a need to know (Dewey) comes first. Agreed, sometimes kiddos don’t know what they want to know, as they have no background information to attach new learning to.
  • Comprehension is the goal of reading, at all levels. Having a purpose gives meaning to reading.

There is obviously a great deal to the topic of comprehension, with differences and similarities in reading fiction and non-fiction. My goal today is to pick out some of the things I believe make a big difference in your teaching, just the barest start, but hopefully some insights to catch your attention and validate what you are already doing.

So next I’m sharing a dozen hacks, shortcuts to help your child or class make sense of most reading material, beyond decoding the words, and having a purpose for reading. Start with one idea you like, then add another! Likely review, but hopefully there’s something new to whet your appetite. Voila! 

Before, During and After Reading.

  1. Take a Book or Article Walk.
  • Read or look at front and back (cover) of the book, or article.
  • Read foreword and introduction.
  • Read table of contents.
  • Look at any charts, diagrams, pictures, glossary, index, etc.
  • Notice any special text features.
  • Identify the writer’s (author pattern). Is the main idea at the top of each paragraph, (details after); middle (details before and after), or at the end, (details leading to conclusion).
  • Ask questions and make predictions.
  • Look at titles. Make up new titles. 
  1. What do I already know about this? Schema. KWL Strategy.

It’s a must that we start with what a child already knows, to hook new information to. If there is no background knowledge, better stop and build it, in order to make sense. Donna Ogle came up with her brilliant KWL way back in the 70’s. This still works.

  • K- What I already know. (Background knowledge)
  • W- What I want to know. (Questions)
  • L- What I Learned. (After reading).
  • ADD: KWLW- Know, Want to Know, Learned, Want to know now)
  • ADD: KWLWW- Know, Want to Know, Learned, Want to Know now, Where I’ll find out)

You can keep doing this strategy throughout reading; it actually works for both fiction and non-fiction. Best, it works with learners of all ages and stages.

  1. Making predictions before reading. Easy Start Hacks. Give it a go.
  • Guess what it’s about. “I think that it’s about.. Then read a section. I was right…. . I wasn’t right, and why…. I was sort of right because….
  • Guess what it’s about, variation:
  • P- Predict what it will be about.
  • W- Write down your thinking.
  • R- Read to find out if you were right.

For littles, ask and draw pictures or say out loud.

You can make predictions before a long selection or as you break into chunks or sections. I’ve used this with kids in almost all grades and levels.

  1. RCRC Strategy. Helps summarizing, works great. Seems so easy! It is!
  • R– Read it (line, paragraph, page).
  • C- Cover the page or close the book.
  • R- Recite or retell. Summarize line, page or chapter.
  • C- Check for understanding. (CFU)
  • Put it together. PWRCRC.
  • Predict.
  • Write.
  • Read.
  • Cover or close.
  • Recite or retell.
  • Check for understanding.

     5. Q and A format, Question/Answer.

( Before, during and after reading a section or selection). Write down or say questions before reading. After reading, check your answers to see if right, if not go back and reread. This can be an ongoing Q and A strategy throughout any reading, fiction or non-fiction. Add a D , and you have QAD format for questions, answers and details!

  1. Reciprocal reading. (During reading).

Take turns asking each other questions after reading. Following any reading chunk (sentence, paragraph, page or chapter) ask students questions. Book remains closed. Or do as a Pair Share.

  1. Practice makes permanent. Practice makes the learning stick.
  • Repeated Readings

Reread the same passage of approximately 150-180 words; repeat three times in two or three minute increments. Fluency and comprehension improve with this shortcut. Graphing growth excellent.

  1. After reading, easy hacks. 

Easiest- use frames, such as “I learned that.” Or “Write what this paragraph is about, in twenty words or less.” Or, “Draw a picture to show what you’ve learned”. Also, other responses to literature might be podcast, interview, etc.

  • One Minute Book Report. Do a ‘Tea Party’ with kids moving around the room sharing what their book was about. Goal, within a given time period, students each talk to every class member. Gets them up and excited.
  • Why I Love This Book frame. (Oral or written) I couldn’t put this book down because…. My favorite character is… My favorite part is…. You should read this book because…. Next I want to read….
  • What I Think About What I read frame. This is what I read (title). … What it was all about…. This is what I think about what I read…. Why I would or wouldn’t recommend this book to others…. Next I want to read….
  • Think and Feel About It frame. Idea or statement. (Before reading, after). Did you change your mind after reading?
  1. QAR’s.

In 1984, Raphael devised a way to help kids more easily find answers to questions. This structure, known as QAR stands for:

  • Right there. (Literal)
  • Look for it. (Interpretive).
  • Use prior knowledge or experience. (Inference).

Interpretive responses are found by “reading between the lines”. Although not directly there (in text), response is found by putting the author’s clues together, as “think and search”. Wording may include: summarize, retell, explain, etc. Practice finding with kids, before expecting them to do it alone. I suggest you use Bloom’s Taxonomy as a way to help learners connect QAR’s with questions.

10.  Bloom’s Taxonomy, simplified.

Kids can develop questions and ask each other!

  1. Knowledge: State basic facts. (Name, tell, list, define, describe).
  2. Comprehension: Understand the concept. (Discuss, summarize, explain, demonstrate, review).
  3. Application: Use the information. (Show, apply, produce, select, draw).
  4. Analysis: Check the parts. (Compare, contrast, debate, classify, diagram).
  5. Synthesis: Put information together. (Design, create, construct, perform, organize).
  6. Evaluation: Form an opinion. (Decide, conclude, rank, rate, prove).

11. Story Grammar. (Simplified, for fiction reading).

  1. Who? Characters: what they say, do, others’ reaction to them.
  2. Setting: When and where? Descriptions.
  3. Theme: What’s the message? Most common themes are love, friendship, family, loyalty, courage, heroes and sheroes, adventure, making tough decisions. Provide examples from the story which support the theme/s.
  4. Point of View: Who’s telling the story?
  5. Tone/Mood: How does it feel?
  6. Conflict: Events/problems, solutions.
  7. Plot: Beginning, middle and end.
  8. Foreshadowing; What’s coming next?
  9. Genre: Type of book. Biography, etc. Mix it up.
  10. Cause and effect. This happened, so this happened. Something different than expected?
  11. Figurative language. Look for similes, metaphors and personification.

Easiest Story Grammar Map: Who: who are the main characters? Where does the story take place? When does the story take place? What is the problem? (Oops); Fix-It. How do the characters solve the problem?

12. Really quick tips, so I remember to tell you this. 

  • Make sure kids are on the correct page and line. Say “put your finger on”.
  • ‘Look backs’. Tell students to look back in text if unsure of an answer! It’s ok!
  • Better to tilt book or kindle up at slight angle, not flat on desk. (That tends toward losing place)

I hope my article offers an idea or two that adds insights, tools for your teaching toolbox. Be sure to let me know what works. Have a grand school year!

Leaving footprints on your reading hearts, Rita

Catch me on Twitter, Facebook, and my website. I’d love to hear from you!

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