Teaching comprehension is hard! Let’s face it. We have 20 – 30 students who all have completely different reading ranges, strengths, and levels of understanding on a wide variety of reading strategies. And we’re expected to come in and just teach them how to understand complex texts? Umm, ok! Throughout my years in 2nd and 3rd grade, I was able to fail and fail often. Often enough to where I finally figured out a formula that truly works when teaching comprehension to my students and I’ve got it all here for you! If you’re struggling with lesson planning for teaching reading strategies in elementary, stick around!
You’re sitting down at your desk with all of the resources you have to teach the skill or strategy for next week. You flip through them to refresh your brain about what you have or hop onto Teachers Pay Teachers to do some searching. Then you open your lesson plan book and just start plugging away. I’ll do this activity on Monday, this one on Tuesday, and I’ll do this in my small group – yep – this looks good!
Are you actually THINKING through how and why you’re doing each lesson or activity? Should each lesson build upon one another? How are you assessing your students throughout the week to tweak the lessons as you go? There’s got to be a better way!
And there is! I’m calling it “Building Comprehension” because from my experience, that’s truly what it does! When using these ‘steps’ to plan out your week of reading comprehension lessons, you will find that you get better results and even better, a deeper understanding of the strategies and independent application to the students’ own reading!
Are you intrigued yet? Let’s keep going!
I mentioned that when you use these ‘steps’, you get results. Let’s start there. When I plan out my
week of reading comprehension lessons, I don’t just plug & chug activities here and there. There’s a
true formula to it. Each day of the week has a specific ‘purpose’ or angle of how I approach the objective we are working on. On Monday, we ‘Expose‘. On Tuesday, we ‘Analyze‘. On Wednesday, we ‘Evaluate‘. On Thursday, we ‘Prepare‘. And on Friday we ‘Apply‘.
Many teachers make the mistake of jumping straight into the APPLY step on Monday. If you’re just now introducing Main Idea (for example) – WHY are you asking them to find the main idea on the FIRST DAY? It’s like jumping into the deep end of the pool when they don’t know how to swim yet. If you truly want them to understand how to swim – aka – KNOW and USE the strategies we’re teaching them, then we have to break it apart. Look at them from different angles and lenses. Watch, listen, observe, decide, and finally try it! That’s what these steps are all about.
So let’s talk about each step and what they are about. I’m going to break each of the ‘Steps’ down below and explain what it means and what we’re doing on that day of the week. Remember, the steps must stay in this order!
This is the 1st step to teaching any comprehension skill or strategy. Here, we showcase the completed strategy to students asking very little of them except for their understanding of the definition of the strategy. Students are simply becoming EXPOSED to the strategy as a whole while watching the process being modeled, and answering simple questions. Many times – vocabulary is a heavy part of this day’s focus as well.
This is the 2nd step to teaching any comprehension skill or strategy. Here, we are again allowing students to see the completed strategy but asking them to analyze what is going on. What are the pieces involved in the strategy? What is the sequence involved? How is the reader accomplishing the strategy? Allowing students to pick apart the completed strategy in order to better understand it.
This is the 3rd step to teaching any comprehension skill or strategy. Here we have allowed students to see and analyze the strategy. Now, let’s have them evaluate by providing strong and weak examples. What’s going right or wrong? What changes should be made? How could the example be improved? What steps are missing?
This is the 4th step to teaching any comprehension skill or strategy. Here, we are allowing students to begin to complete the strategy themselves. Students are given a partially completed strategy where they must evaluate what’s been done for them and finish the strategy themselves. This allows them practice applying the strategy without the full application process and still some support.
This is the 5th and finally step to teaching any comprehension skill or strategy. Here, we are allowing students to fully complete the strategy independently or with a cooperative group. Students complete the strategy without support from beginning to end of the strategy using what they have learned from this process.
So what does all of this do for our students? TONS! It allows EACH student, regardless of their level of reading to completely understand the strategy from top to bottom. This will then allow them to be able to APPLY the strategy to their own reading level, whether they are a struggling reader or advanced reader. It allows the teacher to back into teaching the reading strategy from different approaches and angles rather than just trying to apply, apply, and apply the strategy over and over and expecting different results.
When you use this ‘Building Comprehension’ method, you are building the strategy from the ground up – giving the student a solid foundation to stand on and you know that they have a firm grasp on the concept of the strategy and they can apply it when needed.
This is the method of teaching I have used in my own classroom for many years and the results are truly unbreakable. The conversations we have in the classroom about a text is deep, it’s rigorous, and it’s meaningful. My students can tell you how and why to use specific reading strategies regardless of what reading level they are at.
Like I said, I know that teaching comprehension is hard and I hope this information was helpful (maybe a bit overwhelming, but helpful none the less)! But I have something that just might help! I’ve put together all of this information about ‘Building Comprehension’ and a few extra goodies and created the Ultimate Comprehension Toolkit! And even better – it’s FREE! It includes this information as well as 3 scope & sequences, over 60 comprehension discussion cards, engagement strategies, exit tickets, a mentor text list and MORE! Grab it below for FREE!
And if you want the cherry on top – I have an even bigger surprise! ALL of my ‘Building Comprehension‘ units are designed in this EXACT format – meaning they follow all of the steps you just read about. If you want results, engagement, and time saved on planning out your lesson plans – this is your answer! You can take a close look at them in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.