It’s probably not a stretch to guess that your young child has a few select books they like for you to read over and over (and over) to them. These are the books you’ve read so many times that your child can recite them back to you and can queue you when the page needs to be turned. We tend to cycle through books like this at our house. A book will make it into the rotation for a week or two, then get replaced by another. Some make it back into the rotation quickly, and some seem to be forgotten.
We try to ask questions when we read these books to help them focus on comprehension, but it seems like there are only so many questions you can come up with when you are reading the same book every night. We’ve come up with a whole new way to get Pea thinking about details while we read, and she loves this game.
We call it Name That Book. We sort of stumbled upon this game by playing a similar game with animals instead of books. We start off with three somewhat vague clues about the details and events in one of her books and let her try to guess which book we are thinking of. She can ask for more clues if she needs them, but she really likes trying to figure it out based on the initial hints. The clues get more and more specific as we go so she has an easier time guessing.
We’re also going to try a new variation on this game where she gives us the clues and we try to guess the book. Hopefully this will encourage her to listen carefully and try to come up with clues that are obscure, sort of like the Stump the Teacher game for pre-k kids.
One really easy way to gently coax your child towards reading for comprehension is to ask them a simple question when you finish reading a book to them–“What was your favorite part?”
This works especially well with picture books because it gives them a chance to review the book by turning the pages and finding the one they like best. Once they find their favorite page, ask them what is happening on this page and why it’s their favorite. You can even download and print out coloring story books and let your kids enjoy the activity of coloring their favorite page.
We ask “what was your favorite part” about lots of things–books, movies, outings, and at bedtime (“what was your favorite thing we did today?”). The mental exercise of reviewing and sequencing the events is great, and it’s also a great way to start conversations and encourage them to tell you more about themselves.
Can You Stump This Teacher?
I made this game up when I was a teacher in the hopes of creating an interest for independent reading in my kids and also for improving their comprehension skills during independent reading. I introduced it as a contest because, if I’m honest, I knew that was the only way I was going to get their attention and initial interest. And no, I did’t feel the least bit guilty for tricking kids to read – especially when I knew that it could result in a new found love of reading!
A local organization donated a whole class set of a certain book that I thought the whole class could read on their own or at home with their parents. This was the first of many books I used to play Stump the Teacher. Here’s how I introduced the game:
- I bragged to them that I was SO smart I could read a book, understand it, and be able to answer ANY question they could throw at me. Of course they didn’t believe me, so I had to challenge them by creating a contest to see if anyone could come up with a question that I couldn’t answer…therefore stumping the teacher.
- I explained to the kids that I would assign a certain number of chapters each week and that every Friday they would get the chance to ask me any questions they wanted to see if they could try to stump me. It’s amazing how interested kids get when they think they might have the opportunity to prove you wrong. What an incentive!
- I created a “Stump the Teacher” question box out of an old tissue box wrapped with construction paper where I had written plenty of goading comments like ” I bet you can’t stump me!” and “You better think of a really difficult question!”. I left cut up strips of paper next to the box so students could write their questions and drop them in throughout the week as they thought of them.
- I encouraged my students to work together and/or get their parents to help them come up with really challenging questions. I was hoping that parents would get involved and actually read the book with their kids and discuss it so that they could come up with questions together. The idea worked with some but not all. Oh well, I tried!
- Then every Friday they would gather around me on the floor as I picked questions out of the box to read and answer aloud. They’d laugh and squeal as I rolled my eyes, yawned, or feigned disinterest as I effortlessly answered their easy detail oriented questions (who, what, where, when type questions).
This is where the game became interesting. After making comments about how easy their questions were, some kids figured out that they would really have to dig and think about better questions to ask me. One week, I had a student ask me a really insightful question about one of the characters. I made a huge deal about what a great question that was and how he almost stumped me. Sure enough, other kids started asking similar questions and it soon became a competition to see who could ask the best question. It didn’t take long for these kids to dive in and use their critical thinking skills to really analyze what was going on in the story and with the characters in order to come up with questions to try to stump me. I was really impressed by their creativity! I, of course, gave in a couple of times to the really good questions and let some kids stump me as an incentive to continue their awesome brainstorming. Warning: Be prepared for the relentless gloating!
