Adventures in Literacy Land: Comprehension Skills

Showing posts with label Comprehension Skills. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Comprehension Skills. Show all posts

Exploring Software and Websites to Support Reading Comprehension

As teachers, we look for new ways to present information all...the...time, don't we? Pinterest, blog posts, Facebook, TPT, Instagram, and websites are all sources of help for teachers, and teachers are great at sharing lesson ideas they find. Today, I thought I'd do some sharing too. We have been exploring software and websites to support our kiddos with comprehension, so I'll share a review of what we've learned.

Super Summarizing in Fiction and Nonfiction Text

           I am a reading specialist at a K-5 Title I school just outside of Boston. I have noticed over the years that we are beginning to get an influx of ELL students and homeless, shelter or transient students for whom traditional methods have not worked. In addition, their time in school may be fractured with frequent visits to their home country for 4-6 weeks during the year. All of this leads to a lack of strong comprehension with fiction and nonfiction text.

         Today, I would like to share with you a recent professional development presentation that I have adapted for use in Grades K-6 classrooms as a starting point for teaching the beginning steps in summarizing. My design and layouts for this set are very simple and streamlined because I find that if they are already struggling in reading.... they do not need any additional distractions on a page. They need a simple layout that they can follow and use over and over again... in my room, with their classroom teacher, with a specialist, and at home with Mom and Dad.

  Super Summarizing in Nonfiction Text !

Anchor Chart for Beginning Summarizers of Nonfiction Text:

Use with a K-1 student or for an older student to introduce the concept of summary:

This chart is appropriate for K-1 students and beginning of the year 2nd grade students. It can be used with upper grade students in ELL/SEI classrooms as well.

 Ideally for upper level 2nd grade students as well as 3rd-4th grade students:

 This anchor chart is appropriate for independent learners at grades 4-6. It would work well for younger students who need an additional challenge in the area of summarizing.
 For accomplished summarizers...

Super Summarizing... Fictional Text !

Somebody Wanted But So... introducing this strategy at a variety of levels...

Anchor Chart for Beginning Summarizers of Fictional Text:

Perfect for K-1 students or older kids who benefit from storyboards and visual support:

For K, 1 and early 2nd grade students as well as older, reluctant writers:

Graphic organizers for students in grades 2-4:

Anchor chart for accomplished summarizers...
Graphic organizer for grades 4-6 students who can summarize independently:

From May 19th- May 26th, 2015, you may download the entire presentation along with graphic organizers as my gift to you.

After that time, you may find this unit in my shop under the name: Super Summarizers  {Fiction and Nonfiction}.  My link is

I hope all of you have a fun and fantastic start to summer !


Thanks to these talented designers for graphics support !


A Lesson with Tanny McGregor

Throughout the life of our Literacy Land blog we have posted several times about the lessons within the Comprehension Connections book by Tanny McGregor.  Her lessons have proven to make comprehension strategies "come alive" for my students.

Several months ago Tanny asked to do a lesson with my students....ummmm....YES!!!!

Her lesson centered around theme and my students left with a strong foundation of the meaning and purpose behind theme.  I go into great detail about the lesson and everything that took place over at Curious Firsties.

Within the lesson, Tanny used three different texts.  She called them "text cousins."
They were text cousins because they were each different but share the same possible or similar theme (much like cousins).  She explained this visually with a triangle and a heart.  The three texts make up the triangle and the heart is the "deeper" piece that they share.

She started with the poem.  The students heard the poem, read the poem about 2-3 times.  Then they had a quick discussion about the theme.  When Tanny moved on to the second text, Each Kindness, she used only the illustrations.  And not even all the illustrations.  Just a few of them.  Then students had a discussion about theme.  The third text used was Red.  Tanny read this story aloud and stopped briefly at certain points to discuss what was happening.  Then there was a discussion about the theme.

Now, there was much, much more to the lesson than this.  But the WAY that she used the texts sent me a powerful message.  And it got me thinking...

The lesson was probably 45ish minutes long (I was not watching the clock). Tanny used three different types of texts in one lesson within that time frame.  Each piece of text was provided so much meaning and connected well to the lesson.

The poem by Jeff Moss was short but immediately the students understood that someone was being left out, someone was being picked on, and someone was being mean.

I have no idea about the actual story from, Each Kindness, but we gathered quite a bit of information from the illustrations.  A quick discussion and some "turn and talk" time was completely sufficient for the students to make connections between the poem and illustrations.

The third text was read in its entirety.  Red was a beautiful story about the strength that children can have and it served as an excellent way to bring all three texts together.  But Tanny did not have to stop on each page and have a discussion for these connections to be made.  The story was powerful and clear enough on its own.

