Archive for the ‘Comprehension Strategies’ Category

Manipulatives to Aid in Comprehension

July 29, 2010

This month on Literacy Toolbox, I shared resources to help parents explicitly teach their child comprehension strategies when reading.  Good readers use these strategies without even thinking about it.  It is our job as parents and educators to teach our children how to use these strategies so that they become second nature to them as they read independently.

To help parents in that quest, I’ve compiled a list of several tools to aid in comprehension.  These can be used at home when reading aloud.  Most of the tools come from the company Really Good Stuff.  They provide practical, hands-on, manipulatives and activities for classroom use.  I figure if parents have access to the tools teachers use in the classroom, they can use them at home with their children, as enrichment (or to home school).  The tools I’ve chosen are pretty self-explanatory and fairly inexpensive (under $12), and all pertain to helping children comprehend what they have read.

Comprehension Strategies Dice Set

Kids can roll these soft, foam dice to practice inferring, questioning, predicting, visualizing, determining what is important, make connections to their own experiences, and synthesizing information from their reading (several of the strategies I’ve discussed this month).  Parents can read aloud and then have their child roll the die or have the child roll after they independently read.  The set comes with two foam dice in two colors, 4” by 4” each and an activity guide.

Book Mission Kit (Primary)

It is so important for children to be able to set a purpose for their reading and these cards can help.  Select a mission card to place in the envelope you fold yourself, then reveal the task to your child before reading aloud (or before your child independently reads).  The cards focus on the genre, characters and setting, vocabulary, making connections, author’s craft, and more.  The set also comes with two write-on/wipe-off cards that allow you to create your own child-specific cards and an activity guide.

Egg-Cellent Comprehension Kit

Children will love drawing an egg from the velvet bag and cracking it open to reveal a comprehension question.  The questions work for both fiction and nonfiction and include direct recall, making connections, making predictions, visualizing, inferring, questioning, summarizing and synthesizing.  The set comes with 12 plastic eggs, 50 question cards, a velvet bag, and an activity guide.

Comprehension Ball

Inspired by commercial comprehension balls, I made my own comprehension ball using a plastic beach ball and a sharpie.  Each section includes a comprehension strategy.  After reading with my child, we toss the ball back and forth.  We complete the strategy that our thumb is on when we catch it.  

Disclosure: While I love, love, love the company Really Good Stuff, I have not been compensated in any way for this post.  Though, I would love, love, love if they would like to provide me with materials to review and giveaway to my readers!

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

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Asking Questions with Charlie Anderson by Barbara Abercrombie

July 27, 2010

This month on Literacy Toolbox, I will share resources to help parents explicitly teach their child comprehension strategies when reading.  Good readers use these strategies without even thinking about it.  It is our job as parents and educators to teach our children how to use these strategies so that they become second nature to them as they read independently.

Asking Questions

Asking questions as one reads, allows the reader to clarify points of confusion, or help the story move forward.  Explicitly modeling how to ask questions for your child

Charlie Anderson by Barbara Abercrombie is a great book to model asking questions.  A cat shows up one night to the house where Elizabeth and Sarah live.  They take him in, feed him, love him and name him Charlie.  Every morning though, he disappears into the woods.   One night, he doesn’t return and Sarah and Elizabeth become worried.  They look for him and find a surprise.

As you read aloud, ask:

  • Where does Charlie come from?
  • Where does Charlie go every morning?
  • What is he doing when he’s gone?

If you have post-it notes, ask your child to mark in the book when he comes across the answers to these questions.  Clarify any other questions he may have about the story.  Ask if he wonders about anything else.

Use your read aloud time to sneak in some comprehension strategy lessons without missing a beat.  The likelihood is that you will discuss the book anyway, so make your discussion a bit more focused and your child will begin to learn a few strategies as you model them.  As you read aloud other books to your child, stop and ask questions (to clarify the text or to move the story forward).

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Visualizing with Dear Mr. Blueberry by Simon James

July 22, 2010

This month on Literacy Toolbox, I will share resources to help parents explicitly teach their child comprehension strategies when reading.  Good readers use these strategies without even thinking about it.  It is our job as parents and educators to teach our children how to use these strategies so that they become second nature to them as they read independently.

