Reading comprehension is vital in all subjects and is the ability to completely understand the text being read by processing the information and then being able to recall that information accurately.
Having good reading comprehension is a skill that will stick with your students for the rest of their lives and if you nurture it now, they will not only become stronger readers and writers, they will be able to learn new concepts more easily down the road.
It is amazing how reading comprehension transcends language arts classes and is necessary in understanding other subjects such as social studies, science and even math.
There are 5 strategies that we have outlined below to use in developing reading comprehension in the classroom and some fun project ideas that will get your students excited about reading and writing.
Strategy #1 Making Connections
Teaching 2nd grade reading comprehension can be tricky because your students likely have just started reading and writing independently. One of the best ways to encourage reading comprehension and get your students to fully understand what they have read is to have them make connections to their own experiences or relate their reading to something they have previously learned. This is one of the easiest strategies to implement in the classroom.
After your students finish reading something, have them complete one or more of the sentences below in their journals or on a piece of notebook paper that they can keep in a Language Arts folder.
- This reminds me of a time when I…
- I know about this topic because I…
- The setting of this book is just like…
- This book is something like…
- What’s going on in this book is just like what’s happening in…
Although this is an assignment, it will help them start to realize how important it is to make connections while reading. If they keep at it, they will naturally develop a habit of mentally making connections as they read.
Strategy #2: Asking Questions
Encourage your students to ask questions about the text as they read. These questions could be about words they don’t understand, what they are feeling as they read or what they are supposed to take away from this piece of writing.
When your students ask questions before or while they are reading, they are tapping into prior knowledge and making predictions. Asking questions starts to create a mental dialogue promoting comprehension. After reading, critical analysis kicks in and your student may even want to conduct further research on the topic.
To get your students used to asking questions while they read, you can have them use small sticky notes with questions marks and place them next to the paragraphs or words they do not understand.
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Strategy #3: Visualization
Many people are visual learners, but kids, in particular, respond well to visual aids and drawings. Creating fun illustrations and being able to visualize what was read can sometimes help them digest the writing better.
You can provide visual aids to go along with the reading via slideshows or short informative videos, but having your students take a hands-on approach will likely be more effective.
Have your students begin reading and pause after they find parts of the text that contain descriptive information and draw the picture that they see. Then have them think about the words from the text that brought that image to mind. They can repeat this process over and over throughout the entire book or story to help visualize the setting and see how the setting affects the story.
Strategy #4: Determine Text Importance
Determining text importance is crucial in developing strong reading comprehension and 2nd grade is the perfect time to introduce this to your students.
They will eventually be able to determine text importance on their own without prompting, but some guidance is useful since they are fairly new to reading.
To help your students determine text importance have them:
- Distinguish between what’s essential versus what’s interesting
- Find the difference between fact and opinion
- Look at cause and effect relationships
- Compare and contrast ideas or information
- Find themes, opinions or perspectives
- Pinpoint problems and solutions
- Name steps in a process
- Locate information that answers specific questions
- Summarize what they read
Now, not every one of the bullet points above will be utilized for every piece of text that they read, but many of them can be used together to give a better understanding of the writing. For example, let’s say they are reading a book about dinosaurs. They can distinguish between what’s essential versus what is interesting, locate information that answers specific questions and summarize what they read. If they are reading a fairy tale, they can look at cause and effect relationships, find themes, opinions or perspectives and pinpoint problems and solutions.
Strategy #5: Synthesize
Synthesizing goes hand in hand with many of the strategies above, but it takes things a step further by having students learn important lessons and grow as people from the text they read.
The idea is that your students will combine new information with existing knowledge to form original ideas, new lines of thinking or new opinions.
A great way to introduce your students to synthesizing is by having them read fables. Fables are fairly easy for newer readers to digest and, by definition, always have a lesson to be learned at the end.
Have your students use graphic organizers to show relationships between concepts while reading and for writing their own stories. We suggest having this take the form of a volcano or using the worksheet in the project idea below. To create their volcano graphic organizer you can have them:
- Write what they thought after reading the first few pages at the base of the volcano. This is a good place for them to also make initial predictions about where they think the story is going.
- After they read about half of the book, have them fill out the middle of the volcano with what they think about the information they have collected so far. They can also put how they think the story is changing.
- Once the story is finished they will write in the top of the volcano what they think the story is really trying to teach them and what they took away from the story.
Without reading comprehension, reading, finding and conveying information, important skills to become a successful student and adult, would be impossible. That is why it is necessary that your students nurture and develop this skill early on. If they do not, they run the risk of falling behind their peers and struggling with all subjects. Use the information and project ideas above to help promote reading comprehension in your classroom and you will start to see solid improvements in your students’ ability to comprehend text and more complex ideas in no time.
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