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Comprehension Activities

It’s important to incorporate a variety of comprehension activities into your literacy lessons. Students should be practicing responding to reading in all settings. You should focus on comprehension during read alouds, small groups, and independent time. The true goal of reading is understanding what was read. The focus of reading activities should be both decoding and comprehension. Read on for some comprehension activities that you can add into your rotation. 

Responding to the Text

When it comes to responding to the text, you want students to show their understanding in different manners.

You can have students respond to the text:

  • verbally
  • in writing to written response questions
  • on sticky notes
  • in journals (join my free resource library to grab the ones pictured below)
  • on chart paper with markers
  • with graphic organizers
  • to multiple choice questions
By using any of these ideas, you can regularly switch up the comprehension activities used with your students. By changing things up, students are more interested in responding to their texts. 

You’ll also want to make sure you’re having students complete comprehension activities in response to both your reading, and their own. This will give you an idea of their ability to comprehend their own reading vs their ability to comprehend language that they hear. 

A variety of genres should also be used when focusing on comprehension. Nonfiction, fiction, poetry, passages, magazines, online articles, etc. should all be included.  


Vocabulary Activities

Part of comprehension is also understanding vocabulary in texts, so you’ll want to make sure you have vocabulary activities as part of your lessons, as well. All these activities listed above can also be used to focus on vocabulary, as well. You can include a focus on specific vocabulary words within the actual questions asked, or have the response require the use of vocabulary from the story. You can also specifically ask students to define content specific words from the text. 

How to Assess comprehension

You can address how to assess comprehension activities depending on the purpose and format of the activity. If you’re using the comprehension questions as a way to decide if students successfully understand different types of texts, you’ll want to see how many questions were answered correctly. For these, you’ll most likely use written response answers, or multiple choice questions.

Sometimes you’ll simply use comprehension activities as a follow up to reading. There is no pressure being put on the student to get all the questions right, but rather just getting them to respond to a text. In these cases, students may be working with a partner, or in a small group, and simply discussing the text and their responses. These less intense comprehension activities may include sticky notes, chart paper responses, journal writing, or graphic organizers.

Ready to move on?

If you’re using the comprehension activity to assess if a student is ready to move on to a new reading level, you should be using a combination of data to inform your decision. You can use data from an informative assessment, like a running record, or fluency assessment, in addition to a comprehension score.  

Once you score the running record, or fluency assessment, and note that a student is reading at an independent level, with regard to accuracy, you can then assess their comprehension question responses as well. The accuracy score for the running record should be based on percentages for that reading level. Kindergarten through second grade level texts typically require an accuracy level of 95% and above to be considered an independent reading level. Third through fifth grade level texts usually require an accuracy score of 98% and above for an independent reading level. 

In order for students to truly be considered independent at a specific reading level, they also need to have an excellent or satisfactory score on the comprehension piece. So, for example, if you have four comprehension questions, students need to get zero errors in their responses for excellent, and 3 out of 4 correct for satisfactory. If students meet both the accuracy requirement and the comprehension requirement, I consider them ready for the next reading level. 

All my Guided Reading Passages and Fluency Passages come with an informal assessment like a running record, as well as written comprehension questions. This allows you to truly assess the reader as a whole- with a focus on decoding and comprehension!

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Aylin Claahsen

Providing resources and support to engage all readers.

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Hi, I'm Aylin!

I’m so happy you’re here! I’m a certified reading specialist who loves talking all things literacy. I have a huge passion for providing resources and support to engage all readers!


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