Visualization

Visualization is another fun and somewhat easy comprehension strategy to model for children. Visualizing means picturing in your mind what is going on in the text.  Good readers visualize what is going on in the text to help them to better understand the text.

To encourage your child to visualize, read aloud Dear Mr. Blueberry (Aladdin Picture Books) by Simon James.  Dear Mr. Blueberry (Aladdin Picture Books) is about a little girl named Emily who discovers a whale living in the pond in her yard.  She wants to learn more about whales, so she begins a correspondence with her teacher, Mr. Blueberry.  Mr. Blueberry provides her with details about whales, but is also adamant that a whale couldn’t possibly be living in her pond.  The pictures tell the reader otherwise.

  • The illustrator never depicts Mr. Blueberry.  After reading aloud the book, discuss with your child what Mr. Blueberry may look like.  Choose a specific page and re-read it to your child.  Give him a piece of paper and ask him to draw what he thinks Mr. Blueberry looks like.

Use your read aloud time to sneak in some comprehension strategy lessons without missing a beat.  The likelihood is that you will discuss the book anyway, so make your discussion a bit more focused and your child will begin to learn a few strategies as you model them.  As you read aloud other books to your child, choose a specific page to read aloud (without showing the picture) and ask your child to draw a picture of what he/she visualizes.  Then compare pictures and ask your child how his picture differs from the illustrator’s version.

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Making Connections with The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant

July 20, 2010

This month on Literacy Toolbox, I will share resources to help parents explicitly teach their child comprehension strategies when reading.  Good readers use these strategies without even thinking about it.  It is our job as parents and educators to teach our children how to use these strategies so that they become second nature to them as they read independently.

Making Connections

Making connections is often the easiest of the common comprehension strategies to model for children as well as for them to learn and use.  There are three types of connections a reader may make when trying to understand a text: Text-to-Self, Text-to-Text, and Text-to-World.

When a reader makes a text-to-self connection, he relates the book back to himself.  When he makes a text-to-text connection, he relates the book to another book he has read, and when he makes a text-to-world connection he relates the book to something in the world (current events, a movie, etc.)

During the summer months, families often travel to visit grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.  The Relatives Came is a perfect book to use to model for your child how to make connections.  In the story, the relatives pile into their station wagon and drive all day and night to visit the family.  Some connections you might make when reading aloud to your child:

  • Hmm, this reminds me of the summers I spent in our family station wagon driving to my grandmother’s house.
  • My grandmother and aunts and uncles liked to hug a lot, too.

Use your read aloud time to sneak in some comprehension strategy lessons without missing a beat.  The likelihood is that you will discuss the book anyway, so make your discussion a bit more focused and your child will begin to learn a few strategies as you model them.  As you read aloud other books to your child, note when you make connections and point them out to your child.  If you child makes his/her own connection as you read, explain to him that he make a connection and tell him what type he made.

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Building Background Knowledge with America: A Patriotic Primer by Lynne Cheney

July 15, 2010

This month on Literacy Toolbox, I will share resources to help parents explicitly teach their child comprehension strategies when reading.  Good readers use these strategies without even thinking about it.  It is our job as parents and educators to teach our children how to use these strategies so that they become second nature to them as they read independently.       

Building Background Knowledge

Building background knowledge is the act of providing information for your child about a specific topic.  Children are building their background knowledge every day with their day-to-day activities in the world around them.  Providing children with diverse activities, day trips, or by reading aloud specific books also helps build their background knowledge.  It’s important to build background knowledge for children because they haven’t had the opportunity to experience what adults have.  When we read, we draw on our background knowledge and experiences to help us make connections that help us understand what we are reading.  The more background knowledge we have, the easier it will be for us to comprehend what we read.

As this month is the anniversary of the birth of our nation, I recommend reading America : A Patriotic Primer to help build your child’s knowledge of the principles on which our country was founded.  Written for ages 4-8, this book provides brief information related to renowned individuals (Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King, Jr.), milestones in the country’s history (The Constitution, The Declaration of Independence) and more generic terms (heroes, oath, patriotism).

