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20 Classroom Games to Improve Comprehension

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Publish date: 2019-06-24

#1 – Charades

For learners who like to get up and move, this activity is an ideal way to demonstrate how well they understand a text. Ask learner volunteers to act out a vocabulary word for other learners to guess. Both acting and the answers will reveal how well learners understand the vocabulary.


#2 – Line it up

Retelling the sequence of events in a story is an essential way to measure story comprehension, and a little creativity can transform a boring recall activity into an interactive game. Write key scenes and plot points from the story onto cards and tape a card onto the learner's back. Learners will have to work together and ask each other questions to find out which scene they have. Once they've determined what point in the plot they represent, learners can line themselves up in an order that represents the sequence of events in the story.


#3 – Picture perfect

Learners who are artistically inclined will enjoy drawing to demonstrate how well they understand a concept. Ask learners to draw a picture that illustrates a concept from the lesson. Then divide the learners into small groups and ask them to take turns showing their pictures to each other. The other learners in the group can guess what vocabulary word or scene from a story is represented in the drawing. Teachers can quickly see how well learners understood the lesson by walking around the classroom and listening to the groups' conversations.


#4 – Reverse game show

Reverse roles between teachers and learners. At the end of the lesson, ask learners to write a game show style question that can be answered only by a vocabulary word or concept learned in the day's lesson. A quick look through the questions and answers will show how well the learners are able to define the terms. 


#5 – Missing persons

After reading a story aloud, ask a learner volunteer to leave the room and return impersonating one of the characters from the story. The rest of the class can guess which character the learner is pretending to be. From the volunteer's acting and the responses of the rest of the class, it will be easy to see how well the learners grasped the actions and attributes of the story's characters. Future actors will love being able to demonstrate their knowledge in an engaging, theatrical manner.


#6 – Question cube

Make a question cube where each side depicts a question word (who, what, why, when, where, and how). The learners need to ask a question about the text to another learner.


#7 – Sentence sorter

Learners have a graphic organizer divided into 4 groups (who/ what/ where/ when). They sort the task cards which consist of words or phrases related to an appropriate theme into the correct category. One card from each category is selected to formulate a super sentence.


#8 – Yellow brick road

The teacher creates a brick pathway either on the board or along the floor. Learners have counters or name cards and roll a dice to move the corresponding spaces on the 'road'. Each brick in the road has a specific task. Examples of tasks include: clapping out syllables for new vocabulary; identifying the next letter in the alphabet; reading a specific word; saying the beginning or ending sound of a word; general questions regarding a written text that has been read previously. If they are able to complete the task they are able to move forward for their next turn. The goal is to complete the game first.


#9 - Bingo

Each learner has a board with 12 spaces. Using white boards works well as they can swiped easily afterwards. Each space depicts possible answers from the text (either in the form of words of phrases). The teacher calls out a question about the text, learners try to find the answer on their board. The corresponding block is then covered with a small piece of paper. The learner with all 12 spaces covered first, wins the game.


#10 – Mindful

Learners read a text and illustrate what they have visualized while reading. They need to include the setting, characters, events and interpretation of what these circumstances look like from their perspective. The events need to be sequenced in the order they occur in the text. This type of activity helps learners to realise why sequence is important and helps with overall comprehension of the text. Encourage learners to illustrate what they think might happen next in the text. The class can then discuss why they think certain events will occur.


#11 – Story ball

Make use of a beach ball and some masking tape. Questions about a specific text are written on pieces of masking tape. They are pasted onto different areas of the beach ball. Each time you catch the ball you have to answer the question under your right hand.


#12 – Jenga 

Using the same format of the popular Jenga game, write questions about a specific text, on wooden blocks. When you pull out the blog, you answer the question about the text.


#13 – Question roll

Each side of a dice corresponds to a specific question about a written text. Learners roll the dice and need to remember the information they read to answer the question.

To grade it up, 2 dice should be used for multiple question options.


#14 – Bookmarks

Learners make a large bookmark using cardboard and crayons. The title and author of the book are written at the top of the bookmark. As the learner reads the story, they write down a quote or scene which they like. Once they have finished the story, discuss the highs and lows of the story. The bookmarks can be decorated accordingly and laminated for future reading.


#15 – Story strings

This activity can help learners to develop their understanding of story structure and sequencing. Make use of strong squares of cardboard. The learner depicts the sequence of the story on each square of cardboard (written or illustrated). Read through the story sequence with the learner. If it is correct, the story is strung up on the string for further class discussion.


