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Activities to Improve Comprehension

written by: Marlene Gundlach • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 1/5/2012

When early readers first begin to read chapter books, comprehending what they read can be a daunting task. Giving these young readers some easy activities while they read can help them build life-long skills.

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    Focus on Reading

    stack of books When beginning readers are first tackling chapter books, their fluency may be up to par, but their comprehension may lag behind. It is a big adjustment to comprehend a longer chapter book, than many of the beginning readers they are used to reading. Giving them some simple tasks when they are reading can help them think about what they are reading, and can add to their level of comprehension.

    Improve Comprehension

    All you need is some sticky notes and their books. Teachers will often add several stacks of sticky notes to student’s supply lists at the beginning of the year so that they always have an ample supply available.

    As you assign chapters or smaller books, you can give students a list of things to look for when they read. You can ask them to find specifics that are associated with that particular book such as:

    • What did Stink do to make his sneakers stinky?
    • What does Stink do to help him with his judging of the contest?

    Or, you may assign tasks that are general and can be used with any book or chapter. These may include:

    • What is the main idea? Find one supporting detail of this main idea.
    • Make a prediction.
    • Choose a characteristic of a main character that you admire.
    • Which character do you most identify with?

    These are options that would work with non-fiction texts:

    • Find your favorite fact.
    • Something I wonder about.
    • Something I learned.
    • I have a question…
    • A fact that I already knew is……
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    Give students two or three questions from above that best fit their reading assignment. They can write these questions down in an assignment book or they can write each question on a separate sticky note. As they read, they can write a short version of their answer and put the sticky note on the page that corresponds with their response. I would also recommend that you have the students write the page number where they found the answer. This way, if the sticky notes loose their place in the book, they can quickly find where it belongs.

    Bring the students together in small groups and discuss the questions and the answers they found. As each student shares, have them read the question and the page number where t hey found the answers. This way, the others in the group can read along and see where the answer was found.

    Another option is to fill out a KWL chart to get them thinking about what they read before, during, and after reading. The K column is for what the student already knows. The W is for what they want to know or what they wonder about. Finally, the L column is what they learned after reading. Doing this with a chapter or two is another option. A sample KWL chart can be downloaded from the media gallery.

    These exercises are meant to get students thinking about what they read as they are reading. As they become more comfortable with these tasks, they will soon begin to go through these types of questions on their own as they read. As they progress, you may want to extend the activity and let them write two or three of their own questions before they read, or brainstorm some as a class. By thinking about the text as they read, and then discussing it with others, they will increase their ability to break down and comprehend text.