After our kindergarten students master decoding and sight words, it becomes time to focus our reading efforts on reading comprehension. After all, the ultimate goal of reading is to understand the words. But how do we teach this? There are many different strategies for teaching reading comprehension that you can implement, even for younger students. Using these instructional practices helps break down the complex process of reading and is an effective way to develop skilled readers. So, keep reading to uncover the three important strategies I use for simplifying the process of comprehension to young readers.
Strategy #1: Retelling
One of the best ways to teach reading comprehension is retelling. A great way to do this is by having students orally retell stories to you to check for comprehension. You can also 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. Using visual cues such as props is a fun way to move through complex texts while keeping your students engaged.
While oral retelling is an effective strategy for checking for comprehension, it is not always feasible for checking each student’s comprehension skills. To use this strategy more independently, you can give students visual images from the story and have them order the images as they occurred in the reading passage. You could also have students draw a picture, or a series of pictures, to show that they can recall important details and main points from the narrative text.
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 and fill-in-the-blank questions that will help them 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
Visualizing is another great strategy for teaching reading comprehension in kindergarten. Students can visualize pictures in their minds utilizing the different words they just read. This is helpful anytime students aren’t reading picture books because picturing the story can help students understand it better.
Having your students record their pictures is a key component of comprehension strategy instruction. For example, students can create illustrations from the story after reading a text to themselves. Suppose they create an image that shows characters from the story, an event that happened, or even the setting mentioned. In that case, you can see that they understand comprehension processes.
Strategy # 3: Answering Comprehension Questions
Like other reading strategies for comprehension instruction, answering comprehension questions is an important part of developing effective readers. For example, practicing reading comprehension questions orally improves reading comprehension skills. In addition, you can verbally ask students questions about the text and see if their response is correct. Using this strategy makes the most sense in whole or small groups.
However, your students can also do it independently, even if they can only read sight words and CVC words. For example, after you teach students question words and sight words, they should be able to read simple questions. Then, they can choose from multiple-choice options. Of course, the multiple-choice options would also need to be decodable for elementary students.
Examples of Reading Comprehension Questions
At the kindergarten level, answering comprehension questions can also look like filling in the blank by writing in a word. Essentially, they can look at an incomplete sentence like, “The cat had a nap on the ______,” and will have to ask questions based on context clues. For example, asking questions like, “What did the cat take a nap on?” can guide students to choose the correct response.
As mentioned before, fill-in-the-blank activities are similar to retelling stories because of the nature of the activity. As a result, fill-in-the-blank reading comprehension questions are an effective comprehension task that touches on multiple foundational word-reading skills.
Final Thoughts on Reading Comprehension Strategies
Like many things taught in kindergarten, reading comprehension strategies look slightly different at the kindergarten level. Comprehension work relies on verbal questioning and responses, especially at the beginning of the year. However, as the year progresses and students’ decoding abilities improve, they can do independent activities practicing comprehension skills to become good readers!