Adventures in Literacy Land: Comprehension Skills

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

Retelling in the Early Years

Hi Everyone!  It's Jennie from JD's Rockin' Readers.

I wanted to talk a little bit today about comprehension and more specifically retelling.  I am going to just share with you what I have been doing recently with one of my little 6 year old friends who has really been struggling with basic comprehension skills.  In fact, on his last reading benchmark, I was thinking, "What story did you just read?"- That's how inaccurate his retelling was.  He read the book with 98% accuracy but that is about as far as we got.  So- now it's up to me to get "Tyler" to really make reading meaningful rather than word calling.  My first thought is… How can "Tyler" retell a story if he has no idea what he read?  My answer… he can't.  I need to go way back to his strategies while he is reading rather than jumping into how to retell a story.

These were the steps that we have worked on so far…

#1  I had a very direct conversation with "Tyler" about his reading.  I praised him for all of the hard work he has been doing with his reading and his phonics skills.  He has definitely made great improvements since the beginning of the year.

#2  I told him my plan and that our goal is for him to be able to tell about what he has been reading.  It went something like this…

"You are doing a great job with your reading.  But, we need to make sure that when you are reading you are really thinking about what is going on in the story.  I am going to show you some ways that will help you think about the story so that you can enjoy the books that you are reading.  If you are only reading the words and not thinking about what is happening then reading isn't very fun.  Do you want reading to be fun?"  Of course his answer was yes:)

#3  During his guided reading group, I have implemented a couple of activities specifically tailored to "Tyler".  First, while the other kids start reading their story I have been working with "Tyler" page by page.  He reads a page and we talk about what has happened.  As we turn the page I make a quick comment about something related to the story.  For example, "Wow, I wonder who they are going  to meet next?"  This is a great way to get "Tyler" continuously thinking about the story.  Next, I encourage him to reread the page if he can't tell me what happened.  I have tried to have him "picture" it in his head and use the pictures of the book to help him "put it all together".  This has helped.

#4  We did this for a couple of books.  He REALLY struggled with it at first and we were rereading a lot.  Now, he has been doing much better.  We have slowly increased how many pages he reads before giving me a quick retelling of those pages.  We are still working and it isn't going to be an overnight switch but we are making gains.

My next step is going to be working on retelling the entire story after reading.  We are going to be using my Retelling Bookmark so that he has some visual support.  I will also start out by allowing him to use the book- page by page to help him retell.  We will slowing back off on the amount of book support that I give him depending on how he does.  Here is a FREEBIE bookmark for you to use with your little ones.  It has really helped many of my kids.

The reason I wrote this post is to encourage you to really look at your struggling readers and find out both their strengths and weaknesses.  Devise a plan and let that student know exactly what you expect and what you are going to do to work toward your goal. 

What do you do to help students with basic retelling and comprehension skills?  I would love to hear more ideas!


Generating Questions with a Question Creation Chart (Q-chart)

There is significant evidence that learning how to generate and answer questions while reading improves memory, integration and identification of main ideas, and overall comprehension.  Generating questions helps students make predictions about what they will learn from their reading, focus on the most important information, and read with greater purpose because they are looking for answers to their questions.
Generating questions, however, does not always come naturally to students.  Some students can generate simple who, what, where, when types of questions, but have difficulty generating the more complex "how and why" questions that require more critical thinking.  It is important for teachers to provide direct instruction, modeling, and significant guided practice in how to self-question while reading.  

A Question Creation Chart or Q-chart is a perfect tool to help students recognize and self-generate a continuum of questions ranging from simple "remember" questions through "understanding" and "evaluative" questions.  This chart is especially useful as it can be used with both literature and informational text. careful teacher modeling, students will use the Q-chart to formulate questions about the text they've read by selecting one word from the left-hand column of the chart (who, what, where, when, how, why) then selecting a word from the upper row (is, did, can would, will, might).  Students locate the square where the question will be recorded and write their "remember" or "evaluative" question. The further down and over to the right students move, the higher the level of critical thinking.  
It is important to note that this chart can be used before, during, or after reading the text!
Once students have generated several questions about the text they've read, it is important for the teacher to build in opportunities for student talk.  Using think/pair/share or other small groupings, students should share, compare, and discuss the questions they've generated.  As students are discussing their questions, the teacher can circulate the room and provide support as needed.
After student talk, the teacher should offer a final discussion on the importance of using questioning as a metacognitive strategy as a whole-class.  Some guiding prompts that can be used are:

