Today I am going to share with you some fun and easy reading (and listening!) comprehension games! These are just a few ideas that I have used in the past to help children focus on the meaning of the text and help them identify the parts of the story. I hope you find them helpful!
This activities could be done as either listening comprehension games after students finish listening to a story, OR could be done after children finish reading a story! Since I have worked primarily with Kindergarten students for most of my teaching career, it is easiest for me to think of the games in terms of listening comprehension games. However, when you think about it, they really would be played exactly the same if the children had read the story themselves, and then played the game with the teacher or a parent. So either way works!
Listening and Reading Comprehension Go Together!
Reading comprehension is strongly correlated to listening comprehension. It has long been known that when you work on and increase a child’s skills in listening comprehension, it pays off in the long run in their future reading comprehension! That is the basis of these reading comprehension activities. But before I tell you how it is done, let me give you a little background information that should be helpful.
The Parts of a Story Song Helps Set the Stage
Many years ago, when my school district first started asking our Kindergarten students to listen to and retell a story as a standard skill that they must demonstrate, I used to dread giving this test! It took forever for the children to explain what happened in the story, and I was supposed to mark off if they had identified the beginning, middle, and end. So I would pull each child one at a time, ask them to tell me what happened in a story I had just read, and sit down for the long haul, and wait. If I asked them what happened at the beginning, many of them told me what happened at the end. If I asked them what happened at the end, several of them told me what happened at the beginning. If I asked them what happened in the middle, I usually got blank looks. What’s a middle? And so it went if I asked them for the characters and setting, etc. Since I worked with a lot of English language learners, it was common for the children to have trouble remembering this academic vocabulary. So I set out to write a song to teach them the parts of a story, and hence we have my Parts of a Story song!
Suddenly, for the vast majority of my students, the LIGHT when ON, and they began to understand and remember what it was I was trying to teach them! Each time we read a story, I would ask the children the different parts of the story. If they didn’t remember, I just started singing a little snippet of the song as a reminder, and they remembered! I was delighted! AND, best of all (for me, anyway-) testing them on this became quick and easy! The vast majority of my students passed the listening comprehension/parts of a story test with flying colors!
Now, here are the steps to teaching kids to identify the parts of a story in an active, friendly, game-like way!
Game One: Sing and Dance the Parts of a Story song from Little Songs for Language Arts!
This is a great song to help children learn that there are different parts to a story, and each one of them is important to identify. There is also a very simple visual aid set that works nicely to help children get that visual anchor to go along with the song. Discuss each of the parts of the story, and what makes one part different from the other. The story parts that I teach are: main character, character, setting, beginning, middle (the problem part), end (the resolution.) Below (in the movie) you will see what the visual aids look like.
Game Two: Use Reading Comprehension “Talk Moves!”
Then, we train the children to listen for the parts of the story that we want them to identify, and signal the reader non-verbally with their hands when they think they have found it. The reader can stop and ask the children to identify the parts of the story whenever it seems appropriate and check for understanding.
Game 3: Use Reading Comprehension Think Marks
Then, as the children get better and better at identifying the parts of the story that they are listening to, then they can start to do the same thing when they are reading in small groups or reading on their own! They can continue to signal actively with their hands as shown in the pictures, or they can mark the places in the book where they found these parts of the stories with sticky notes!
Another way to mark the parts of the stories would be to use printable books and let your students use markers or crayons to highlight what they found. Using sticky notes to mark places in the book is often referred to as using “ThinkMarks.”
I recently tried using ThinkMarks with the first grade class that I volunteer in, and the children really enjoyed it! I think that it was very effective, but I think it would have been even more effective if I had prefaced it by doing the Reading Comprehension Talk Moves first, and if I had narrowed it down by focusing on just ONE type of critical thinking skill at a time. (I’ll tell you more about that in a future blog post!- hopefully next week, along with a free download of the think mark chart above! This week, however, I am a little short on time because I am at the PK1 Conference in Santa Clara and LOVING it!!!!)
The children LOVED to take the sticky notes and draw an icon on them which represented the different parts of the story, and place them in their books. I only gave them one sticky note at a time to place in the book, and in order to get it, they had to tell me what the part was. Then they would have to search for another part of the story in order to get another sticky note. This turned out to be an extremely effective motivator for them, so it really turned out great.
I really loved this activity, and I hope that you and your students will, too, and it will help your children learn.
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