< Early Literacy: Comprehension
29 August 2023

When talking about literacy, comprehension means understanding what we read. On the website Reading Rockets, literacy experts say: "To be able to accurately understand written material, children need to be able to (1) decode what they read; (2) make connections between what they read and what they already know; and (3) think deeply about what they have read."

Strategies for comprehension

Ways of teaching are sometimes called strategies. Comprehension strategies should do some of the following:

Early Literacy: Comprehension
Early Literacy: Comprehension

Experts at Reading Rockets say teachers can show students the following skills:

These experts also suggest ways students can help themselves:

Parents can talk about words, stories, and books with their children. Parents can also make connections between a child's experiences and what they read in a book.

Strategy: Story Map (a visual aid)

Story maps allow students to learn the story in a visual way. Students must read carefully to fill in the map. Story maps also may be used for math, social studies, and science.

There are different types of story maps. The most basic ones focus on the beginning, the middle, and the end of the story. More advanced story maps are about other story elements, such as:

Strategy: Active Reading

As you read a book to a child, talk about the story. This strategy turns a book into a lively conversation. Do not stop too much. If you do, the students may not understand the story. Keep it fun.

Ask questions about the story. This will help the child get more involved in the story. For early learners, ask easy questions. You can point to a picture in the book and ask, "What is this?" For more advanced learners, you can ask more difficult questions. For example, "What does this character want?"

When a student answers, give them feedback. "That's right! The character is sad because he is lost." Add to what the student said. "I was lost one time. And I felt really scared."

Strategy: Sequence

Putting events in the correct order (or sequence) is a great way to understand a story.

Why teach sequencing?

This strategy can be used with many kinds of writing. Students can sequence parts of a story or lines from a song or a poem. They can even sequence everyday activities - a math problem, or a recipe for making their favorite dish. Simply write or draw the text of a story or steps in a process. Then have students put the steps in order.

Assessment for comprehension

There are many types of reading comprehension assessments. Generally speaking, if a learner cannot do the following, they may have a problem with comprehension.

Apart from testing and assessment, experts suggest that teachers, parents, and caregivers should pay attention to the skills of describing, explaining, and connecting while reading with a child.

Experts add that adults should pay attention to what a child says. Comprehension may be a problem if a child says, "I couldn't follow the story," or simply, "I don't get it!"

Use these tips, strategies, and assessment methods that best serve you and your learners. Change them to fit your students and teaching situation.

I'm Anna Matteo.

And I'm Caty Weaver.

Anna Matteo wrote this article for VOA Learning English. It is part of a larger collection of Early Literacy Materials.


Words in This Story

decode –v. to understand the hidden meaning of something

summarize – v. to express or cover the main points briefly

visualize – v. to see or form a mental image of

sequence – v. to arrange in an order

recipe – n. a set of instructions for making something from various ingredients

character – n. someone who appears in a book, movie; a representation of an individual personality in a fictional or dramatic work

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