I realize that this game is best used in a classroom setting where you can use that competition to your advantage, yet it can still be a powerful way to get your kids to improve their comprehension of a selection at home. You’d just have to tweak it a bit and make it more of a game between you and your child and/or siblings. It would be a great game to use in a reading/literature class in a homeschooling co-op! Although competition is good in this game, the real reason it works is because of the continual discussion of the book. So let the discussions and your child’s questions be your guide throughout the book…it can be so much fun!
Do any of you have any tips or games you play with your kids to get them to understand books or stories better? We’d love to hear from you and have you share so we can all learn!
This engaging activity can be adapted for different ages easily and it can be a great way to get your kids to do some character analyzation (which really helps comprehension).
- Choose a character from a book or story you are currently reading or have read with your child. Tell your child that you will be playing a guessing game in which you will give them clues about a character and they will have to guess who it is.
- Once the correct character has been named, you can switch turns and have your child make you guess the next one. Having your child pick a character and thinking of clues for himself is where they will really get practice in analyzing character traits and elements of the story.
- For older kids, this type of game is great for making your child go beyond the superficial details and allowing them to think critically about the characters – especially when you challenge them to make it hard for you!
This simple activity will do wonders for your child’s oral vocabulary (which is important to build so that their reading vocabularies can grow) while working on their comprehension at the same time! You can do this with kids of all ages that can listen to and discuss a book or story.
- Prior to reading a book to your child, try to notice words that represent an easy concept for your child that you can replace with a harder, more mature word (this is really easy to do with adjectives). Choose about 3-5 words that you will focus on along with their “big word” synonym.
- Read the book as it is with/to your child. Either during or after the reading (while you’re discussing parts of the book with your child), talk about and show them how you can say certain things in a different way. For example: If a character in a book was really hungry, you can say they were famished during your discussion of the story. Talk about how the new word tells the same story, but makes it a bit more interesting!
- Here are some other examples of common words and their “big word” synonyms:
These synonyms are examples of Tier Two Words – read more about the importance of these words.
- You’ll find that the more you do this while you read (or just in conversations with your child) the more they’ll start to use these new words on their own!
This activity will really help your child learn to analyze, pay attention to details, and comprehend select stories and books while allowing them to develop and express their creativity. This can be done as a post reading activity to reinforce comprehension.
- Choose a book that your child can read independently and that he/she has read before.
- Tell your child that they are going to have to think of an alternate ending for the story. This means that they have to go through and analyze what has happened so far in order to decide what will happen to the characters and events in the story.
- You can help them out and come up with ideas together to make sure the ending will still make sense with the rest of the story. Using a graphic organizer to map out the story is a great strategy to help them organize their thoughts!
- Your child can either dictate their ideas to you or write them on their own. Reread the story together using the new ending and enjoy!
- You can make this as easy or as challenging as you like depending upon your child’s abilities – just pick a simple book or a more complex one to accomplish this.
You’ll need a pocket chart and some word cards (you can make them with sentence strips) for this activity.
- Make or use some words cards to make up a few sentences from a book, rhyme, or song that your child is familiar with. Make sure to include capitals and punctuations.
- Read the sentences aloud to your child (or together if they can read with you). Then mix up the words in each sentence and read them aloud again.
- Your child will most likely start giggling and tell you there’s something wrong. Act surprise and like you don’t know what’s wrong. When they convince you that there’s a problem, ask your child to help you make the sentences right again. They can use the capital letter and the punctuation mark as hints.
- You can skip the materials if you don’t have them and use a white board instead. Although kids really enjoy holding and manipulating the word cards – especially if they can’t write yet. The purpose here is to show your child that each word has meaning and that they work together to make sentences. If you move one or all of them around, it will affect how the sentence makes sense.
You’ll need a paragraph from a book, magazine, or article (this works best if you type up the individual sentences of a paragraph and cut them to make sentence strips).
- Read the chosen paragraph together aloud or have your child read it to you from the original publication.
- Next give your child the mixed up sentences and have them try to put them back into the correct order.
- Have them read it aloud to check if it is correct and makes sense.
- You can make this activity more challenging to meet your child’s need or for older kids. You can do this by not letting your child read the original paragraph before asking them to put the sentences in correct order. Even harder: You can also take an article, cut up the paragraphs, and have your child try to put the paragraphs in order to make the article make sense. Treat this like a puzzle and they’ll love the challenge!