Continuing on with our 3-part series, welcome back squeetus guest blogger, Kirsten Wilcox, 1st grade teacher, literacy specialist, and darn fine lady. Next I asked Kirsten what parents can do with emerging readers if they're struggling with comprehension.
There are different things you can do with them. Make sure you are reading with them when they read. Stop after every few sentences and talk about what was read. Here are some comprehension strategies I like:
Predict: Have your child tell you what they think will happen next.
Retell or Summarize: Have them tell you what they just read--do this every few sentences or paragraphs. Don’t wait till a whole chapter has been read.
Make Connections: Have your child tell you what the book reminds them of. (ie. The Little Red Hen: This book reminds me of when my brother wouldn’t help me clean up our room, or when mom made us homemade bread, etc.) They can also make connections to other books (This book reminds me of Chicken Little because they both had Hens in it).
Make a picture in their head: Have them describe or draw what they are seeing when they read a part in the story. This is a skill some kids have to develop.
Questioning: Probably the one we’re the best at. Asking basic questions, but just because your child can answer the basic questions doesn’t mean they have good comprehension.
Inferring: Many times kids can ask the basic questions but have trouble with inferring, where I believe true comprehension comes into play. For example: Once I was doing a reading group with some third graders. We were reading Stuart Little. There is a part in the book where the cat is talking to another cat about how frustrated he is having to share his home with a mouse he isn’t allowed to eat. Meanwhile a bird is sitting on top of a lightpost listening to their conversation. The other cat says he will go to the home and eat the mouse for him. That night Stuart Little finds a note saying he is in danger and needs to leave. When I asked the students, “Who do you think left the note?” No one could figure it out. We ended up reading it three times before someone finally said, “It was the bird!” A good rule of thumb is, when reading with your child, whenever your mind does something or thinks something, check to see if your child’s mind did the same thing. You would be surprised at how much they might be missing.
When reading any book, let your child look at the pictures and stop to talk about it. This processing time is just as important as the time spent reading the words.
If your child is struggling with fluency:
First of all, fluency isn't just reading fast. I tell my first graders, it's making your reading sound like talking. It includes reading smoothly, reading with expression, and phrasing correctly. Fluency and comprehension go hand in hand. Many times if a child is having trouble with fluency they are also struggling with comprehension and vice versa.
One thing that can help with fluency is pair reading. When you pair read with your child, read the book together at the same time matching your speed to theirs. As your child starts to read more smoothly stop reading with them, when they start to get choppy, join in again. I always prepare my students before doing this. I tell them we are going to read together, but if I stop reading they should continue to read without stopping.
I also really like the You Read To Me, I Read To You books by Mary Ann Hoberman. They are fun to read with your child to help build fluency and the kids really like them. I wouldn’t start this until your child is at least on an F or G reading level.
It also helps children to hear fluent reading. Reading to your child can be effective. If you feel you aren’t a good reader, you can have your child listen to books on cd or audio books on the kindle or ipad. They should listen while following along with the book.
Reading books more than once is huge when working with fluency. If it is a chapter book I always pick a paragraph for them to read a few times working on fluency. Many times I try to find a paragraph with quotes, because phrasing can be tricky and imperative to comprehension. It can also help them work on their reading expression.