  • Why is it important for a reader to ask questions and make predictions before reading a text?
  • Why do you think good readers ask questions as they are reading?
  • Why do good readers answer and generate questions after they've read a text?
  • Would anyone like to share a question from their Q-chart?
  • Does anyone have a question that wasn't answered in our reading?
We hope you enjoyed reading about how to generate questions using a Question Creation Chart.  You may begin using this effective strategy by downloading our FREEBIE.
**In order to give students sufficient space to record their questions, this chart must be printed on 11x17 Ledger paper.



Responding to Informational Text using the 3-2-1 Strategy!

Hello, friends!  We are Colleen and Stacy from The Rungs of Reading here to talk to you about an effective "After Reading" strategy for informational text called 3-2-1!  This strategy can be used in both primary and intermediate grades in whole-class, small group, or individual settings.  The 3-2-1 strategy is especially successful with struggling readers as it helps them comprehend, summarize, and retain information they've read.
The 3-2-1 strategy can be used with informational books, magazine articles, biographies, even websites!  Here are a few of our favorite books and websites we have used with this strategy!

After reading, exploring, and discussing an informational text or website, students actively engage with their reading by summarizing three important points from the text.  Summarizing requires the reader to focus on the major elements of the text and to determine what is important.  When students are selecting these important points, the teacher should guide students in choosing new facts and information they learned from the text (not prior knowledge).

After recording three new discoveries on their graphic organizers, students go back into their reading to choose two interesting facts.  At this point, the teacher should guide students in selecting facts and information that is unusual or exciting.  For example, "the baobab tree can reach the height of a five story building".  

Finally, students brainstorm and record one question they still have about the topic they read.  This is a good opportunity for students to share and discuss their questions with classmates in preparation of additional research.  Students complete the graphic organizer by drawing an interesting photograph, diagram, timeline, etc. that illustrates the topic they read about.

We hope you enjoyed learning more about the 3-2-1 reading strategy!  Here is a little FREEBIE to get you started!  Depending upon the age and ability of your students, you may want to differentiate your expectations when having them complete the graphic organizer.  For example, younger students or struggling readers can be instructed to copy facts and information directly from the text.  Older or more capable students can be instructed to paraphrase or summarize information in their own words.  When initially modeling the strategy for students, you can explain which expectation you would like them to follow.
 3-2-1- Strategy Graphic Organizer


Fact and Opinion: Not as Easy as it Seems

 Hi, it's Melissa from Don't Let the Teacher Stay Up Late here to share some tips and a little tool for teaching Fact and Opinion!

I don't know about you, but this is a skill that my students really struggle with all of a sudden when they reach 4th or 5th grade. They can tell me the difference between the two and even give me examples. They even THINK they are really good at it and will sometimes say it's easy. But don't be so quick to take their word! I'm going to walk you through some quick steps to teach and review fact and opinion so that your students can be more successful, even when the examples go past, "Yellow is the best color." and "The sky is blue."

First, make sure they have a STRONG understanding of what fact and opinion looks like. This means you need to go beyond definitions and help them identify traits and clue words.

Amber Polk has a great freebie on TPT that I love to use for this. It includes definitions and characteristics that students can sort under correct categories. Then they can also put everything into an interactive notebook to refer back to later on! Click on the picture to find her freebie.

After students understand characteristics, have them begin to identify examples from text they are reading. But don't stop there! Students need to be able to explain why to reinforce their understanding. Have students highlight key words and/or write what traits are present in the sentence (specific event, date, etc). For facts, I ask my students to tell me how they could prove it is true. If the fact says, "More Olympic events take place in the summer than winter", students could say that they would look for a list of Olympic events sorted by the seasons.

