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How to Improve Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten

Updated: Jun 27, 2023


Today we are going to talk about how to improve reading comprehension in Kindergarten and 1st Grade. How often when teaching your students to read you realise their word recognition is fantastic and they appear to have developed great fluency, but you question how much of what they are reading they really understand? When thinking about improving reading comprehension a good foundation in phonemic awareness is important. To read more about phonemic awareness check out my blog post Phonemic Awareness and Phonics. If you are looking for some phonemic & phonological awareness activities I have lots of engaging activities available in my store.

This blog post explores what reading comprehension is as well as why it is important? I also look at what can cause reading comprehension difficulties as well as how to teach reading comprehension. Make sure and stick around to learn what activities improve reading comprehension too!


Do you want some free Literacy/ELA resources? Sign up here to receive a free phonological awareness pack, perfect for assessing your student’s phonological awareness through lots of fun activities. After signing up, you will be the first to learn about my new teaching resources, teacher tips and blog posts making sure you always have fun teaching ideas all year round! Click here to sign up!


What is reading comprehension?


Reading comprehension is a child’s ability to understand and interpret what they are reading. To be able to do this, children must be able to decode the text they are reading as well as make links between what they have read and real-life or what they already know. They need to be able to understand the words and sentences they have read so will need to have good language comprehension too. My I Can Read activities are perfect for developing reading comprehension skills for beginner readers as the texts that are featured are mainly decodable.




Why is reading comprehension important?


Reading comprehension is important as it allows children to read for a purpose, this might be for enjoyment when reading a story or research and find out information. Good reading comprehension allows a child to fully engage and enjoy a text. Having good reading comprehension skills is important as it can affect student’s performance academically as well as their confidence in everyday life.


What causes reading comprehension difficulties?


If a child has reading comprehension difficulties, this can be caused by a few things. One of these, is that if they require support with their word reading fluency and it is inaccurate, this can result in them having difficulties understanding what they read.

If a child has less developed language skills this can also cause reading comprehension difficulties as their vocabulary may be limited. This can sometimes be seen in students where English is not their first language.

If your students are disinterested in what they are reading, boredom can also result in reading comprehension difficulties. Think about how many times when reading a boring book, you nod off to sleep and must re-read the last few pages to make sense of what is going on!



What are the signs of reading comprehension difficulties?


Being able to spot when a student is having difficulty with reading comprehension is important as quite often children will have learned coping strategies that will mask when this is happening. So, what are the signs of reading comprehension difficulties to keep an eye out for?

Children can get confused about the meaning of words and sentences in a text. Children may also leave out certain details and appear to just skim over these when reading. Some students may have difficulty making connections between important details or events within a text and may also find it challenging to tell the difference between major events & details and less important information. Most of these signs can be easily spotted by simply asking your children questions as they are reading. You may want to ask about certain events or details to help you see if they are understanding what they are reading.

My reading comprehension resources are excellent for beginner readers as the texts featured mainly include decodable words meaning your students can use their phonics knowledge to read the texts as independently as possible.

There are 2 levels of difficulty included in this reading comprehension resource bundle. One set of activities features short decodable passages (check out these below) and the other set features decodable sentences for your students who are just beginning to blend sentences together.



How do you teach reading comprehension?


Next, we are going to explore different strategies to keep in mind when teaching reading comprehension.


Repetition

Reading the same books repeatedly allows children to become extremely familiar with a story. It helps improve fluency, word recognition and vocabulary which in turn helps to improve reading comprehension. If the books you are reading are on a topic your kids enjoy this will also improve their engagement and enjoyment in reading.



Ensuring a secure foundation

As mentioned in my introduction, ensuring children feel secure with their phonemic awareness, phonics knowledge and sight word knowledge will help to improve reading comprehension. This can be done through lots of exposure to sounds and sight words through engaging games and activities. If you would like some ideas for Activities for Phonemic Awareness and Activities for CVC Words then check out my blog posts on these topics!


Asking questions

While reading stories aloud to your students, make sure to ask comprehension questions. I found using Bloom’s taxonomy helps me to come up with questions that encourage higher order thinking. There are different categories of questions which means you are sure to find questions suitable for all the children in your class no matter where they are with their reading comprehension. The different question categories are remember, understand, apply, analyse, evaluate and create. Make sure to ask a variety of questions, for example, What happened after…? Why do you think they did that? Can you describe how they felt? Etc. You can also look at the front cover and blurb of the book with your children and ask them to predict what will happen. Ask them to explain how they came to their prediction.

My reading comprehension activity pack develops these skills as children are asked to read a short decodable passage or sentence then answer multiple choice comprehension questions.



