As we worked with our reading partners this week, we transitioned from each student reading their own book, to both students reading the same book together (I read, you read – the same book). The kids had to spend some time thinking about which books from their book box might be a good fit for their partner. Then they took turns reading two pages each until they finished the book. It was fun to watch the kids get introduced to some new books that they may not have tried on their own.
When we read with our first graders, there are four areas that we check throughout the year: comprehension, accuracy, fluency, and expanding vocabulary. This week, we introduced our first tool to aid students in strengthening their reading comprehension.
This tool guides students in retelling the events of a story in order. When we use this tool, we start by reading a story. When we finish reading, before moving on to another story, we see if we can remember the events. The kids practiced retelling the events across their fingers and then when they finished, they would take a picture walk through the book to see if they remembered them correctly.
We also used this retelling tool with our partners. After the students finished reading their book together, they would each take a turn remembering all the events in the story. One partner would hold the book and the other would hold the retelling tool. The student with the retelling tool would walk through the story, retelling one event at a time. The partner with the book would be the ‘checker’ and make sure that they were putting the events in the correct order. If a student forgot an event, the ‘checker’ gave hints. They would then switch jobs, so that each student spent time retelling their stories. The first graders got the biggest kick out of being the ‘checker!’
When you are reading at home with your first grader, ask him/her to retell the story. You can even take turns with your student telling the first event and then you sharing the next, going back and forth until the last event. This practice will help your students remember the key events in stories and will strengthen their reading comprehension.
Previously, I have written about rereading as a way to figure out tricky words. Rereading is also a powerful way to build comprehension. I recently read a blog post by Vicki Vinton, a writer and literacy consultant in NYC schools. She describes the importance of rereading as a “drafting and revising” process. The first time through a story, readers are figuring out words and getting the feel of a story. Reading that same story a second or third time allows new understandings to unfold. Readers discover details that are significant that they hadn’t noticed before. This comprehension is extremely valuable to developing readers.
You can encourage this by having your child read books two or three times, stopping throughout to discuss “Why” or “How” questions. You can also make comparisons between characters and other stories that you have read together. This will help strengthen their comprehension and model how readers ask these questions before, during, and after reading. Rereading a story is like visiting with an old friend, you may find out things that you never knew before!
With Michigan adopting the Common Core Standards, new emphasis is being placed on deeper comprehension. First and second graders are expected to compare and contrast different aspects of the stories they read. Recently, first graders have stretched their thinking by comparing and contrasting characters and their adventures. Second graders have extended this skill as they studied different versions of familiar folktales. As they compare and contrast, students support their answers with evidence from their reading. This strengthens problem solving, critical thinking, and analytical skills which are important to successful reading. Even more importantly, talking and sharing about books is fun! You can engage in these conversations with your child by asking, “Which of these two characters are alike or different?” or “How is this story the same or different from that story?” and “What made you think that?” By doing this, you can help develop your child’s comprehension. Happy reading!
Learning gains occur when there is a specific area on which to focus. This week, readers will approach their reading with a targeted reading goal. These reading goals are based on strengthening accuracy (reading the words correctly) or comprehension (remembering the story). As readers, there are certain aspects of reading that we do well and others that can be improved. Increasing awareness of these areas can help students take ownership of their reading skills. Students’ reading goals are posted on bookmarks which are used whenever they are reading books. Some readers are targeting strategies to help them read more accurately. Their goal might be to watch out for the middles or ends of words or to reread when the story doesn’t make sense. Other students who are already accurate readers might have a comprehension goal, remembering the who and the what after reading. Students are encouraged to focus on their goal in the regular classroom and at home. This week, ask your child about his/her reading goal.
Students have recently learned an important strategy called Making It Smooth. This is a helpful technique which strengthens comprehension and improves fluency. After figuring out a tricky word, a reader should reread the sentence to make the words sound smooth. At this point of the year, students are bravely stretching and looking for chunks, in order to decode unknown words in their stories. However, readers can get so bogged down with stretching that the thread of the story is lost. Making It Smooth encourages readers to reread the sentence, fitting in those newly discovered words and allowing the story to unfold. As you read with your child and he/she successfully figures out a tricky word, nudge him/her to also Make It Smooth.
Happy reading! 🙂