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  • Stephanie Horn

Keeping Reading Comprehension Fun!

When I start working with a new student, especially a younger student, I always leave time at the end of sessions to read with them. I have a large collection of picture books with rich vocabulary that I pull from. Yes, I'm reading fun books to them, but I'm having my students do so much more each time.


Before we even start to read the book, we talk about the cover. They show me the title, the author and illustrator. Sometimes we talk about what an author and illustrator are and how they're different. If a book has an award on it, we talk about that as well. From looking at the cover, I ask my students to predict what will happen in the book. I purposely use words they will eventually see in school as well as on standardized tests. The more exposure to high level academic vocabulary, the better! Sometimes, we make a hypothesis about the book. We talk about how our educated guess comes from what we can see on the cover, as well as information we already know.


As we read, I stop to ask what words mean. I encourage my students to stop me when they hear a word they don't know, or aren't sure of. I point out and explain that some words mean different things depending on how they are used. This means, we might know a word in one context, but not another. I will even model looking words up to show that we don't know everything, and asking is never the wrong thing to do. I want my students questioning their books and the words around them.


As we continue on, I ask about the characters in the story, where the story is taking place, and what time the story is taking place. Some of these questions are easy to answer, some are not. When the conflict of the story starts to happen, I help my students identify what the problem is, and why it is problem. As this is not always stated directly, it can be hard for students to identify. It gets even harder when there are multiple problems and they need to identify the one main problem. To help with this, I use colored page flags and have my students flag the different elements of the story. After reading the entire story, they go back through their flags and retell the story. At that point, I help them identify what the main problem was, and which were side problems. They love to do this! If the book takes multiple days to read, they go back over the story elements we've already identified prior to starting back.


All of this helps my students to develop their reading comprehension skills and prepares them for higher level academic challenges. Just because a student can't independently read a book, does not mean they aren't ready to work those advanced comprehension skills. Don't hesitate to use higher level academic vocabulary with your younger readers. They will need that vocabulary as they continue through school and the world. Increase their knowledge and increase their curiosity.


A final perk to finishing my sessions with reading a story, is many of my students will work really hard so they have extra story time. And then I continue to have them work for me, without realizing it.


Here are some of my favorite books to read to students:


Aunt Isabel Tells a Good One, by Kate Duke

I love this book because it an aunt telling her niece a story. The elements of the story are laid out very explicitly as the story is told. This story helps introduce story elements to students.












Two Bad Ants, by Chris Van Allsburg

This is a cute book about ants looking for sugar and getting into trouble.



















Doctor DeSoto, by William Steig

My students always love this book! It showcases a mouse out smarting a fox, while still helping everyone that he can. There are parts of the story that aren't explicitly stated, which gives good opportunities to discuss what is implied.












The Red Book, by Barbara Lehman

The Red Book has no words in it, but still contains a very vivid story. I love using books with no words, and having my students find all the story elements in the pictures. My younger students love that they can read the book to me, because it's reading through pictures.








Mouse Around, by Pat Schories

This is another book with no words, but a very good story line. There is even more included in the pictures of Mouse Around for students to find while telling the story. Many times, when we go back through this book, students find something else that they missed.









A Stranger in the Clearing, by Vikki Lynn Smith

This is a sweet book with lots of information about animals you'll find in the woods. I especially love the included extra information about Piebald Deer.

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