Read aloud this book to your child and answer any questions he may have related to the content.  Discuss the terms and ideas conveyed throughout the book.  Provide real-life examples in language your child can understand to explain some of the more complex ideas.  Just talking with your child helps build background knowledge of topics. Building background knowledge at a young age will help your child as he becomes an independent reader and needs to draw on that knowledge to understand text he reads.

If you would like a specific lesson idea related to building background knowledge using America : A Patriotic Primer, check the post I wrote last week at Picture This!  Teaching with Picture Books.

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

7 Keys to Comprehension: How to Help Your Kids Read It and Get It! by Susan Zimmerman and Chryse Hutchins

July 13, 2010

This month on Literacy Toolbox, I will share resources to help parents explicitly teach their child comprehension strategies when reading.  Good readers use these strategies without even thinking about it.  It is our job as parents and educators to teach our children how to use these strategies so that they become second nature to them as they read independently.

While Strategies that Work was written to assist teachers in the classroom, 7 Keys to Comprehension: How to Help Your Kids Read It and Get It! is written in a fashion that guides parents as they teach their children comprehension strategies.

If children don’t understand what they read, they will never embrace reading. And that limits what they can learn while in school. 7 Keys to Comprehension: How to Help Your Kids Read It and Get It! is the result of cutting-edge research. It gives parents practical, thoughtful advice about the seven simple thinking strategies that proficient readers use:

• Connecting reading to their background knowledge
• Creating sensory images
• Asking questions
• Drawing inferences
• Determining what’s important
• Synthesizing ideas
• Solving problems

Easily understood, easily applied, and proven successful, this essential educational tool helps parents to turn reading into a fun and rewarding experience.

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Making Predictions with Bear is Scared by Karma Wilson

July 8, 2010

Today’s guest post is by Amy Mascott of teachmama.  On her blog, Amy shares how she tries to sneak in some sort of learning for her own children in the every day.  Nothing super-fancy, expensive, or complicated–just learning through meaningful time and play together.

Predicting is one of the easiest comprehension strategies to use with emerging readers, and like many of these important components of early literacy, predicting can be taught even before children can read on their own.

Today, while Owen, Cora, and I took a break from watching our electrician make sense of some aging and finicky outlets, we picked up a book I ordered a few weeks ago but had not yet read with the kiddos.

It is written by an author we all adore–Karma Wilson–and the title itself had me wondering what on earth would make our poor, beloved bear feel scared.

It happens to be another masterpiece, full of rich language spun through a strong story, and it was perfect to work on predicting.

  • Predicting: Predicting, as a reading strategy, is actually just using pictures or text to make a guess about what will happen in piece of literature. Even our little ones can do this by looking at the cover of a book, the illustrations on a page, or hearing the title or story read aloud.

We began by looking at the cover of Bear Feels Scared and by talking about what we saw:

I said, This is a new Bear book for us, and the title is ‘Bear Feels Scared’. I wonder what Bear is afraid of. Hmmmm. Look at the cover. What do you see?

Owen mentioned that there were things in front of Bear’s face, like maybe rain or snow. He also said, It doesn’t look like it’s sunny out.

You’re right, Owen. It doesn’t look like it’s a warm and sunny day, does it? Cora, what time of day does it look like it is for Bear and his friends? What do you think?

Cora said, Maybe night-night time for them? (Woo-hoo!)

Yep, I think you’re right. It’s dark, it’s rainy and windy, and some of Bear’s friends have worried faces. What might make Bear feel scared in this book? Can you make a prediction? A prediction just means you’re making a guess about something.

Owen said, Maybe Bear is afraid of the dark.

Cora added, He thinks there’s a monster in his room. (Oh my gosh–maybe this is why Cora’s been up waaaay too late recently?! Maybe this is why she’s been so cranky? Note to self: tackle monster topic asap.)