#16 – Character notes

To emphasize the importance of understanding characters in a story, the learners are given a character to draw on a large sheet of paper. Their drawings must be as detailed as possible. The various physical descriptions and character traits of are then discussed and written down on sticky notes. These notes are then mixed together and the learners then determine which notes need to be placed on the correct characters.


#17 – Story map

Learners read an appropriate story and create a corresponding map. Emphasis needs to be placed on detail like the location of the various events that occurred in the story, who was involved, the timing etc.  


#18 – Book report

Once a book has been completed, the learners can use this activity to summarise the book. Make use of a cardboard folder to recreate the book in their own personalised way. Decorate the front cover with the title and author and colourful illustration about the book. 

Decorate the back cover with a short summary of the book. Using lined paper inside the folder, the learner writes a detailed description of the characters, setting and sequence of events. Conclude the summary with their own personal rating of the book. The book reports can be swopped and read by other learners in the class. This activity can be extended further by using the book report as an oral presentation as well. Learners can write their own sequels to their books, as a way of integrating with creative writing. Additional characters can be added. Original settings can be altered. The possibilities are endless. 


#19 – Lights camera action

Make use of role-play to help learners understand a story. Expose the learners to the world of acting. Learners can work in groups to create a script about the story they have read. This activity can be integrated with other learning areas. Costumes and sets can be created. Learners can showcase their acting skills within the classroom setting.


#20 – Sentence stretching

Start off by giving your class a very short and simple sentence related to a story you have read. In a circle, learners then add a detail, adjective, or clause that makes the sentence longer while keeping it true to the original story. See how long you can make the sentence before getting stuck.  

15 Teaching Strategies to Improve Comprehension

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Publish date: 2019-06-12

Effective comprehension strategies help learners to become purposeful, active readers, across all learning areas. Try these strategies to help develop comprehension for your learners.  


1. Make connections

Readers need to link the information in the text to what they already know. This helps to determine the main theme of what they are reading. Learners need to question how the theme connects to other texts they have already read, how the text connects to the world and what the author’s message could be.


Make sure you are choosing content which the learners can connect to, which relates to what is being discussed and taught in class, and which is relevant to learners.


2. Ask questions

Good readers are always thinking and wondering. They have enquiring minds. Help your learners to ask the questions: where, what, who, when, why and how?


Start with what is termed “Thin Questions” where the answer can be found directly in the text and move on to “Thick Questions” where the answer is not directly in the text but supported by the text. This will help them to contextualise and understand implied meanings.


3. Visualize

While reading, learners make the printed word real and concrete by creating a “movie” of the text in their minds. Learners use their five senses to create a mind picture of what is going on in the text. By doing this, learners are more likely to notice and remember details.


Ask them why the visual is important to the story and how it better helps them to understand the story. A discussion around this will help motivate them to actively visualize what they are reading.


4. Determine text importance

Readers need to distinguish between what is essential and what is interesting, what is fact and what is opinion, what is the cause and what is the effect.


Questions for learners to think about while determining what is important in the text include asking them what the problem in the text was, if there was a solution, did any of the characters change and was this important, and what were the key events in the text?


5. Make inferences

Readers merge text clues with their previous knowledge. Encourage learners to think about why a character did/said something and why an author may have written certain aspects of the text. This will help the learner to naturally make inferences independently.


Questions for learners to think while making an inference include things like: what new information were you able to figure out, why do you think the character did/said something, and why do you think the author wrote this specifically?


6. Synthesize

Learners tie the new information with existing knowledge to form original ideas or new ways of thinking. Learners should be thinking of how they would summarize the story. This can help with effective synthesizing.


7. Notice the author’s craft

Learners evaluate the writing style of the text. They need to be encouraged to think critically. Questions for the learners to think about should include: what part of the text did you like the most/least and why, did the author use figurative language, humour or suspense and was it effective?


8. Metacognition

This is the concept of thinking about thinking. Good readers use this skill to think about what they are reading. This allows them to have more control over the reading process. Before reading, learners should be encouraged to clarify the purpose for reading the text. During reading, they need to monitor their understanding; adjusting their reading speed to correspond with the difficulty of the text. After reading, they need to check their understanding of what they have read.


