Developing Reading Comprehension
You can use activities and games to support reading comprehension.
By Dawn Dodson
Developing reading comprehension is an ongoing process that begins the moment a child becomes engaged with literature. From learning the skills to navigate a picture book to reading an assigned chapter in a chemistry text, good readers acquire and initiate comprehension skills and techniques in order to comprehend, or derive meaning, from text. As a teacher, it is easy to identify the students who arrive in the classroom with the ability to utilize necessary comprehension skills; we identify these students as “active readers.” They can read and demonstrate their understanding of almost any text, and if they have difficulties, the same students also tend to have techniques to deal with those situations too. So, what do we do with the students who need practice in developing these skills? There are numerous games and activities that can provide needed instruction, as well as help elevate reading levels of those students who are ready to move on.
The comprehension games and activities I tend to choose are those that can be used in almost any classroom literacy situation. Whether we are working within reading or writing instructional time, I try to incorporate some type of comprehension practice. During reading lessons, either a novel or short story, I like to have students begin by making predictions. Students write predictions on a Post-It and stick it on a bulletin board. Sometimes I divide the bulletin board into sections, such as setting, character, and plot, to help students focus on story elements. Throughout the study, we check and add post-its in order to confirm or refute our predictions and/or inferences. I incorporate this into the beginning of class review sessions. This activity helps students who otherwise have trouble focusing on the reading topic at hand, and it can provide challenges for students to evaluate and substantiate their predictions and inferences. I also find this activity helpful with fiction and nonfiction.
Other activities and games include a reading ball, game boards, a tableau, and quick writes. Each activity helps to focus students’ thinking and engage them with the text and its meaning. The reading ball is a self-made prop in which an outdoor play ball is divided into sections to represent different story elements. You can make a reading ball by taking a permanent marker and drawing each story element over a section of the ball. Students toss the ball to one another, and where the students’ thumbs land is the story element they have to identify. I have used this activity with a whole class or small groups.
Another way to get students involved is by using games. At almost any teacher supply store you can find game boards with spinners attached. You can pick games with comprehension themes (setting, plot, or character). This is an activity I tend to do with small groups after reading a short story. One way to have students practice comprehension skills without having to buy supplies is to have students do tableaus. A tableau is a simple game that can be played after reading any genre, or length, of text. Students choose a scene to quietly portray to the class as a frozen frame shot, and the rest of the class has to guess the scene and each classmate’s role.
Quick writes are another comprehension activity that can be used with any genre or length of text. In my classroom I have a variety of prompts that students complete at the close of a lesson to recall and/or utilize what was taught during our class time. Some of my prompts are two columned, in which students make lists, and write several-paragraph answers. My favorite two column quick write is a quote/connection. Students choose a quote from a story and write it in the first column. Then students explain its significance in the story in the second column. Some nonfiction quick writes require students to list facts, while others may focus on explaining a theme, setting, or specific plot events. Quick writes serve as a fast way to monitor student progress, as well as identify areas that may need revisited.
In short, there are a variety of games and activities available for comprehension support, and I mentioned only a handful. The following are more ideas and lessons to help students make meaning out of their reading.
Reading Comprehension Lesson Plans:
This is a lesson that incorporates comprehension skill instruction with the novel “Holes” by Louis Sachar. Individual skills are taught and reinforced throughout the study. Lessons are well organized and easy to follow.
This lesson begins with a teacher modeled think aloud, and then students are placed in pairs to practice. A student created book is a part of the assessment, as well as an analogy game.
Using the novel “Freak the Mighty” by Rodman Philbrick students develop comprehension skills by keeping a learning log and analyzing different aspects of the story. Lessons are provided for each chapter, and student worksheets are well organized and thorough.
In this lesson students learn about point of view, main idea, cause and effect, and distinguishing fantasy from reality. Guided practice is conducted using a story map.