To help students practice proving fact and opinion, I created this simple graphic organizer to share with you. There are two versions: one includes clipart with Si from Duck Dynasty, and the other is plain. I will keep this as a freebie forever, so don't worry about it disappearing on you!

Fact and Opinion Graphic Organizer

What other comprehension skills do you notice students struggle to master?


You mean I have to THINK?

Hey there!  It is Jessica from Hanging Out in First!  I am back with you today and I am planning on sharing with you one of my favorite activities for my guided reading.
 I don't know about you, but I have so many students that do not realize that they have to THINK while they read.  I think this is one of the most difficult things for students to learn.  Students, especially the little guys, become so focused on decoding for sound that they forget to think about the text while they are reading. They get to the end of the page and have no idea what they just read! Even I am guilty of this "fake reading" from time to time.  It is easy to do.

So, how do we teach the kids that they have to THINK about the story?

One of my favorite strategies is the THINKmark.  I honestly cannot remember where I first learned about THINKmarks but I know that it has been several years ago now.  THINKmarks are bookmarks that students can write on and make notes on about their reading.  I spend a lot of time teaching students how to use these during our guided reading groups.  Then students can continue to use them during independent reading.

You can click on the picture above to hop over to my blog for a free copy of the THINKmarks.  The first page includes four bookmarks on the page (you can copy them front to back for longer books).  The second page has larger THINKmarks for your primary students that need more space for their writings and pictures.

When teaching my kids to use THINKmarks, I have them stop reading every page or so to make a note about their reading (As students become better readers and better users of THINKmarks, they will not have to stop this often.  They can use more of their own discretion with their note taking.)  They write the page number that they are on.  Then they decide what type of note they will be making.  This fun anchor chart gives symbols that students can use to mark their notes with:

(Disclaimer: This is not my anchor chart, but it sure looks good!)

So, for example, if a student does not know what a word is on a page, they can make a note with a question mark followed by the word.

This is such a great way to get students to be thinking about what they are reading.  When my students finish the story, we look over the notes they have made and discuss any questions they have and any important things they have noticed from their reading.  It also helps students to remember important details for when they are retelling a story!

The website The Curriculum Corner has so many fantastic resources, but one of the resources that I use is actually the small bookmarks/anchor charts that they have with all of the symbols for students to use when making their notes.

BTW: This can also be done with sticky notes!! =)


Unlock Your Brain: Activating Schema

Hi everyone! It's Melissa from Don't Let the Teacher Stay Up Late, and I'm so excited to share my first post on this blog. For those who don't know me, I've been teaching for 8 years in a small county near Richmond, VA. This is my second year as the Title I Reading Specialist for grades 3-5, but I spent most of my time in fourth grade. I love working with older kids and focusing on comprehension skills.

Today I want to share one of my favorite words: SCHEMA. When I began my master's program four years ago, I had never heard of the word. It's just a fancy word for prior knowledge, but it sounds so much more fun! As strong readers, it's not something we really think about because it just comes naturally to us. However, we got that way from LOTS of practice.

I like to teach schema at the very beginning of the year, and yes, I use the word schema because the kids think it's a cool word, too. Plus I tell them they can go home and teach their parents a new, fancy word. When I introduce it, I explain that schema just means "what we already know". I tell them it's like our brain is a filing cabinet and certain words tell our brain to pull out a file. Then I usually say "dinosaur" and ask them to tell me what things they thought about. They give a lengthy list (I don't write it down, but I would if the kids were a little younger). Then we discuss where they learned this information. I only said one word, but they were able to give me plenty of information.

After they have an understanding of what the word means, I show them how it applies to reading. I choose a book, and we activate our schema (I pretend to turn a key on my brain to open the filing cabinet) on the topic. I recommend beginning with a nonfiction book, and it's important that the topic is one your students are comfortable with. As they call out information, WRITE IT DOWN! You can have them write it on a sticky note and sort the information into categories, or you can just list the information. Then I show the students the book cover. That may jog their memory for a little more information.

