Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

5 Tips to Improve Reading Comprehension [K–2], Part 2

By Beth Richards, Literacy Interventionist, Reading Recovery Teacher, Guest Blogger

Today's blog post is the second of two parts in which I'm suggesting ways to help kids in kindergarten, first-grade, and second-grade access meaning to boost their comprehension. If you missed the first three tips, you can read 5 Tips to Improve Reading Comprehension [K–2], Part 1 . Keep reading to learn about two more ways to help your students as I describe my experiences with a student in my classroom.

4. Draw the child's attention back to meaning during reading.

“Meaning generates the purpose and the movement forward. Meaning also leads to and motivates monitoring and problem-solving. Meaning affects every aspect of reading . . .” (Jones 2013, 7). As students are reading, you can support comprehension in several ways. One easy scaffold is a quick statement during page turns, such as Hmm . . . Nick can’t find anything! I wonder what he should do. This recaps what was just read and keeps the thought process moving forward.

Another support is to constantly bring the child back to the meaning of the text at difficulty. As Enna came to a tricky word, her go-to strategy was sound analysis, which was ineffective and disrupting her processing. What she was neglecting to do at difficulty was to think about what would make sense. When she stopped at a tricky word, I would interrupt the visual attempts and gently guide her back to the meaning of the story.

If that is not a strong enough scaffold, increase the level of help by making it specific to the story. You can ask, What might Nick be looking for? or This is where Nick’s mom gives him some advice. Once Enna was able to make a meaningful prediction, I was able to show her how to check it using the visual information. If she was incorrect, I encouraged rereading and thinking about the story and what would look right as a strategy to help.

The visual solving of a word came after the reading of the text and the comprehension conversation, as she did need to learn effective ways to solve. However, doing it after the reading allowed the meaning and comprehension to remain at the forefront and did not interrupt her meaningful reading work. Do not underestimate the power of rereading.

When a child stops at a tricky word, they lose their momentum and any thinking they are doing about the story pauses. Encourage the child to reread, and think about what’s happening in the text. Even after a spot where a child has successfully worked through something tricky, remind the child to go back and reread to hear how it all sounds together. If the first attempt was disjointed, then rereading will allow the child to hear the sentence or phrase in the meaningful way it was intended.

5. Engage in conversation after reading.

Immediately after reading, before addressing any word solving or reading behaviors, have a brief discussion with the child about the story. Avoid yes or no questions, instead choosing something open-ended that allows the child to demonstrate her understanding of the story. For a time, the question itself can serve as a scaffold to help the child’s comprehension develop. “Good questions give the message that the whole story was the point of the reading activity and it lets the teacher know what the child has attended to and understood" (Clay 2005, 97).

After allowing the child to share her thinking, this is an excellent time to model making real-world connections. You can say, This story reminded me of yesterday when we were looking all over for the blue marker, and we got so frustrated! I wonder if that’s how Nick felt, too. This demonstrates the thinking that readers do and how the brain is always making connections to help understand new concepts or experiences.

Within two weeks, Enna made huge shifts in her problem-solving attempts within the text. She began making meaningful predictions more often, increased the times she was using rereading as a literacy strategy to help her with understanding, and even began putting together three to four words in meaningful phrases. She had more to say after text reading and made comments connecting the text we had just finished with other leveled books she had read or her prior knowledge and experiences.

Enna realized how engaging and easy reading could be when the process was focused on meaning. Try these supports to see shifts in your students’ comprehension as well, and keep checking the blog for additional ideas to strengthen your students’ literacy experiences!

Beth has been teaching for seventeen years. She has taught kindergarten, third, and fourth grades in Wisconsin. For the last six years, she has been a literacy interventionist and Reading Recovery teacher and loves spending her days helping her students develop and share her love of reading.