With school officially underway, many teachers and parents are on the hunt for reading comprehension strategies to help new and struggling readers develop a love for reading, and we’re excited to share our best tips and ideas for a fantastic school year!
Whether you’re a teacher creating lesson plans for a classroom full of kids, a parent trying to find ways to support your child at home, or a special needs therapist in search of out-of-the-box ideas to support the exceptional kids in your life, this collection of simple yet effective reading comprehension strategies is a great first step in understanding how to develop abstract thinking in kids so they can understand what they are reading and make inferences.
We’ve also included 12 reading comprehension activities to compliment your lesson plans, which double as fabulous independent study ideas to support struggling readers at home!
What is reading comprehension?
Before we get started, it’s important to note that reading isn’t the same as comprehending. While many kids learn their numbers and letters at an early age, with some teaching themselves how to read before they start kindergarten, this doesn’t necessarily mean they understand what they are reading.
Reading comprehension requires higher level thinking, and once children learn how to decode, or identify and sound out the words they are reading, it’s time to take it a step further and teach them how to understand the bigger picture so they can problem solve and draw their own conclusions.
How Can I Tell If My Child Struggles with Reading Comprehension?
Most of us tend to view grade 1 as the turning point at which kids move beyond simple reading and begin to grasp the basics behind reading comprehension, and while many kids are able to start making inferences from the material they read around the 6-year mark, there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to developing reading comprehension skills. The reality is that some kids take to reading more easily than others, and a delay in the development of a child’s reading comprehension skills doesn’t necessarily mean he or she has a learning disability.
With that said, we obviously want to be proactive and help struggling readers sooner rather than later, so if your child demonstrates any of the following characteristics, a meeting with his or her teacher may be in order:
- Has a limited vocabulary compared to peers
- Has difficulty sounding out words
- Struggles with spelling
- Reverses letters
- Has difficulty learning and recognizing sight words
- Relies on memorization, making it hard to learn new skills
- Can’t recognize words out of context
- Poor reading fluency
Note: The presence of one or more of these challenges does NOT indicate a child has a learning disability, nor is this an exhaustive list. If you suspect your child is struggling with reading comprehension, make sure to speak further with his or her teacher and/or physician.
8 Reading Comprehension Strategies That Work
When it comes to reading comprehension strategies, finding ways to develop a child’s higher-level thinking is paramount in helping them understand what they are reading so they can draw their own conclusions and make inferences. Here are 8 things teachers and parents can do both in the classroom and at home to help facilitate the development of these skills.
Remember that vocabulary counts. Reading comprehension can be tricky for a child if he or she doesn’t have a working understanding of the words used in the material he or she is reading, and I once read that a good rule of thumb to use is to ask your child to count the number of words he or she cannot understand while reading a page in a book. If the number exceeds 10 before he or she reaches the end of the page, go down a reading level (or more) to ensure the material is appropriate for your child.
Choose age appropriate books. Further to the point above, you want to ensure there is fluency in your child’s reading before you begin working on reading comprehension. If your little one is struggling to sound out words and/or frequently takes breaks to ask what certain words mean, it makes it much more difficult for him or her to pay attention to the material, make observations, and draw conclusions. The smoother the reading, the better the comprehension.
Read out loud. I’ve read countless articles suggesting that kids who spend time reading with their parents and caregivers tend to have an easier time learning how to read, and while the jury is still out on the validity of these claims, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the more we expose our kids to the world of reading, the more they will enjoy it (and the easier it will become). The trick is to figure out ways to get your child to read out loud to you, rather than the other way around. You can start off small by having your child read the fun parts of the stories you read together, and gradually increase the amount they read over time. Remember to start small and make it collaborative so as not to make it too overwhelming, but do your best to challenge your child.
Use a bookmark or index card to help them follow along. While beginner books are fairly simplistic in that they only contain one sentence per page and/or are broken up with illustrations, the amount of text per page increases with each reading level. This can be extremely overwhelming and make children reluctant to challenge themselves with more advanced material, but if you provide them with a bookmark or index card and place it directly below each sentence they are reading, you will help them maintain focus and fluency in their reading.
PRO TIP: Have your child make her own bookmark to make reading even more exciting with this Scratch Art Set by Melissa and Doug!
Ask questions along the way. When reading with your child, make it a point to ask questions before, during, and after the stories you explore together, such as:
- What do you think this book will be about?
- Who is your favorite character so far?
- What do you think will happen next?
- What are you picturing in your mind while we’re reading this story?
- What would you change about the ending?
The idea is to naturally train your child to make observations and to use them to problem solve and make his or her own conclusions about what will happen as the story progresses.
Re-read tough passages. If you sense that your little one is struggling with a certain passage or page in a book because he or she is distracted, the language is a bit too advance, etc., make it a point to go back and re-read it together a couple of times and then engage your child in a discussion to ensure he or she is understanding the information. Keep a dictionary handy to look up new words and encourage your child to ask questions about things he or she finds confusing. This will teach him or her appropriate problem-solving strategies, and will also help you gauge if you need to go down a level (or 2) in reading level while working on reading comprehension.