As I reflected on the lesson, materials, and pacing, I realized that I would not have thought to use multiple texts in one sitting, in one lesson.  I tend to use multiple sources over a period of days.  And I would never look at only a few illustrations from a picture book.  No way!! I would read the whole story, of course.

This lesson opened my eyes.

When planning lessons, I need to think outside my comfort zone.  Look at how I can make these text to text connections stronger for students by using multiple sources of information.  My teammate, Karen, decided that she could pair some nonfiction texts with fiction texts by merely using certain aspects of books (such as photographs, maps, or diagrams).  I will be sitting on this new learning for a little while.  I have a good feeling that it will be changing the way I approach lessons.

What are your thoughts?  Do any book pairs come to mind right away?


Comparing and Contrasting Animals

Happy Spring everyone! It's Jen from An Adventure in Literacy here to share an easy activity for comparing and contrasting. I had been working on comparing and contrasting all week with my first graders and wanted to add a little playful fun to the I pulled out plastic eggs and animals.

To start off the fun I read Big Egg by Molly Coxe. I double puffy heart love this book! It is a quick read with simple text and bold illustrations. I've used it in many grade levels for predicting and making inferences from pictures. For this activity it served as a quick hook to introduce the project. The story in an eggshell is that Hen finds a big egg and tries to figure out what kind of animal egg it is. 

I used eight plastic eggs each filled with a different small plastic animal. I let the students know that just like in the book, all of the animals in the eggs are not necessarily animals that would really hatch from eggs. Each table got to choose two eggs from the basket.

As a table group they worked together to compare and contrast their two "hatched" animals using an egg shaped Venn diagram. Each group also presented their animal comparisons to the class. The next step in the project could be to write paragraphs that highlight the similarities and differences in the animals. A basket of eggs and the Venn diagram could also be a very engaging center!

I'm sure every elementary teacher has extra plastic eggs and animals lying around, so grab the Venn diagram freebie here to have your own egg animal fun! What other fun activities do you use to teach compare and contrast? Let us know with a comment!


Making Meaning of Main Idea

Hello, everyone!  It's Andrea from Reading Toward the Stars with an easy comprehension strategy for your students.

This year our school really needs to work on comprehension strategies to help our students understand what they are reading.  Not skills, but strategies!  Our students didn't score well on the reading or math assessments, so we are working hard to help those students become better readers.  Whatever we were doing before just wasn't working.

As the reading specialist, the teachers tell me what skills their students are lacking, and I work on the skills by giving the kids some strategies.  I love that our district uses Thinking Maps as a strategy to help students understand what they are reading or working through.

This week I have been working with my third grade group on finding the main idea of a fiction story and NOT retelling the story.  This is hard because kids want to tell you every single detail.  We have been reading this book from Mondo Publishing:  Edgar Badger's Balloon Day.

We have been reading chapter by chapter and focusing on the main idea or details.  Today we focused on both.  They read the third chapter of the book titled "The Wrong Day?"

After reading the chapter, we discussed the main idea and only the main idea.  This is tough for students.  They want to tell every.single.detail.  After talking about the main idea, we then listed some, not all, details to back up the main idea.

They wanted to give me every.single.detail again, but I helped them focus on what was important for the main idea.  This strategy helped them out so much, and the thinking map helped them to narrow down what was important information from the book.  Tomorrow, they are going to find the details for the chapter's main idea.  I hope this will help them as they think about what they are reading!

How do you help students focus on the main idea and details and NOT retell the entire story?


Helping Students See Their Progress

Hey everyone! It's Bex here from Reading and Writing Redhead. Another school year has passed and at the end of the year I do a lot of reflecting on how things have gone.

Sometimes I feel like my kiddos don't really understand how much they have progressed and at times I think I forget too. A bunch of years ago I came up with an idea to help! We always do a fairly simple comprehension activity in the fall. Our school uses the Treasures reading program and the first story is David's New Friends. We read the story together and I give out a fairly simple Beginning, Middle, End activity. We discuss together the story and I ask for student suggestions as to what happened in each part of the story. We also talk about what to do if you don't remember, and someone always suggests to go back and look through the story and get ideas from the pictures and text! Then the kiddos go ahead and complete the page without help (which is SO hard to do for me, I am dying to help!!). I collect them and correct them and file them away for parent conferences.( By the way, this year I showed them again to parents at the March conference as we looked at their child's current writing work. It was a great way for them to see growth.)