You both made some really good predictions; Bear may be afraid of the dark, and maybe he does think there’s a monster in his room. Let’s read and find out.

About mid-way through the story, we chatted about their predictions; we confirmed that it was indeed nighttime, and we learned that what made Bear feel scared was that he was lost and lonely in the dark and he wanted to be home with his friends. Yeah for Owen and Cora! They learned about predicting!

As I read the story, we chatted about the author’s diction, or word choice:

What does it mean when the ‘sun starts to set‘?
-If I ‘mutter‘ something, I might say it like. . .
-When Bear ‘sheds big tears‘, what is he doing?
-Aaaaahhhhh, I just ‘sighed a big sigh‘. Let me hear you both sigh a big sigh.

-Later, when Maddy asked me to read it to her before bed, we chatted about other words: ‘lumber’, ‘flounce’, ‘trudge’, and ‘cluster’.

Ms. Wilson throws in so many super words here, it’s hard to let them go with an initial reading, but for us, the ‘Bear’ books are read and re-read, so it’s easy–and better for little brains–to focus on just two or three things per reading so as not to lose the rhythm of the language or overall storyline.
I’ve had predicting on the brain ever since I read an article in this month’s Reading Teacher, a chapter from Liang and Galda’s Children’s Literature in the Reading Program, 3rd edThe chapter actually focused on ways to combine response activities and comprehension strategies to enhance students’ engagement–and appreciation–of texts. It was really interesting and is worth checking out. The focus on responding and practicing predicting was actually with upper elementary students but also mentioned were some cool ways of using responding and practicing visualizing for the younger readers. I hope to try them out soon.

Liang and Giada say that “predicting is easy to teach and is an easy strategy for students to learn” and that “it is also a strategy that research shows to be quite powerful in helping students better understand a text.”


Predicting–try it
today because:

  • it can be used with just about anything, including just about any decent children’s book;
  • it gets kiddos thinking (woo-hoo!);
  • it keeps them engaged in the text because they wonder if what they think will happen actually will (they’ll feel like little detectives!);
  • it will help them to remember what they’ve read;
  • if we start modeling–and practicing–these reading strategies now, with our little ones, our kiddos will become adept at doing these kind of things on their own as they become stronger readers;
  • soon predicting will be just another natural reading activity that our kids will do unconsciously, which will make them better readers and thinkers. (seriously!)

And that was our sneaky learning for today. Thanks, Bear!

Thanks, Karma Wilson! One last thing that makes me feel like I want to hug Karma Wilson and be her BFF–not only because she, too, is a mama of three and writes books I could only dream of writing myself–but her website totally rocks. Tons of resources for parentscool activities to use in conjunction with many of her books, pictures of her adorable familylinks to her blog and Twitter name, and it’s just plain gorgeous.

Amy Mascott, a Reading Specialist and High School English teacher, is also the creator of we teach, a forum for parents and teachers to share, learn, and grow.

Strategies That Work by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis

July 1, 2010

This month on Literacy Toolbox, I will share resources to help parents explicitly teach their child comprehension strategies when reading.  Good readers use these strategies without even thinking about it.  It is our job as parents and educators to teach our children how to use these strategies so that they become second nature to them as they read independently.

Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement is a book that was suggested to me early in my teaching career.  I used it extensively in the classroom, and continue to use the resources and strategies within the book when I read to my own children.  The goal is to create engaged, thoughtful, independent readers and this book helps!  

Though Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement is meant as a resource for teachers, I feel that any parent who has an interest in explicitly teaching their children strategies when reading (especially parents who home school!), will find this book useful.

In this revised and expanded edition, Harvey and Goudvis have added twenty completely new comprehension lessons.

In this book, you will find:

  • what comprehension is and how to teach it
  • lessons and practices for teaching comprehension
  • information on social studies and science reading, topic study research, textbook reading and the genre of test reading
  • updated appendix section recommends a rich diet of fiction and nonfiction, short text, kid’s magazines, websites and journals

When kids are engaged in their reading they enhance their understanding, acquire knowledge, and learn from and remember what they read. And most importantly, they will want to read more!

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.