Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Improve Reading Comprehension with Paired Texts About Food, Part 1

By Nancy Brekke, Reading Interventionist, Guest Blogger

Everyone loves to eat, so why not use paired texts about food to help kids improve reading comprehension skills? In this two-part blog post series, I'll describe ideas to help your students practice important reading comprehension strategies with a fairy tale and a corresponding informational text. Part one will focus on skills that kids can practice with level J books. Part two will include tips to improve students' comprehension with leveled readers between K–L for your guided reading lesson plans.

Students love to talk about their favorite foods, including the foods their families eat at home. They all have plenty of prior knowledge in this area, so they should be very comfortable and eager to share! This will spark some great class discussions that will help your students’ oral language development and improve their vocabulary. They may even learn about different cultures through the discussions.

The Little Red Hen is an excellent level J fairy tale from Story World Real World that you can use to steer the discussion from food to teamwork. Discuss how everyone on a sports team has to work together for the final, and hopefully victorious, outcome of a well-played game.

In order to help kids think about responsibilities of each member of a team, use the following questions to introduce the theme of teamwork in  The Little Red Hen : Do you know what teamwork is? Can you describe an example of when you worked on a team? Did your team work together well? Were there any problems?

After reading the narrative text, put kids in small guided reading groups practice the comprehension strategy of visualizing. To do this, encourage them to make a movie in their minds by predicting how the story would have been different if all the animals worked as a team. Then have kids in each group work together to act out their revised stories for the class.

A second comprehension strategy that you can help students develop is making real-world connections to the text. You can ask, Have you ever decided to not help in a group? Why? What was the end result? Have the students share their answers with a partner, and then discuss with the whole group.

To continue helping kids make real-world connections about the topic of food, you can introduce Different Kinds of Bread . This leveled reader's nonfiction text features, such as table of contents, photographs, and bolded glossary terms, will serve as great opportunities to enrich student learning as they read the text. First, have students take turns reading aloud each section in the table of contents with a partner. When you come to a bolded word as you're reading the text, give each pair of students an opportunity to discuss what the bolded word means, so that they can practice using the glossary.

Another comprehension strategy that you should model for students with Different Kinds of Bread is asking questions. This is a very important strategy for students to use as they read because questions help them understand the main idea of a story and make inferences. Ask the students, What is your favorite kind of bread in Different Kinds of Bread ? Then have them tell their partner one fact from the text about their favorite kind of bread.

At this point, students should be able to answer the question, What is the same about The Little Red Hen and Different Kinds of Bread ? If some kids struggle to come up with an answer, you should use chart paper to give visual support for determining importance.

Since the Story World Real World titles mentioned today are paired fiction and nonfiction books, you can have a discussion about text types. This discussion can be a great opportunity for kids to give details from the books to support answers to questions, such as Which book is fiction? Which book is nonfiction? Can you give me an example from the text that shows why you think this?

Using engaging level J books and the tips I described will give your students an advantage as they improve their reading skills, oral language development, and vocabulary. Visit our blog soon for part two of this blog post series; I'll share more fun ways to keep your students engaged about food with level K–L books.

Nancy has taught grades 1–6, ESL students, and Reading Recovery. She is also a Reading Interventionist and an author of several titles in our Kaleidoscope Collection .