I bet you know the basis of reading comprehension, but I'm going to share with you from an educator's standpoint the specific skills involved in reading comprehension and how it all plays out. You're welcome to follow along by subscribing as this is the first in a series , "From the Teacher's Desk" for homeschool educators.
Series Posts As They Come:
1. Reading Comprehension
2. Choosing Rich Literature
3. Reading Levels
As I mentioned in previous posts, I taught third grade for 5 years and I taught ELL'S (English Language Learners) in K-2nd for one year, LOVE.
A lot happens to land on the desk of the third grade teacher and it gives an interesting perspective of what happens before third grade and after. Third grade seemed to always be the year reading learning disabilities for students which were previously wondered about were finalized, writing a 5 paragraph piece in four genres must occur and reading to comprehend must also be mastered at beginning levels and more. Today I'm writing about reading comprehension. We want our children to be able to comprehend or understand what they're reading fluently and independently. That is the goal and we want them to be able to read past a third grade level, which is the average reading level of adults and is the level on which a newspaper might be written in. What ushers children past that level is aggressively tackling the reading comprehension skills needed to unlock understandings of more complex texts and text structures. So, let's begin!
Reading to comprehend begins as early as a child begins to listen to a book (like our beloved, Winnie the Pooh which we're currently finishing up) and from that time on, we begin to help our children comprehend what is being heard at deeper levels. At the early stages, it can be as simple as asking questions about what's happening, asking them to make a prediction about the story, or discussing what happened after reading.
The transition from listening for pleasure to reading to understand by oneself comes into full view in the third grade year.
So what should you be nurturing in your primary grades children up to that point? What does your third grader need to be doing in heaviness? What should your fourth and up look like? First, let's look at a time line.
First graders should be able to answer questions about details of a text, describe characters, use pictures in text and words to understand information. They also begin using parts of a book such as a title page, glossary, and table of contents. You can see a developmental progression of comprehension skills for first graders here. (This pdf is pulled from the Georgia Standards for Excellence, not related to the Common Core.)
After first grade, comprehension skills begin to build and really begin to split more into two types of texts, Literary (mostly fictional) and Informational (non-fiction).
For Literary Texts: Second graders not only retell the beginning, middle and end of stories, being able to describe a character's thoughts, feelings and actions, but end with being able to compare and contrast (find similarities and differences) between different versions of the same story. For example, second graders often read different versions of Cinderella such as a classic version contrasted with Tomie de Paola's book, La Adelita. They study folktales and fables in depth.
Informational Texts: Second graders ask questions about the text (who, what, where, when, why, how), compare and contrast key facts and details and use text features such as headings, diagrams, glossaries, etc. to find information in the book. For the most part, this is an extension of first grade with the added introduction of using context clues (clues around an unknown word to help you figure out its meaning).
Let's look at third grade in detail.
For Literary Texts: Third graders have a hefty job of comprehending by looking deeper into the story, identifying the clear beginning, middle and end, discussing and describing the characters, setting and plot and even how the characters change.
For Informational Texts: Third graders move from an earlier emphasis on mostly fictional stories to the bulk of reading becoming focused in non-fiction texts related to science concepts and historic figures and times. A third grader should be able to compare and contrast, draw conclusions and make inferences, figure out the meaning of new words using context clues, use text features to find key facts and details, identify the main idea, support the main idea with details, and identify and explain the cause and effects present. That's a lot!
Ultimately, these skills to comprehend written text continue past third grade, but the text comprehension level should increase as students read more historical fiction and science related texts.
Why do you need to be steeped in knowledge of the reading comprehension process? Confidence. Direction. Peace. You don't need to wonder where your children are going on this reading journey or if they're behind on a certain reading level. You need to be confident that they are moving along and learning the skills they need. You need to be able to put down your curriculum and let real literature into your home and your read aloud time. You need to have peace in this homeschool journey!
Know the general progression required in teaching reading comprehension. Look for signs of comprehension at each grade level. Get extra skill practice for them when they need it. Don't push. Help them enjoy reading and make it a natural process.
I LOVE teaching reading comprehension and I am so glad to have the opportunity to share with you. I have many reading comprehension resources and they're always growing! You can snag them here.
If you have any specific questions about reading comprehension, would like some guidance or need a listening ear, I would love to chat with you! Just comment below! And, this is one of probably several posts to come on the topic of "From a Teacher's Desk". If there are any specific skills you'd like me to address, please also comment below. :)
Other Posts in this Series: From a Teacher's Desk:
How to Choose Rich Literature for your Homeschool
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