Increase Vocabulary

As I mentioned above, less developed language skills can lead to reading comprehension difficulties. However, by increasing vocabulary this will help to improve your students’ reading comprehension. Exploring synonyms for words is a fun way to expand your students’ vocabulary. Most kids just love thinking of lots of different ways to say the same thing! You can ask children to think of different words for words such as big, said, walked etc. This now means that when your students come across some of these new words when reading, they are familiar with them!

Another way to improve your children’s vocabulary is to encourage your students to ask about any unfamiliar words when reading a text as a whole class, in small groups or individually.


Visualisation

You can encourage your children to visualise or imagine in their head what is happening in the story. You can then ask your kids to act it out or draw to show their understanding.



What are the 5 reading comprehension strategies?


  • Using prior knowledge – Children being able to make links to what they already know to help make sense of a text.

  • Prediction – Being able to use the front cover, blurb, events earlier in the story to predict what may happen next.

  • Inference – Being able to talk about things that are not clearly stated in text and the ability to recognise clues to help draw conclusions.

  • Questioning - Being able to ask and answer a range of questions about the text they are reading. Blooms Taxonomy is a fantastic resource to help you generate various question types. My reading comprehension activities are excellent for developing this skill!

  • Main idea and summarising – Being able to identify the main events in the story and pick out what is important as well as the beginning, middle and end.



What activities improve reading comprehension?


Activities based on the 5 reading comprehension strategies explained above are perfect for improving overall reading comprehension.


Identifying & Summarising the main ideas


Asking your children to identify the main events in the story is a great way to develop reading comprehension. This can be done in various ways such as talking, writing or drawing the main events. You can also explore sequencing events in a story and ask your students to identify the beginning, middle and end. If your children are unsure of identifying the main events, you can just look at sequencing them. You can do this type of activity with small cards that feature the main events of a story and simply ask your students to put them in the correct order.


Answering & Asking Questions


It may sound simple but asking your students a range of questions about what they are reading is an excellent way to develop reading comprehension. Make sure to vary how your children answer the questions. This can be done verbally, written or even by drawing a picture. Check out Bloom’s Taxonomy to help with coming up with lots of different question types. My reading comprehension activities are a fantastic resource to develop this skill as students read decodable texts then answer comprehension questions.

You can then give your students more of a challenge by asking them to come up with their own questions about the text they have read.



Prediction


Asking your students to make predictions about a text is another fantastic way to improve reading comprehension. Before even opening a new class novel, ask your class to look at the front cover and explain what they can see. You can also discuss the title of the book. Your class can then make a prediction about the new book. Remember this can be done in several ways, verbally, written or by drawing. You decide what suits the needs of your students best. After you have begun to read your new text, you can then revisit your children’s predictions and discuss who was correct.

Making predictions doesn’t just have to happen at the beginning of any new class novel. This can also be done periodically throughout the story as it encourages your class to think about previous events which will then help them inform their prediction about what will happen next.


Improving Vocabulary


Increasing your student’s vocabulary is another fun way to improve reading comprehension and kids love learning new words for things! A great way to do this would be to choose a “boring” word such as “big”, “walk” or “said” and ask your class to come up with as many new and exciting synonyms as they can. Now, if your students come across any of these new words when reading they will hopefully remember the meaning from this activity.




Inference


Learning to infer, or draw conclusions is another skill that if mastered will vastly improve your children’s reading comprehension skills. Using wordless picture books is a great way to introduce your students to this skill as they are required to figure out what is happening in the story without reading any words. You can also use short story videos with no words to develop your children’s inference skills too.

When moving on to developing this skill using a written text, you can encourage your children to look out for “clues” in the text that help them draw a certain conclusion.


What are 10 tips for improving reading comprehension in Kindergarten?

  • Give students books they are interested in.

  • Encourage children to read aloud.

  • Discuss books with your students, ask lots of questions.

  • Encourage children to re-read parts of stories especially if they have found it confusing.

  • Ensure books are at an appropriate level for their reading ability.

  • Encourage questions from your students about new words & vocabulary.

  • Encourage looking at the pictures for clues.

  • Suggest using their finger to track the words as they read.

  • Encourage lots of opportunities for visualising stories.

  • Use technology to access different types of text when appropriate.



Conclusion


Overall, teaching reading is such a rewarding time in any teacher’s career. It is such a fantastic feeling when you hear your students read aloud to themselves for the first time!

Keep in mind, there are various reasons why students may be finding reading comprehension difficult but by regularly revisiting the reading comprehension activities and strategies I discussed above, your student’s reading comprehension will improve over time.

Remember to check out my other blog posts on Activities for Phonemic Awareness and Phonemic Awareness and Phonics as it is important to ensure your students have a good foundation in phonics to help them improve their reading comprehension.


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