I hear it a lot from parents “Jane
is reading chapter books.” Yet I know the reality is something different. Jane reads
well. She has great fluency. She reads with expression, pauses at each comma, and raises
her voice when she sees a question mark at the end of a sentence. However, Jane
has trouble recalling with detail the sequence of the story.
I remember when I was growing up we
read our Dick and Jane basal reader, answered a few questions and that was about the
extent of it. Today, kids need to be able to talk in detail about the text. They need
to make predictions, inferences, and draw conclusions. We are expecting our
students to “dig deeper” and pull meaning from what they read. Students are
expected to create written responses based on the content of what they read. Students are expected to
comprehend a story well in order to perform these higher level thinking skills. This can be a
difficult concept, especially for early readers.
I explain to my students that good
readers turn the story into a “movie in their mind” as they read. In order for
students to do this they need a lot of practice and modeling.
visualization. When students can visualize and “make a movie in their mind” the story takes on
life. It helps students make connections, form characters in their mind, infer information, and pay closer
attention to detail.
story a LOT more than a kite is stuck in the tree.
down, or put their heads down on their desks. They get comfortable and close their eyes. I
shut the lights off and re-read the story and instruct them to “make a movie in their mind as I read.”
students sit with them on the rug while I read. They can make predictions, show the problem in
the story, make an inference, etc. Whatever skill you are working, mental imagery is a great
Colors are featured throughout the book
with descriptive language about what each color looks like, feels like, smells like, etc. I read a
page a day (one color) and have the students close their eyes as I read and then “tell me what they
saw.” The responses are always awesome. Some are very literal (OK. Good. Good
comprehension) and some are amazing in that there are things the kiddos truly pictured in their mind
that was not in the book. Their mental imagery was so effective it enabled them to make
connections to previous learned knowledge and schema. Wow! Next, we make our
own color poems.
Red reminds me of fire.
Red smells like apples and a furious fire.
Red tastes like lollipops and cherries in the
rock! When my district began a shift towards balanced literacy, I began having my
students use sticky notes to annotate text. However, I have a confession. I am a major
neat nick. I couldn’t stand books being plastered with sticky notes. So I made
some planning pages for my students to add sticky notes to in order for them to show their
understanding of text that they are reading. It felt like the heavens
opened up. For real! Now my students record the title of the text they are working on, on
their planning page and pass it in and their connections, predictions, inferences, etc. are all in one
We use sticky notes in my
classroom during guided reading groups, as mini-lessons, and during silent reading time. I try to
conference with students as they are working but if my guided reading group runs over a bit too long
and I don’t have time that day, the kiddos just leave their planning pages with their sticky notes intact in
a basket near my desk and we either conference about it later in the day or I look it over and file it as
evidence. You can find Make it Stick! Using Sticky Notes to Make Meaningful Connections to text
in my store here.
How do you review reading
comprehension in your class? I love hearing your thoughts and comments…
My name is Julie Pettersen and I am a first grade teacher in Massachusetts. I am
also a mom to 3 boys and a fur baby mama to my beagle, Bentley. I am fortunate to have married
my best friend. I have been teaching for 18 years and I love it!