Our beginner readers are still learning their letter sounds, so how on earth are they going to learn higher level skills like comprehension? This is an excellent question. At this beginner level, we are working on comprehension strategies that the students can use when listening to text. In our beginner level lessons reading from authentic literature is so important, it's really the meat of the curriculum. So after you have worked on phonemes and phonemic awareness and spelling with the kiddos it's time to get their imaginations going and grab some authentic literature in order to start flexing that comprehension muscle. I call this interactive reading and this is definitely my favorite part of teaching reading. It is a strategy that I use all the way up and through middle school with kids. That said, it is crucial with our youngest and most impacted readers.
I am always thinking about the essential components of comprehension when I am asking my questions, and you can read more about that here. But, really these are the questions I always want to hit on when I am working with my beginner kiddos.
1. What are they doing? What are they up to? - This is a good one for early in the story, pick a time to stop reading and ask this question to your student.
2. Why are they doing what they are doing? - Asking this often leads to some deeper thinking and gets kids to relate what is happening in the book to their own experiences.
3. How do you think they are feeling? - Much like why questions, how questions often delve deeper into comprehension and get the kids thinking about their feelings and their own thinking! That's right, we can get into metacognitive strategies even at an early age. Their answers will, of course, be developmentally appropriate, but you can see how they are relating to the text.
4. What do you think they will do next? - This is always a fun one! It brings in the technique of prediction and forces kids to think back on what has already happened in the story in order to make a logical guess as to what will happen next. If you find your kiddo is consistently giving you answers that are not logical or not at all connecting to the text then use follow-up questions to understand their thinking.
5. What do you think is the moral of this story? What did the main character learn? - Depending on your book you may need to phrase this differently or more like a general summary question, such as what happened in this story.
I hope you find these questions helpful for the next time you are doing a read aloud with your students. Along with these questions, it's always important to point to the words you are reading while you are reading them, especially for our youngest readers so that they see that there is a correlation between the words on the page and what you are actually reading to them.
If you are interested in more information on teaching comprehension make sure to check out our professional development courses on reading comprehension here.
One more helpful resource... When you are trying to find out what level your reader is reading at, or if they are not yet reading on their own and you want to know what level they are comprehending in your read alouds use Lexile to help!
Smart ALEC Team