9. Graphic & semantic organizers

Graphic organizers illustrate concepts and relationships between concepts in a text, eg. storyboards, maps, spider diagrams, graphs, charts, frames, clusters. These types of organizers can be effective tools to help learners to focus on concepts and how they are related to each other. This type of strategy can also help learners develop their summarizing ability.


10. Answering questions

Questions can be effective because they give learners an actual purpose for reading. They can help focus the readers’ attention on what they are learning and promote active thinking while reading.


The QAR (question-answer relationship) strategy encourages learners to answer questions more independently. Learners are asked to indicate whether the information they used to answer questions about the text is information directly from the text, information implied in the text, or information from the learner’s own background knowledge.


These are describes as gour different questions types:

  1. Right there questions -  fund directly in the text
  2. Think & search questions - based on the recall of facts that can be found directly in the text but in more than one place
  3. Author & you questions - these require learners to use what they already know, with what they have learned from reading the text
  4. On your own questions - are answered based on a learner’s prior knowledge and experiences.


Learners become aware of whether they can answer questions and if they understand what they are reading when they are expected to ask their own questions about the text. This can be an effective way for the teacher to evaluate their progress.


11. Recognizing story structure

Learners begin to identify the categories of content in a story, i.e. characters, setting, events, problem, resolution. The use of story maps can be a great way of developing this ability.


12. Summarizing

This strategy requires learners to figure out what is important in the text and organize it into their own words. Summarizing helps learners to find and connect the main ideas, discard unnecessary information and retain what they have read.


13. Explicit instruction

Teachers tell learners when they should use a specific strategy, and how to apply it. The teacher guides the learners through the reading comprehension strategy. Co-operative learning can also be used successfully in this regard. Learners work together to understand texts, helping each other learn and apply comprehension strategies.


14. Learners’ interests

Try to choose material that sparks the learners’ interests. Personalize your classroom activities and allow learners to choose their own material, whenever possible. Motivated learners will help to create a positive learning environment.


15. Reading zone

Create an area in your classroom dedicated to reading. Showing the importance of reading by having a physical reminder within the learning environment, can prove beneficial. This can be a simple corner with a table and chairs or a rug and comfy cushions. Aim to create a space that is both enjoyable to occupy and comfortable enough for learners to read in for a length of time. 

Comprehending Comprehension

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Publish date: 2019-06-06

Comprehension skills are a fundamental part of reading and these skills need to work like a finely tuned machine for reading to have any meaning. Even if a learner can whizz through a text independently, it isn’t worth much if the meaning of what has been read is left by the wayside.


Can the learner understand it? Can she explain it? Is he able to answer questions about it? These are the layers of reading comprehension.


Reading comprehension is a tricky concept to teach, but it is necessary for gaining content knowledge and expressing ideas or opinions through discussion and writing.


As a teacher, understanding that children have different learning styles, and may be comprehending differing degrees of text is important. Teachers need to ensure that learners are processing and thinking about what they are reading. To this end, it is important that teachers understand exactly what it is that comprehension involves.


Reading comprehension is a complicated task involving a variety of different skills. Primarily, the learner needs to extract information from a text which they then need to assimilate into a coherent story or context.


Some texts are easier to comprehend than others, some are well-written, others are not. Different texts demand different levels of understanding from the reader. A story-type text is often easier to follow because there is usually a predictable structure that organizes the information. Non-fiction can often be very interesting and relevant, but there is a lot of unfamiliar information.


To give your learners the best chance of being able to pick up and engage with any age appropriate text they need to fine tune the following skills:


DECODING is a vital step in the process. The learner needs to be phonologically aware to analyze and synthesize words correctly. Exposing learners to poems, rhymes and appropriate stories can help to develop this skill. Learners who struggle with these types of activities tend to also experience reading problems.


FLUENCY requires good word recognition. The ability to read fluently speeds up the rate at which the learner can read and understand text. When a learner can read at a quick pace and with even tempo, they are considered fluent readers. A fluent reader reads the text smoothly, grouping words together to assist with meaning. He or she can make use of proper tone and expression when reading aloud.


Fluency can be a big stumbling block for learners. The average reader needs to see a word 4 – 14 times before it becomes a sight word they will recognize easily and independently. Learners with reading problems may need to see the word up to 40 times. Continued reading practice of the appropriate level reading books is the best way to improve the skill of fluency.


VOCABULARY is a key element to reading comprehension. The learner needs to understand most of the words in a text in order to understand what they are reading. The meaning of words is usually learnt through everyday experience and by exposure to books.


