Thursday, October 17, 2013

Reading Comprehension - How do you know students understand?

If it is true that reading is one of the best ways to acquire a new language, then we should be reading with our students and encouraging them to read as much as possible.  The challenge is to know whether the students understand what they are reading.

House layout, characters, and objects in chapter.
One way to check students' comprehension while reading without stopping to ask comprehension questions or to fill in a graphic organizer (although I use both of these methods often), is for the students to be active participants throughout the reading. 

One way for students to demonstrate that the understand is to have the students move the characters on a "scene" that is scaled down in size.  In the book I'm piloting with my students, there is a chapter with a lot of action taking place outside or inside a house in which one of two groups of people do the following:  
 - run/walk from one room to another in the house
- arrive in front of the house, get out of a car, run to the front door, etc
- go up/down the steps in the house & across the roof
- through the neighbors house, 
- etc.  

To demonstrate that the students understood where each of the two groups of people were throughout the chapter, they each had small papers representing 4 different people, a car, a bookbag, and a suitcase.  As the people and items were mentioned in the chapter, students moved their pieces on a model of the house that I sketched for them (it was a quick sketch and a stretch for my artistic abilities).  It was an easy way to check their comprehension of the events in the chapter, it gave them a specific purpose for listening, plus it gave them additional listening practice of the chapter. 

Review the following day
The following day I used the same papers for review. I taped people and the other objects on different places on the sketched scene, numbered the diagrams 1-10, and typed a list of 14 actions from that chapter. I showed each numbered picture (example to the right) and the students read the sentences in order to match the depicted action with the sentence.  

If you're reading a book that has a chapter in which there is a lot of movement that can be demonstrated easily with miniature characters and objects, this is an option with which you may want to experiment.  It worked well for my students and they enjoyed the novelty of the activity. 

Variations of other activities for your students to be active participants such as Freeze Frame (check back soon for a new example of Freeze Frame and a collage with the photos for additional activities) and using TPR with Reading, as described in this post; scroll to ch4, or read how Martina Bex does this as described on her blog post "Sound Effects Read-aloud".


  1. Oh this is the first time I've even heard of anything like this, love it!!!