My child doesn’t understand.

Dear Teacher,

Before my son started kindergarten I made sure he knew all the letters and sounds of the alphabet.  I also taught him several sight words and the different vowel sounds.  He zipped through all the early assessments, but is now having difficulty because he can’t retell a story accurately. What’s going on?

Dear Parent,

There are many important skills that create a proficient reader, and two of the most important are fluency & comprehension.  Although your child can decode words he is not reading for meaning.  In order to help him understand what he reads there are several basic reading strategies you can teach him.  First, and foremost, have him (1) make a prediction.  After he reads the title ask,  “What do you think this story will be about?”  If the book has an illustration below the title you can use that too.  Once a prediction has been made he will be interested in finding out if his prediction is correct.  This will (2) help him focus on meaning to a much greater degree. By the way, if he happens to make a prediction that is way off base let him go with it!  When he realizes his prediction is wrong ask him to make a new one. When students change their predictions as they read they are building their comprehension skills by leaps and bounds!  This is what good readers do. The ability to “self check” during reading is essential.  In order to practice this necessary skill have him stop reading periodically and (3) ask questions.  For example, “What do you think will happen next?” “Why do you think the character did that?”  “How did they figure out what to do?” During story time have your child (4) speak in complete sentences. This strategy is one of the most important and easiest to use and is far too often overlooked. Speaking in complete sentences increases vocabulary and comprehension.  Last, but not least, (5) reread the story at least once.  This is another simple, and powerful technique that increases comprehension.

It’s important to note that there are different types of questions you can ask depending on whether they are reading fiction or non-fiction.  Please see the attached links below for more specific information.

Non Fiction Discussion Questions

Fiction Discussion Questions

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