Then, about a week before school ends, I pass out the old Treasures books from the first half of the year again. The students are usually perplexed - "But we already read those stories!" I have them choose either to read the story again to themselves or with a buddy. I explain we are going to read David's New Friends and complete the SAME assignment they did in the fall and then I will give them the old one so they can compare.

A couple of my fellas rereading David's New Friends.


After everyone is done and before we pass back the papers from September I ask how they thought the story was to read- thumbs up for easy, thumbs in the middle for just right, thumbs down for hard. Most give a thumbs up! I  give a reminder that in the fall most of them thought it was just right or hard to read! Then the fun starts!

Here is someone's before and after paper (sorry I should have put the September paper on the left)!

Such an improvement in many areas- handwriting, spelling, sentence length, detail, even comprehension. In the fall she just copied a sentence from the story for each story part. Now she wrote her own response and fairly detailed responses at that!

This is another girl's before (on the left) and after papers. 

It is interesting to see changes like letter size, capital letters not being in the middle of the sentences any more, improved spelling, but also interesting because I think she could be doing better. With her skills she can write longer sentences than the ones on the paper in June. They are really almost the same length as the ones in September. When everyone raised their hands and commented about the comparison, many kids said things like, "Oh my paper in the fall had 4 word sentences and my paper today has a 13 word sentence",  "My sentences were so short in the fall! They are twice as long now" and "I wrote one short sentence in September but 3 sentences for each part today!" I hope by seeing other's pages and hearing how they improved she might be inspired to put a wee bit more effort into her work in the fall.

So in any case, I hope this gives you an idea or two on how to get your students to actually see their progress. A tip I have is be sure to store the September work in a VERY safe place so you don't lose it. Then a kid or 2 will be disappointed because they can't see their own work. I had someone who refused to do it in the fall and I forgot about it until it was time to do this one.

What do you do to help your students see their growth. Comment below and let me know!


Using Reader's Notebooks

With most of us on summer vacation, I know many are rethinking the structure of their classroom and already planning for next year! Today, I would like to share how I use reader's notebooks with my students.

After searching through Pinterest and numerous teacher blogs, I decided to craft my own version of the reader's notebook. I combined a variety of ideas I had seen all over the internet, tweaking them, and making them my own. They have become my pride and joy over the course of the school year.

My first problem was how to get the notebooks. Since I am a Title 1 intervention teacher, I do not send out a supply list. Fortunately, I have a very good friend over at Mead. He was generous enough to get me plenty of free composition notebooks for all my students. They even came in fun designs. It was a dream come true!

Once I received the notebooks, I put a label on the front for each student's name. Then, I used small post-its to label four sections: Charts, Strategies, Skills, and Writing. 

On the first page of each section, we kept a running list of what could be found in that particular section. I found that keeping this running list forced students to stay organized and helped improve students' understanding of terms. For example, students were more likely to remember what the literary term "theme" meant because we had written it several times in our reader's notebooks. Repetition is key!

If you have ever read my blog before, you know that I love anchor charts. For this reason, the first section in our reader's notebooks was for charts. With each anchor chart I made, I took a picture and made copies for my students to glue into their notebooks. Sometimes the charts required my students to fill out information during the lesson, but other times they did not. I found this section to be extremely beneficial to my students. Instead of always asking me questions, my students began looking up the information themselves using their notebooks. They really took ownership of the material.

The second section in the reader's notebooks focused on reading strategies. I explained strategies to my students as things they should be doing in their heads whenever they are reading. These include making predictions, making connections, synthesizing, determining importance, etc. Many of my struggling readers do not use these strategies in their reading. As a result, I focus on teaching these strategies explicitly.

The third section of the notebooks is used to work on various reading skills. These skills can include character traits, cause and effect, compare and contrast, main idea/supporting details, etc. I explain skills to students as various ways students will need to analyze texts. They will not have to use these skills with every text, but should know how to use them.

Within the final section, students worked on written response in their reader's notebooks. I really wanted to reduce the amount of written questions I worked on with students - quality over quantity. For most articles and books, I would come up with 1-2 questions. Students would record the questions in their notebooks. Sometimes we would answer the questions together, and sometimes students would answer the questions independently. With these questions, we really worked on the wording of our responses and using evidence to support our answers. I believe I saw a great improvement in the quality of my students' written response as a result of this section of the notebooks.

I fully intend on using reader's notebooks again next year. Students responded very positively to the notebooks. They loved the fun designs, and definitely preferred them over any type of worksheets. The notebooks just seem much more open-ended. My students are all very excited to take the notebooks home over the summer.

Do any of you use reader's notebooks? If so, how do you structure your notebooks?