Teach them to draw mental pictures. When moving from illustrated books to chapter books, it’s important to teach your child how to visualize the information he or she is reading to make it more memorable. This can be a really fun exercise to do in a classroom setting or at home! Encourage your child to use all of her senses and emotions to explain the mental picture she has created from the story she’s reading to help bring the characters and scenes to life!
Practice makes progress! The last of my reading comprehension strategies might seem pretty basic, but it’s probably one of the most important. The more you practice reading comprehension with your child, the easier it will be for him or her to learn this new skill. Of course, teachers already do this as part of their lesson plans, but if you’re looking for ways to support struggling readers at home, make it a part of your daily routine!
12 Reading Comprehension Activities Kids Love
Now that you have some reading comprehension strategies to consider, it’s time for the fun part! Whether you’re looking for reading comprehension activities to try with your students or need tips to make homework easier and more engaging at home, this collection of ideas will most definitely inspire you!
Read and Color Reading Comprehension Worksheets | Teachers Pay Teachers
Inexpensive, effective, and fun, this collection of 20 worksheets is perfect for kids in grade 1 and no additional reading material is required. Each sheet instructs the child to read the sentences provided and following the directions to color the images accordingly. Teachers/Parents can read the sentences aloud to early readers, and this makes a great independent activity for children who can already read on their own.
Guide Learning Beach Ball | The Thrifty SLP
Got a couple of beach balls and a sharpie hanging around? If so, this is one of my favorite reading comprehension activities for kids! It’s so simple to make, and you can find so many ways to incorporate this into your lesson plans or homework sessions!
Roll and Retell | An Apple for the Teacher
I love this activity as it can be used as a written and/or oral reading comprehension activity in a classroom setting or as part of a homework group, and parents can easily incorporate this into their at-home reading comprehension practice sessions by taking turns to answer questions about the reading material they are helping their child with. Taking turns answering questions about the same material will allow kids to see the story from a different perspective, which is never a bad thing!
Reading Cootie Catchers Free Printable | The Classroom Game Nook
Do you remember Cootie Catchers?! I do, but I had no idea they could double as reading comprehension activities for kids! This is such a fun and awesome way to get kids excited to practice their reading comprehension skills in the classroom and at home. You can print off the freebies, or make your own to suit the needs of the kids you’re working with.
Reading Comprehension Passages Bundle | Teachers Pay Teachers
Designed for kids in preschool through grade 3, this is a great bundle as it helps students develop a range of skills, including decoding, fluency, and reading comprehension. The layout of each worksheet is the same, which will help students build their independence in working through these worksheets over time.
Guided Reading Games and Activities for Comprehension | Teachers Pay Teachers
With 52 question cards, 20 student response sheets, reading comprehension spinners, comprehension tic-tac-toe boards, and roll games, this bundle is perfect for school, homework club, and home!
How to Visualize and Create Mental Images + Graphic Organizers | Teachers Pay Teachers
These visualizing and creating mental images graphic organizers are a must have for reading comprehension strategy instruction! They are perfect to use with any form of text to provide students plenty of opportunities to practice visualizing and creating mental images as they are reading.
20 Story Re-Telling Literacy Ideas | Kindergarten Works
If you’re looking for fun reading comprehension activities, this collection of literacy center ideas will not disappoint! Using favorite childhood books like Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and Peanut Butter and Jelly, the props in these ideas will keep your kids excited and help them learn how to re-tell a story in a fun and non-threatening way.
Retelling Sticks | Teachers Pay Teachers
If you want to create simple reading comprehension activities to complete with your kids at home, print off these story retelling prompts, grab some popsicle sticks and a glue gun, and create these simple yet effective retelling sticks to help teach your child how to recount a story while identifying and describing story elements.
Comprehension Construction | Teachers Pay Teachers
If you’re looking for hands-on, visual lesson plans to help teach the students in your class (or the kids in your home!) reading comprehension, this bundle is where it’s at! There is so much great stuff in this set, I can’t even do it justice. CLICK HERE and watch the video showing you what’s included in the package, how to use the material, and why you’ll love it so much!
Follow The Yellow Brick Road Retelling | The First Grade Parade
This is another simple yet brilliant reading comprehension activity to get kids excited about story retelling. Create mats for the floor or hang them on the wall so your kids have the prompts needed to retell stories in their own words!
Teaching Inferences | Elementary Nest
This reading comprehension activity is designed for kids in grade 4 and includes 2 mini lessons for you to try with your students in the classroom, or at home with your kids. From teaching kids the difference between observations and inferences, to helping them learn to make inferences with text, and then graduating to text and passages, these lessons are a great way to ease kids into the higher level thinking needed for reading comprehension as they get older.
I hope this collection of reading comprehension strategies and activities helps you find new and innovative ways to help the struggling readers in your life develop a love for reading. Remember to get involved, to find ways to keep it fun and engaging, to practice often, and to think outside the box!
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