As every teacher and parent knows, one of the most important milestones in a child’s life is learning to read. However, once they covered the crucial basics such as learning to decode words, it’s easy to forget they still have a ways to go before they become fluent readers.
Reading comprehension is the next crucial step. This requires understanding and it comes only after students have learned how to interact with the written words.
As adults, comprehension is automatic. However comprehension is a skill that has to be developed. Once reading comprehension skills are in place students move from passive readers to active readers. Active readers don’t just decode words; they interact with the story. They’re able to make predictions using context clues, they can formulate questions about the plot, the main idea, and the message. They can monitor their own understanding, they can clarify confusing parts in the text and they can make connections using prior knowledge or experience.
That’s a lot to learn to do! And all students need help in order to become an active reader. Below are a few activities you can use to bolster your students reading comprehension.
Activity 1: Open Portraits
This activity helps students understand a character’s thoughts and motivations and allows them to develop deeper meaning.
1. Students choose a character in a book they’re reading and then draw and color a portrait of the character’s head and neck.
2. Students will then cut out the portrait and staple it to another piece of white paper.
3. Have students trace around the outline of the head on the second piece of paper.
4. On the second piece of paper students will write what they think the character is thinking and feeling. Students will then be able to lift the portrait and see what’s going on “inside the character’s head.”
5. Students can share the portraits with the class and discuss what they think is going on within the mind of the character.
Activity 2: Phrase Generation
When we speak we don’t emphasize or pay attention to each single word that comes out of our mouth. We tend to string words along into phrases. As a matter of fact, we often conduct entire conversations using phrases and if we want to emphasize a certain point we generally accent a phrase.
Learning to understand phrases can help with reading fluency and comprehension. If there is a complicated part of the text it’s helpful to reread a section one phrase at a time to figure it out.
One way students can get experience with phrases is through phrase generation activities.
Here’s how it works.
The teacher writes an incomplete sentence on the white board drawing a line to indicate where the final phrase of the sentence would go. Have the students copy the incomplete sentence at the top of the sheet of lined paper. Then instruct the students to complete the sentence using different phrases they generate on their own.
I saw Julie___________________________________. (where)
at the mall
in the swimming pool
at the soccer game
on the playground
behind the tree
in line at the lunch counter
I finished my snack_______________________________________. (when)
right after I got home
before I left to go outside
on the way home from school
after I put away my toys
When it comes to learning to read, decoding words is only half the battle. Actually understanding what the decoded words mean is crucial. By engaging students in meaningful, entertaining stories students are motivated to learn new strategies to further understanding. The more opportunity they have to practice these strategies, the more fluent and proficient they’ll become.