Cultivating Complete Comprehension in Your Little Learners

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Did you know that reading comprehension is tough?  Ask any kiddo who is just learning to read, and they will enthusiastically and emphatically agree!  Reading words is hard, but reading sentences and paragraphs is just plain difficult.  But when you add comprehension into the mix, and you have a recipe for exasperation and frustration.

How can we help our kiddos overcome this impending irritation and resentment toward reading?  Comprehension skills!  While that seems like a simple solution in theory, reality is a bit more complicated.

To make reading comprehension less overwhelming, a few of my blogging friends and I have teamed up to give you a variety of resources and activities to help you effectively teach this complex set of skills.

So, before you leave, you will…

  • understand what reading comprehension is,
  • know what the component parts of reading comprehension are,
  • have an arsenal of ideas to teach your kiddos.

What is Reading Comprehension?

Reading Comprehension | Reading Strategies

Reading comprehension is an inclusive set of skills, not just one entity.  To achieve true comprehension, a reader has to be able to understand the material in its entirety.  Webster’s defines comprehension as “the act or action of grasping with intellect, and the capacity for understanding fully.”  Wikipedia defined it like this.

“Reading comprehension is the ability to read text, process it, and understand its meaning.   Although this definition may seem simple, it is not necessarily simple to teach, learn or practice.  This understanding comes from the interaction between the words that are written, and how they trigger knowledge outside the text/message.”

Seven Comprehension Strategies

Reading comprehension is comprised of seven distinct parts: predicting & activating prior knowledge, making connections, questioning, inferring, visualizing, determining importance, and summarizing.  Each of these skills must be taught explicitly, but before we can teach them, we need to know exactly what they are.

What is reading comprehension?

Predicting and Activating Prior Knowledge

Predicting means to guess with a fair amount of certainty what an outcome is going to be.  Activating prior knowledge means taking the experiences and information stored in the brain and using it to color your current understanding. 

These two are typically found working in conjunction with one another.  Check out my friend Vicki’s post for some great activating prior knowledge ideas!

Making Connections

The definition of making connections is simple; it means making sense of things and how everything relates to everything else.  Teaching this strategy is a little more complex because there are multiple types of connections to be made.

The three most common connections we discuss with our kiddos are text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world.  This strategy is critical for our kiddos to master because the connections they make will be an indicator of their ability to remember and categorize information.

Questioning

This seems pretty obvious, but there are many layers to this strategy as well.  As teachers, we are constantly using questioning with our kiddos to determine their level of understanding on a variety of topics.  Most kiddos never lack for questions, so I’d say they have this questioning thing down pat.

However, there is one area of questioning that we sometimes neglect: kid-to-kid questioning.  For a child to be able to answer another child’s question, there has to be a certain level of knowledge and a specific amount of communicative ability.  Here’s my friend Erin to tell you more!

Inferring

“To derive by reasoning; conclude or judge from evidence” is Webster’s perfect definition for inferring.  Teaching our kiddos to infer informs them on “reading between the lines.”  Therefore, we are providing them with the tools they need to make connections.

We use our skills of inferring to help us make decisions about everything from first impressions to life-changing choices.  My friend, Ginny, has some thoughts about inferring to share with you.

Visualizing

Being able to visualize means “to recall or form mental images or pictures.”  When we teach children to visualize, we are helping them understand the thoughts and pictures created in their own minds.

Determining Importance

Determining importance is exactly what it says…deciding what is most important rather than what is just interesting.  This can be tricky because, to a kiddo, finding important facts in a text means finding interesting parts.

So, we obviously need to make sure that this part is taught explicitly.  The good news is you can teach this strategy along with summarizing because the two are extremely similar.

Summarizing

Summarizing means to break down a text into its most essential pieces and retelling only those fundamental parts.  You can actually teach summarizing at the same time you introduce determining importance because they are very similar.  Here’s a link to more info and ideas on Unpacking Summarizing.

As teachers, we must teach the seven specific skills explicitly to our kiddos to ensure their future success as readers.  Each reading comprehension skill is unique.  Therefore, we need to teach these skills independently and apply them as a whole.

That’s why my friend, KT, put together this great post with tons of tips for reviewing these skills using Animal Farm by George Orwell.

With all of this great information, I want to make sure you didn’t miss any of the links to the other posts.  So, here are the links one more time…