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Literacy Tip of the Week: December 1, 2019

posted Dec 1, 2019, 7:08 PM by Steven Richardson   [ updated Dec 13, 2019, 12:40 PM ]

Mining for Comprehension in Low-Level Books

When I select a book at any text level, I look for one that supports a comprehension conversation--both at the literal and deeper level.  It is fairly easy to find good books at level C and higher since they usually have a story; however, the books at levels A and B have patterned texts such as I can, I see, We like, etc. Still, there are discussion prompts that can work with most patterned texts. For instance:

1. Retell - What did you read? Children can always retell what they read. Although this is a low-level comprehension skill, it does build working memory.

2. Favorite part - What is your favorite page? Tell us why you like that page? This taps into personal experiences and preferences.

3. Connections - What is in this book that you like to do (or eat, or play on, etc.)? What connections can you make to this book? Does this book remind you another book we've read? Kids can make connections with a read aloud book or another guided reading book. I'll often have the other book on hand so we can flip through the pages to refresh their memory.

4. Comparisons - Find two things in this book that are different and tell how they are different. Find two things in this book that are similar and tell how they are the same.  This prompt works for a lot of low-level books, and it digs into deeper thinking.  Kids can compare two fruits, two animals, two kinds of playground equipment, etc.. Here's an example --  Tap on the "Read Online" button to view the insides of the book.  It is an awesome feature that I use in presentations.

5. Inferences - Ask a Why ... question.  I find a picture that I could ask a why question about. In this book called, Looking Out, (, I could ask, "Why does Bella like to look out the window?"

6. Text features - One of my favorite things about Pioneer Valley is the text features they add for their nonfiction books, especially Explore the World series. Here is a link to the Monarch Butterfly. Go to the "read online" link to view the insides of the book. We could discuss the diagram on pages 4-5 (How does a butterfly use its legs or antennae?), or the illustration that shows the formation of the chrysalis on pages 13-14, the emergence of the butterfly on pages 15-16, or the fold-out of the lifecycle. All of the Explore the World books have these amazing text features that can be mined for comprehension discussions.

7. Photographs - Occasionally I'll find a great discussion prompt by examining the photos.  In this Level B Pioneer Valley book, called The Walk, the text is patterned and simple. At first glance, there doesn't appear to be much to discuss. However, if you examine the photos, you will notice the text is told from two perspectives -- the dog walker and the dog. 

8. Asking questions - Although typically I ask questions to stimulate discussion, I love to invite the students to find a page and ask their own questions. I often have to model and then scaffold by providing question starters, but it is an important comprehension strategy that children will use for the rest of their lives.