Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Kick-Start Comprehension: Activities for Beginning Readers

By Paula Dugger, M.Ed.

Reading aims to understand the meaning of or comprehend the message in print. Marie Clay defines reading as “a message-getting, problem-solving activity, which increases in power and flexibility the more it is practiced.” This blog will provide a variety of comprehension activities that can be used before and after reading to help beginning readers develop comprehension.

                               That Is Big, Kid Lit, Kindergarten, Leveled Readers, Hameray Publishing   Help Me Up, Kid Lit, Kindergarten, Leveled Readers, Hameray Publishing

I will share activities using two booksThat is Big and Help Me Up, from Hameray’s new Kid Lit Series. An activity sheet for these titles can be downloaded here.


Before Reading

Book Introduction and Picture Walk

As with any new story, teachers should provide a supportive book introduction and shared picture/book walk before diving into the print. This will help readers activate prior knowledge regarding the topic, thus starting the comprehension process. To learn more about creating a supportive book introduction, you may view one of my earlier Hameray blogs, Using Formulas to Give Powerful Book Introductions. Another helpful blog is Increasing Language Comprehension with Supportive Book Introductions by Liz Armstrong.

After Reading

Cut-Up Sentence #1

This activity has its roots in the writing portion of a Reading Recovery lesson in which the student is asked to compose a written sentence. It allows the teacher an opportunity to teach while the student practices skills that are often new for beginning readers.

  1. The student composes a “story” or sentence about the targeted text and writes it on a blank piece of paper. The teacher gives assistance and instruction when help is required.
  2. The teacher writes the sentence on a sentence strip.
  3. The student reads the sentence aloud from the sentence strip as the teacher cuts each word apart.
  4. The student arranges the words back into a sentence and rereads it once completed to check for accuracy. 
  5. The teacher provides an envelope with the sentence written on the front, creating a way to self-check and store the words/sentence for future use.

For illustrations and more in-depth information about the student-generated sentence, you may view one of my earlier Hameray blogs, The Power of the Cut-Up Sentence.  

Cut-Up Sentences-Text Generated

For a small group, I will describe a similar way to incorporate this activity by using text-generated sentences that can be prepared ahead of time. 

  1. The teacher writes several sentences from the text, each on a different sentence strip so that students in a small group will have individual sentences.
  2. Student(s) will read the sentences aloud as the teacher cuts each word apart. 
  3. Student(s) will rearrange the words and reread the sentence to check for accuracy.
  4. Place the words of each sentence in prepared envelopes (that can be done ahead of time) with each sentence written on the front. This allows students to self-check and stores the words for future practice with rearranging the sentences.

    Rereading cut-up sentences leads to expanded conversations about the book. For example, after reading cut-up sentences from the book, Help Me Up, students can begin to think deeper about the text and relate it to their own experiences. When do students ask for help from a parent, sibling, or friend? What are some examples of how students help others?  

    Effective pre-reading and post-reading activities help early readers understand that reading is fun because you gain knowledge and share stories. Students excitedly view books as sources of information and entertainment, reinforcing comprehension as the end goal. 

    I hope you and your students find these comprehension activities fun and helpful. Click here to download my FREE comprehension sheets for That Is Big and Help Me Up, from Hameray's Kid Lit Series.


    Don’t forget to check out the new paired text series, Kid Lit, designed for beginning readers and composed of themes kindergarteners will easily identify with in their everyday lives. Each pair consists of an illustrated fiction text and a related nonfiction text. 


    Paula Dugger has a B.S., M.Ed., and Reading Specialist Certification from The University of Texas at Austin and Reading Recovery training through Texas Woman’s University. Paula spent 35 years in the public schools teaching children to read in grades 1-12, including 23 years as a Reading Recovery Teacher and Teacher Leader. She also served as a Reading Recovery Teacher/ Teacher Leader and the reading coordinator for her school district in Texas, overseeing district-wide reading programs spanning all grade levels. In addition, she has been an adjunct professor in reading at Texas Woman’s University and Dallas Baptist University.

    Paula and her husband Neil enjoy raising Texas Longhorns and are parents of two daughters and five grandchildren. She has authored over 40 blogs and 22 early literacy books for Hameray.  She finds it personally rewarding that her books are the starting point of her grandchildren’s journey to becoming successful and proficient readers.