If you want to be amazed, read a young child a book, and then ask them questions about it!
It still surprises me how much a young child can recall from only hearing a story once.
Home is an ideal place for facilitating reading comprehension activities, because they are best done in a one-on-one setting. In a classroom of 25 children, how much time does a child get to share verbally a summary of what they just read or listened to? Even in large families, there is still time to sit and ask a child about their stories. And we have at our disposal many “non-traditional”, effective ways of gauging how much a child has understood. I also think it is a great benefit to homeschooling families to keep track of books that have been read.
A variety of reading activities take place in our home. I try to read aloud great books that are a couple levels above that of my oldest child, as well as many picture books at the level or interest of every child. Over time you learn to slow down and ask questions about the book: look at the cover together and wonder what the story will be about; pause before turning pages and ask for predictions about what will happen next; pause to look at the illustrations and wonder if we could make pictures like that, too. Every time we slow down enough to ask our children about the stories we read, there is opportunity to assess the level of their comprehension.
A lot of families have experimented with – and grown to love – the practice of creating narrations. In it’s simplest form, after reading a book to a child, you ask them to narrate back to you everything they can remember about the story. If time permits, you can type up (word-for-word) the narration as the child tells it to you, print out the page, and put it in a binder. As the child ages, the narrations become longer and the child eventually takes over the responsibility of doing the entire thing. Pages can be illustrated or decorated as much or as little as the child likes. Elizabeth Foss has inspired many parents to give narrations a try, and writes about them here and elsewhere on her blog and in her book. (Link below.)
There are places you can purchase reading comprehension quizzes – if you can find the one you need. That’s too much work for me, but I do occasionally write my own little quizzes for the children so they have some experience answering questions of this type. I provide an example here. (An older child could make a list of questions like this to save for younger siblings!) If your child enjoys worksheets, these free stories and reading comprehension questions from SuperTeacher Worksheets look okay.
I also keep track of the chapter-books read by each child each year, usually a simple list on the computer for 1st-2nd grades, then beginning in 3rd grade, the child fills out a simple book-report form for each book they complete, something like this: [button link=”https://helpingchildrenlearn.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/pdf_report.pdf” style=”download” color=”silver”]Simple Book Report Form[/button]
There are also some free book report forms from abcTeach here.
Having something concrete, on paper, stored safely in a binder is a great secret to developing reading comprehension skills. The child treasures this work, reviews it, remembers it, shares it, and learns from it types of questions to ask themselves in the future. What has worked for you?