Teaching reading comprehension in a primary classroom is simple! I have an easy way of how to teach reading comprehension to kindergarten students and beyond! Psst. It is not about comprehension passages and answer keys! The best way for early readers to work to become proficient readers starts with a great book
The reading skills necessary to create reading comprehension starts with listening comprehension. This takes place between teachers and students. This is true regardless of which grade you teach. Teaching reading comprehension can feel daunting or challenging, whether you have early learners or developed readers. Oftentimes, students can appear to have strong reading comprehension skills in the early grades and struggle as the text becomes more complex.
So as a kindergarten or first grade teacher, our goal should be to start teaching and developing reading comprehension skills, whether your students are developed readers or not. You may be thinking, now Deedee… How am I supposed to teach reading comprehension a young learner who can’t read? And my response to you is it all starts with listening comprehension. So, let’s dive into how to teach reading comprehension to kindergarten students and young children in general.
How to Teach Reading Comprehension
Reading comprehension begins way before students begin reading. Comprehension begins as soon as children learn to understand and use spoken language. Understanding spoken language is referred to as listening comprehension. Just like when we are teaching about something new, we as teachers will try to activate that prior knowledge… right?
When students are comprehending text, whether it is something they’ve read or heard, they activate language that is already in their head. The more spoken language students are exposed to, the stronger their listening comprehension (and reading comprehension) will become. So, the true question here is how do we develop those comprehension skills with early learners who are not yet decoding and reading text?
Listening Comprehension in the Primary Classroom
You can teach reading comprehension to your kindergarten and first grade friends with read aloud texts. Your sweeties don’t have to actually do the decoding and reading in order to develop their comprehension skills.
Giving your students opportunities to develop language and knowledge through read alouds will lead to stronger listening comprehension. Students with strong listening comprehension skills become readers with strong reading comprehension skills. When students have an understanding of more complex language, they have the ability to understand complex text.
Quality Interactive Read Aloud Texts
By using rich text, we can provide students with opportunities to have meaningful conversations and develop their oral language, which will, in return, increase listening and reading comprehension. These are a favorite book smorgasbord that your students can feast on.
Reading rich literature exposes each young reader to new words and text structures that may have never been exposed to.
You will find your free mentor text list at the bottom of this post.
Reading Comprehension Questions
Young readers need to have time to develop. Having a whole-group discussion about a favorite book can lead to meaningful understanding and true oral language development within your students. You will want to ask open-ended questions and give students think time to answer questions too. We want students to turn to their reading partners to discuss the main topic and strengthen their critical thinking skills.
Remember, this is not a game-show. You are not calling on students until you get the correct answer. You will be supporting students through thoughtful questioning.
Explicit instruction makes a big difference. Through guided questions, early emergent readers can do thinking work that goes beyond their reading level. You can dive into the main idea, character analysis, cause and effect, text connections, making inferences… the list goes on!
I want to share with you some of my favorite read aloud texts to use to develop oral language and listening comprehension with students. I will highlight which comprehension strategies that work well with these texts.
Koala Lou warms my heart! Little Koala Lou loves spending time with her mother. We can talk about text connections and students get to share about who they love spending time with.
Visualizing is also a skill that we practice with Koala Lou. We ask students to make a mind movie and write about it.
Here you can see an example of shared writing that is done during our whole-group discussion about the story.
Then, students have an opportunity to complete their own writing response.
Can you see how using quality literature is so much more effective (and fun) that kindergarten reading worksheets?
If you have not shared this fun read-aloud with your students, I highly recommend that you do! We talk about making inferences with this book by looking closely at character expression and body language.
While we are talking about the main characters, we identify character traits as well. Students respond in their own words or by drawing a picture to convey meaning.
The Scaredy Squirrel books are hilarious and work well to teach about characters and setting in a story.
Clark the Shark
Clark is such a fun character to talk about with early learners. As part of our whole group discussion, we complete an anchor chart to show how Clark changes throughout different points in the story.
I love this book! It’s such a fun one to share with your students. Wordy Birdy has a big problem and many of our students can relate to it! Asking and answering simple questions about the problem the main character had and that problem was solved is a great way to support students.
When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree
This is another favorite… I can’t help it! Nearly all of our Engaging Reader texts include a story retell. This simple activity is about the key ideas or moments in the story. Students incorporate new vocabulary as they retell and sequence the story. Walking through the events of a read aloud with your students is the perfect way to build reading comprehension
I don’t want you to stress out about how to teach reading comprehension to your kindergarten, first, or even second grade students. There are lesson plans to strengthen a variety of literacy skills for each of the books discussed above ( and so many other great titles) with correlating response activities for your students.
Each read aloud lesson is scripted for you. We know teachers are busy and have other skills to teach throughout the day. Scripted lessons are one fo the easiest ways to take the complex process of reading comprehension and simplify it for you.
Although these lessons were created with primary students in mind, they are also work to help older, struggling readers to develop their own reading comprehension.
We have TONS of book fiction titles and nonfiction texts that I know you will love. These links will take you to our Reading Comprehension Engaging Readers bundles:
What to know more about structure literacy?
Would you like to know more about the Science of Reading and Structured Literacy? Here are a few blog posts that may help:
- What Does a Science of Reading Lesson Plan Look Like? Free File Too
- How to Teach Kindergarten High Frequency Words So Students Learn
- Tips on How to Teach a Kindergarten Interactive Read Aloud Lesson
Free Reading Comprehension Book List
Would you like a:
- Kindergarten read-aloud book list
- First grade read-aloud book list
- Second grade read-aloud book list
Simply add your email to the box below to get it in your inbox!