The more words the learners see and read, the greater their vocabulary becomes. Frequent conversations on a range of topics, including the use of new words and ideas, telling jokes and riddles, promoting paired reading in class and at home, and playing word games are all ways of building this important skill.


When reading aloud, stop at new words and discuss their meaning. Learners can also develop the skill of using the context of the text to help determine the meaning of the unknown word. Having a “word of the day” displayed in the classroom can help. Learners often enjoy learning long words. Make use of syllabification (clap out the different parts of the word) and incorporate the word in general conversation during the school day. Word walls (each word is displayed as a brick on the classroom wall) helps to develop different vocabularies.


SENTENCE CONSTRUCTION might seem like a skill for writing, but it is important for reading comprehension as well. Learners need to understand how ideas link up in order to obtain meaning from the written text. This ability also leads to coherence (the ability to connect ideas to other ideas in an overall piece of writing). Ensuring the learners have more exposure to the written word is the most effective way to develop an understanding of sentence construction.


BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE is relating what is read to what is already known. It is important for learners to have background knowledge about the world when they read.


Learners need to develop the ability to understand subtleties and nuances; extracting meaning when is not written in a direct way. This can be a difficult skill to acquire. Learners can develop this knowledge through reading, conversations, appropriate movies and tv show, as well arts & cultural activities.


Life experiences and hands-on activities build knowledge and help learners connect new knowledge with existing knowledge. Ask open-ended questions that require thinking and explanations.


The use of animated movies and cartoons is a unique way of helping learners to make inferences and ‘read between the lines’. Making inferences is difficult for most learners because authors don’t always write about the character’s feelings. They usually write about what is happening in the story. A learner needs to know how to think like the character and understand the plot in order to guess what the character is thinking and feeling.


Research has shown that if a learner is able to make inferences with pictures, cartoons or movies, then they are likely to be able to make inferences with words. Movies will help the learner practice the skill of making inferences without having to stress about the mechanics of reading. Wordless animated videos require the learner to infer the entire plot.


WORKING MEMORY is the ability to recognize when you, as a reader, do not understand what is being read. The ability to self-monitor while reading is linked to this. Learners need to be able to stop, go back and re-read a text in order to clear up any confusion they may have. They need to do this whilst simultaneously holding the theme or general story of what they are reading in their minds to make sure the information they are taking in is all congruent.


There are many ways to help improve the learner’s working memory. Look for reading material that is interesting and motivating. Encourage the learners to stop and re-read when isn’t is confusing to practice this skill. Demonstrate how you can think aloud when you read to make sure what you are reading makes sense.


MAIN IDEA (SUMMATIVE) COMPREHENSION is a complex skill that plays a significant role in reading comprehension. It is the ability to break down a text while reading, in order to zone in on the important parts of the written word. It is, in essence, a filtering process in which the reader sifts through the information to pull out the pertinent facts of what they are reading.


Being able to do this efficiently will have the greatest impact on a learner’s reading comprehension. It can be a difficult skill to teach. An effective strategy involves evaluating the frequency of different themes in the text and choosing which one is the most dominant.


Learners may need support at the beginning, but you can lessen the degree of help that you give as they begin to grasp the concept. Try to use multiple-choice type questions to guide learners. In the below example you can see how you can begin with one simple sentence:


e.g. “They ate at the restaurant.”

What is the sentence about?

(a) Where they ate (correct answer)

(b) How they got to the restaurant.

(c) What they ate at the restaurant.


It may appear simple, but it is a strategy that can help learners who are not used to thinking in terms of abstract themes. The next step would be to help learners identify the theme of a paragraph, and then an entire passage.


Give learners carefully chosen paragraphs to guide them in the right direction.


e.g. “The two children are going to the shop. The girl chooses a chocolate, puts it in the shopping basket and pays for it at the till.”


Only one sentence is related exclusively to the main theme while the others overlap with secondary themes or are not related to any given theme.

What is the paragraph mostly about?

  1. Buying something at the shop. (correct answer)
  2. Finding something to buy at the shop.
  3. The problem of not having enough money.


Knowing these components of comprehension can help teachers to identify where the difficulties with comprehension may arise for a learner and help to grade and structure support to develop the relevant skills.


Make sure to read my next blog post on strategies that you can use in the classroom to effectively develop these areas of comprehension.


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