Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Teaching Comprehension Skills with Paired Texts [Grades 1–2]

By Rhonda McDonald, Reading Specialist, Guest Blogger

Pairing narrative and informational texts is a great way to teach comprehension skills in first and second grade. In this blog post, I'll provide ways to help kids find the main idea and supporting details, as well as activities to pair with reading practice, using a fun theme set of paired texts at levels I–J.

The Silkworm and the Spider is a fable about a spider and a silkworm that live in the same cottage competing for a farmer’s attention. The spider spins many fine webs all around the house. He brags that because he can produce a beautiful web in one day that he is the best. The silkworm works hard also, but only produces one ball of silk in a day.

One day the farmer walks into a web in the doorway. He says it is time to clean up around the cottage, so he and his wife get rid of the spiderwebs. While cleaning, the wife discovers the beautiful silk ball of thread. She decides to make a fancy gown out of the thread, which takes many days. One day a princess travels along their road, looks in the window of the cottage to see the beautiful gown, and buys it with a bag of gold. The moral of the story is things of value take time to create.

Improve content-area literacy with paired texts in Fables & the Real World by  clicking here.

After reading the narrative text to the students, ask them to talk with a friend about what the story was about. You can use some of the following discussion questions as prompts:

  • Who do you think was more important, the spider or the silkworm?
  • Do you think it is good to do a task quickly?
  • Should a task that is important, take more time to finish?
  • Was it wise for the spider to brag?
  • How did the silkworm feel when the spider was bragging?

Ask the students to reread the story and think about the discussion questions. Create a word web with the main idea of the story in the center bubble. Then ask the students to add supporting details to the web by drawing connecting bubbles from the center.

Each of the narrative texts in Fables & the Real World has three corresponding nonfiction companion books that extend the lessons. The companion books for The Silkworm and the Spider Theme Set include From Silkworm to Silk, Spiders, and Spiderwebs. Each of these books have teacher's guides that you can download for free and find ideas for graphic organizers, comprehension questions, vocabulary practice, and writing activities. The content in the teacher's guide is aligned with Common Core State Standards.

From Silkworm to Silk is a level J nonfiction book about silkworms with interesting photographs that give readers an up-close view of the topic. You could create a K-W-L chart on this book and the other nonfiction books for kids in this theme set. Here's an example of what kids can add to the first two columns prior to reading:

After reading, have students add comments to the chart as the lesson progresses. If there is a question raised that is not answered by the book, this creates an opportunity to research more about the topic. Children often generate thought-provoking questions.

Extension activities will build comprehension of the topic and help the students make real-world connections. If possible, take a nature walk to look for spiderwebs. Ask the students to draw the shape of the web. Early morning is a great time to observe webs with dew on them. Invite a resource person from a local zoo to come to talk with the class about spiders and silkworms.

You can also have students research pictures of items made of silk, such as dresses, shirts, sheets, and pillowcases. Bring an item made of silk to the classroom so the students can feel the texture.

A more artful approach could include having kids draw a spiderweb with a pencil onto a black piece of construction paper. Outline the web with white glue. Let the glue dry, or give them the option to add glitter to the glue while drying. After the web dries, they'll have a tactile sample of a web.

Explore more narrative and informational texts that are available as Paired  Texts by clicking here.

If you liked today's blog post, be sure to visit our classroom literacy blog often for more great ways to engage kids and improve literacy skills!

Rhonda was a Title 1 Reading Specialist in Botetourt County Public Schools, Virginia. She now substitutes and visits schools and libraries to lead writing workshops, story time, and parent workshops. She is also an author of children's books and several titles in our Kaleidoscope Collection and Zoozoo Animal World series. Neat Feet Two Voices is the second nonfiction book available in the fall of 2019 in a reader's theater format that follows Nest Quest Two Voices, both of which Rhonda has authored. If you like what you read here, you can enjoy more by Rhonda on our blog.