Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

2 Guided Reading Comprehension Strategies for First Grade

By Gaynell R. Jamison, Reading Specialist, Guest Blogger

If you want to help first-graders with comprehension, you'll want to keep reading. In today's blog post, I'll explain how you can use guided reading strategies, such as word study and retelling, with leveled books that will teach struggling readers about the theme of responsibility.

What Is Word Study?

Word study during guided reading is a useful strategy that will assist students in problem-solving complex text. This strategy allows students to apply letter-sound associations, clusters, CVC patterns, spelling patterns, beginning sounds, chunks, as well as onsets and rimes to decode words. It can be introduced in first grade and carried over to second grade for decoding and problem-solving more complex words. When students have an understanding of how words work, they can apply that knowledge to process text as they practice reading.

According to Fountas and Pinnell (1996), it is imperative that we teach for strategies. Good readers read for accuracy on an average more than struggling readers, but they may not read perfectly. It would be safe to say that they are more strategic because they generally demonstrate behaviors that indicate they can monitor and correct their miscues. They are more successful at matching written and spoken language.

Application of work attack skills leads to reading fluency and fewer breakdowns in the reading process. Students learn to monitor their own reading and build momentum for establishing a self-extending system on reading work. As students progress through the grades, the text should become more complex. Knowing how to attack challenging words within the text strategically will assist in fostering fluent reading as well as mastery of solving for the unknown.

It is critical that we teach in a way that supports emergent readers in the development of strategic behaviors. It equally imperative that students read daily as they need experience with building and establishing a self-extending system. When selecting a narrative or informational text for a guided reading lesson, make sure that the text has words that are both familiar and easy to problem-solve. However, the text should also require some reading work on behalf of the students. If the book is too difficult, it will slow comprehension and reading fluency, which causes the reader to feel frustrated and unsuccessful.

Practicing Word Study with a Level E Fiction Book

Prior knowledge of letters and sounds is an excellent anchor for a successful word study lesson. Ideally, you should introduce word study before reading the text so that students will be able to apply strategies from the word study lesson to problem-solve during text reading. Too Much Work  is a narrative text from the Kaleidoscope Collection that can be utilized to teach word study.

This book has l blends, such as cl and pl , and r blends, such as br, cr, and wr . There are also digraphs ch, sh, and th . The word study lesson should be crafted around these blends and diagraphs. Using familiar words or objects that start with these sounds makes the concept easier to grasp among your students. Some materials that you could use include picture cards, blend charts, blend books, magnetic letters, marker boards and markers, highlighting tape, masking cards, framers, etc.

A follow-up activity to reading Too Much Work would be to have students see how many other words they can think of or even list other blends after they have completed guided reading and word study for this text.

What Is Retelling?

Retelling is another example of guided reading strategies that increases with difficulty as students progress along a continuum from easier to more challenging text. You should inform students in the beginning that after the story is read, they will be asked to retell what they read in their own words.

When students retell a story, you'll be able to assess reading comprehension and how they process text reading. It is a window through which you can see how and what students attend to. If struggling readers omit details when retelling, you can prompt students for more information when retelling a story.

Practice Retelling a Story with a Level I Informational Text

Following Directions, Rules, and Laws is a nonfiction book for kids that can be used to assess retelling. After reading and discussing the text, a good follow-up activity would be to have students design a poster or make a presentation to present to their classmates one of the topics from within the book: directions, rules, or laws.

This could be done as an individual project or group project. Presenting to the group is an important component because it would allow the students to demonstrate and use the retelling strategy. It should be noted that students can also draw upon topics that aren't described in the book. Selecting additional topics would demonstrate a student’s ability to retell and apply their prior knowledge to make real-world connections.

These guided reading strategies help to lay the groundwork for producing independent readers and a love of reading. In order for your guided reading lessons to be successful, you must understand early reading behaviors, familiarize yourself with students' strengths and weaknesses, and effectively match books to readers. It is critical for teachers to select books that support strategic behaviors and allow students to apply strategies to ensure high-quality teaching and learning.

Be sure to visit our blog soon for more strategies that you can practice in your classroom!

Gaynell R. Jamison is a reading specialist, children’s author, early childhood trainer, and pre-K director with 38 years of experience in education. She has studied extensively in the field of literacy with a specialty in teaching reading and administering reading programs as a former Reading Recovery Teacher and Reading Recovery Teacher Leader. She has served on two national committees for leveling books for Reading Recovery. She has a passion for children’s literature with an interest in early and emergent literacy acquisition and teaching young learners to become readers.