After our kindergarten students master decoding and sight words, it becomes time to focus our reading efforts on reading comprehension. We want to make sure that the words and sentences they are reading have meaning to them. But how? There are many effective strategies for teaching reading comprehension that you can implement, even at the kindergarten level. Students can complete several of them independently, if you give them the right tools.
Strategy #1: Retelling
One of the simplest strategies that you can use for teaching reading comprehension is retelling. One way to do this is by having students orally retell stories to you in order to check for comprehension. You could even offer props from the story like pictures of characters attached to popsicle sticks. Then, the students could move them around as needed while retelling parts of the story that they remember.
While oral retelling is an effective strategy for checking for comprehension, it is not always feasible to check each student’s comprehension skills in this way. In order to use this strategy on a more independent level, you can give students pictures from the story and have them put them in the order that they happened. You could also have students draw a picture, or a series of pictures, to show that they can retell events from something that they read.
In my Reading Comprehension Unit, I include a place for students to illustrate the text they decoded, as a way for them to retell the story, as well as fill-in-the-blank questions that will help them to recall and retell. Overall, retelling can be done orally or with activities like drawing pictures and filling in blanks at the kindergarten level.
Strategy #2: Visualizing
Speaking of pictures, visualizing is another great strategy for teaching reading comprehension in kindergarten. Using what they just read, students can visualize pictures in their mind. This is helpful anytime students have text that doesn’t already have pictures, because being able to picture the story helps students to understand it better.
To take this strategy a step further, you can have students record their pictures. After reading a text to themselves, they can create illustrations for the story. If they create an illustration that shows characters from the story, an event that happened, or even the setting that was mentioned, you can see that they are developing early reading comprehension skills.
Strategy # 3: Answering Comprehension Questions
Like other strategies for teaching reading comprehension, answering comprehension questions is likely to look different at the kindergarten level. One option is to practice this strategy orally. Verbally ask students questions about the text and see if their response is correct. Using this strategy in this way makes the most sense in a whole group or small reading group setting.
However, it can also be done independently, even with students who can only read using sight words and cvc words. For example, after you teach students question words as sight words, they should be able to read simple questions and choose from multiple choice options. Of course, the multiple choice options would also need to be decodable.
At the kindergarten level, answering comprehension questions may even look like filling in the blank by writing in a word. Essentially, they will have to look at an incomplete sentence like “The cat had a nap on the ______,” and will have to ask questions to themselves like, “What did the cat take a nap on?” in order to find the correct response. As mentioned before, you can also view fill-in-the-blank activities as retelling because of the nature of the activity, making it an effective reading comprehension task that touches on multiple strategies.
Like many things taught in kindergarten, reading comprehension strategies look slightly different at the kindergarten level. Especially in the beginning of the year, comprehension work relies on a lot of verbal questioning and responses. However, as the year progresses and students’ decoding abilities improve, they can begin doing independent activities to practice comprehension skills.