Have you ever read a page in a book only to have no clue what the words all meant when you were finished?
When I was growing up, I can remember that happening to me all the time with my history book. The teacher would say to read a chapter for homework. I would sit down and read the chapter. I knew all the words as I read them.
At the end of reading I was not able to recall the names, dates, or events that I had JUST read. I’d reread the page multiple times trying to remember the facts. I remember feeling so stupid! I would get so frustrated that my brain could read and not remember. How are all the other kids remembering these facts with ease, and I can barely pass a test after days of studying?
It was such an eye-opening day in college when I had to read a textbook about teaching children how to learn and retain information from textbooks. Why hadn’t someone told me these comprehension strategies when I was in school? I’m sure they were implied or assumed by teachers, but they never clicked for me until that day.
So today I want to share some of the Comprehension Study Strategies that I have learned to use to remember facts in text. These are great for all content areas, even picture books.
Engage your student by discussing the content before, during, and after they read.
Examine the cover of the book. Ask questions such as:
- “What do you think this book will be about?”
- “Who do you think this character is?” (Pointing to a person on the cover)
- “Do you think this will be fiction or nonfiction?”
Remember to add the phrase, “What makes you think that?” to the end of any response that you would like more information.
There isn’t a correct answer for these types of questions. Praise your child for all answers that are based on what they think.
Flip through the book to look at the layout, especially if it is a chapter book or textbook. Discuss parts of the book and ask more questions. These questions will help give them purpose and focus before they start to read.
Go to the Table of Contents. “What segments are you about to read?”
Look at the pictures or titles. “What might be happening in this part?”
Go over new vocabulary. “Let’s look over the bold words to make sure we know what they mean first.”
Stop to ask questions and review concepts as your child reads.
Don’t let your child go too long before taking a break to review the content. This length depends on your child. If they can’t remember details at the end of the page, then take a few breaks per page. Increase the length between comprehension checks as your child gets more independent. If you realize that they didn’t remember a key detail, then go back over it with them.
Ask questions about characters, settings, plots, or anything that will keep the key details in focus.
- “Who is Jake’s father?”
- “Why did he need to go to the park?”
- “What problem are they trying to solve?”
- “How do you think that made him feel?”
Ask the student to make predictions about what might happen next.
- “How do you think he will get there?”
- “What do you think the outcome will be?”
Make reading even more fun by trying one of these silly character voices!
Summarize and review the details.
Focus on the main points. See if your child can remember the details that support the main points.
Ask the student to retell you the story or summarize the plot.
Connect the text to your child’s prior experiences or knowledge.
- “Has this ever happened to you?”
- “What would you do if you were Jake in this story?”
- “What lesson have you learned from this book?”
The list of ideas and questions to ask before, during, and after reading is indefinite. Don’t overdo your comprehension checks. Pick a couple different questions each time to see if your child understands what they are reading. Make your questions feel like you are truly interested in their opinion/answer and not like you are quizzing them.
Students are never too young or too old to start learning comprehension strategies!
As parents, we can start modeling these different strategies as we work with our children. As they grow older they will be able to go through this process independently and self-check their comprehension.
For more study strategies and homework tips head over to some of my previous posts: