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Comprehension Building Activities: Improve the Reading Skills of your 1st Grade Students

written by: Tracey Bleakley • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 6/6/2012

Help your students become stronger readers and thinkers with these comprehension building activities. First grade students will benefit from these easy reading strategies that can be used in small groups or with the whole class.

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    Comprehension is an important part of learning to be a good reader. Use these activities with first grade students to help them understand the texts they are reading and to boost their reading skills.

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    Predicting what will happen in a book is an easy activity to help students with their comprehension. Making predictions gives students a purpose for reading. As they read, they are constantly looking for information to confirm their predictions and adjusting them as necessary. To teach children about predicting, show them a book and read the title. Then you can read the first page or two, or do a picture walk through the first pages of the book. Ask the children what they think will happen in the book, and why they think that. Focus on making sure the predictions make sense and not on whether they are right or wrong.

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    Reading with Sticky Notes

    Sticky notes can be an important tool in helping children improve their reading comprehension skills. Students can use sticky notes to mark places in their reading that they thought were interesting, funny or surprising. They can use them to write questions that they think of as they are reading or to mark places in books that are confusing to them. Sticky notes are also great for vocabulary when children write down unfamiliar words and place them on the page where they occur in the text. After they read, first graders can discuss their notes in small groups or with the teacher. Using sticky notes pushes children to be more involved in their reading and to monitor their own comprehension.

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    Reading Journals

    Another easy comprehension building activity is drawing and writing in a reading journal. Give students spiral notebooks to use for their journals. Then after reader's workshop, independent reading time, or a guided reading group, give them a prompt to write and answer in their notebooks. Encourage them to use both pictures and words to respond to the prompt. Then let a few children share their responses and discuss them as a class.

    Ideas for prompts:

    • My favorite part was ...
    • The most interesting (scariest, funniest, saddest, etc) part was ...
    • My favorite (least favorite) character was ______________ because ...
    • The problem was ...
    • If I could change one thing, it would be ...
    • The setting was ...
    • I thought ...
    • I liked/ disliked this book because ...

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    KWL charts are a very effective way to help children understand nonfiction texts. They are also great for integrating science and social studies texts with your language arts curriculum. KWL stands for "What We Know, What We Want to Know, and What We Learned." Make a column for each of the headings. Complete the first two columns before reading, and the third afterwards. Early in the school year, you can make KWL charts with the whole class, on large sheets of chart paper. As the year progresses, give the children their own charts to complete. You can also give each student 3 sticky notes to write something he knows, wants to know and learned, and then compile them onto one large chart.

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    Graphic Organizers

    Don't forget the use of graphic organizers to help first graders improve their reading comprehension skills. Graphic organizers are a great way to help young children understand what they are reading. Use graphic organizers after using read aloud books for retelling, story mapping, character studies, text connections, inferencing, the main idea and more.

    These comprehension building activities will give students lots of practice writing about and discussing what they read. They are perfect for making sure that young children have a strong foundation for reading comprehension.