I explain to the students that they will need this information to help them read the book. Sometimes it will help them understand words that are unfamiliar (context clues). Other times it will clear up information that the author doesn't completely explain (making inferences). I tell the students that good readers use their schema all the time. Before we read, I have them explain to me what schema means. I see a lot of them "unlock their brains".

The most important step is to begin every story that you read with the class by activating their schema. This doesn't have to be long, but they need PRACTICE!! This won't become a habit without a lot of modeling and practice. It's also important because there will be times when students don't have sufficient background knowledge, and they will need help BUILDING their schema.

A few recommendations for quick prior knowledge checks:

  • sticky notes
  • 20-30 seconds to share one fact with a buddy
  • draw three names to share one fact
  • short journal writing for morning work

Since this is my second year in this position, I've been able to see how much some of my students have retained from year to year. They don't always remember the word, but all I have to do is "unlock my brain" and they know exactly what to do. I've noticed that they are more engaged in the topic from the beginning, and it makes teaching future skills a lot easier!

What is your favorite book to practice activating prior knowledge?


Point of View - It Makes all the Difference!

"Wait, not everything we read in newspapers and magazines is true?! But aren't those supposed to be nonfiction?!" These are the sorts of responses I heard from my fifth graders as I taught the following lesson on point of view. Up until this point, my students had never considered the skewed perspectives authors often present in their writing. (This also happens to be a Common Core standard!)

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.6 Analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences in the point of view they represent.


Read & Analyze Nonfiction Text with the Rungs of Reading!

Hello, Friends!  We hope you are enjoying the long weekend (for some of us, anyways) and are excited as we are about all of the wonderful ideas we have been reading about this past week!  We are incredibly grateful to be part of this dynamite group of literacy gurus!  
We are Colleen and Stacy from The Rungs of Reading.  After teaching special education for 13 years, I (Stacy) moved into the role of Elementary Reading Specialist at my K-5 school.  I have been teaching reading for five years and absolutely LOVE my job!  Colleen is working hard as a first-year second grade teacher after finishing her undergraduate degree in early elementary with a Master's in Reading.  The idea for our little blog began when Colleen was completing her reading practicum in my classroom.  She quickly introduced me to the world of teaching blogs, and I was hooked!       
Today we are going to share one of our favorite comprehension strategies that we use in our classrooms called "Reading and Analyzing Nonfiction Text" or RAN, for short.   
Now that the Common Core State Standards stress an equal balance of literature and informational text in the classroom, we have spent a considerable amount of time building our nonfiction libraries and revamping our lessons to include more informational text strategies.  RAN has proven to be an effective strategy to use with informational text as it encompasses both before, during, and after reading activities.  In addition, it requires students to use a variety of strategies including activating schema, confirming thinking, and asking questions.  Finally, this strategy can be done with teacher support in a whole-class or small group setting or independently while using a graphic organizer.
When using the RAN strategy, students begin by brainstorming what they think they know about a topic.  These ideas are written on individual post-its and placed in the first column of the chart or graphic organizer.  Here is an example of a RAN chart after brainstorming what my second grade students knew about the topic "climate".  I recorded their ideas and placed the post-its on the chart.
After brainstorming, students read the text for the first time.  When they find a confirmation in the text, that post-it is transferred into the second column of the chart or graphic organizer.  Here is our RAN chart after some initial thoughts were confirmed.  Notice that some of our ideas are missing!
After the first reading, students review the chart and attend to any misconceptions they might have had about the content.  These ideas are transferred to the fourth column of chart or graphic organizer.  At this time, students can revise their thinking and add their ideas to the "new learning" column of the chart or graphic organizer.
Finally, the strategy concludes by reading the text a second time then thinking about what questions the students still have about the content.  This is a perfect time to explain that sometimes our questions are not answered when reading a text and we have to do additional research to find answers.
We hope you enjoyed reading about one of our favorite strategies to use when teaching informational text.  Here is a little FREEBIE to help you out when using the RAN strategy!
 Reading & Analyzing Nonfiction Text

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday