Have you ever read something and not remembered a word of it?
Often when kids complete a reading assignment, they remember very little of what they read. This is especially true when reading nonfiction material such as a social studies article or textbook. If the material is confusing or uninteresting to them, it can be hard to retain it.
Today I’d like to focus on a simple reading comprehension strategy to help kids process and remember what they read.
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So how do we help kids who have difficulty remembering what they read? Some of us might head to the local discount store and buy a reaching comprehension workbook. But why give our kids contrived reading passages when we can give them the real thing?
The best way to teach kids reading comprehension strategies is to use real books. Thankfully, you can find a great variety of interesting nonfiction at your library.
I’ve shared a number of interesting nonfiction books in this post about fun and fascinating books about history. You might also want to check out the If You Lived series by Scholastic. And I often refer to This Reading Mama’s list of favorite nonfiction series.
Once you’ve got an engaging piece of literature, you only need to remember four words.
READ. COVER. REMEMBER. RETELL.
This reading comprehension strategy will help your child learn to focus on what she’s reading.
It works well for any fluent reader, from first grade through high school. When I taught this lesson to my Seven, she was easily reading fiction at or above a 5th grade level, but nonfiction was presenting a special challenge. While she enjoyed it, some of the more difficult material didn’t stay in her memory bank.
I knew this strategy would be a great summer activity to keep her brain sharp before she began second grade in the fall.
I chose to print the book “Elizabeth Blackwell: America’s First Woman Doctor” from the wonderful website Reading A to Z, where I have a yearly membership and can print books any time (an investment worth every penny– and I don’t get a cent for telling you that!).
How to teach Read-Cover-Remember-Retell
As always, model first.
1. Read a short section aloud.
2. Cover what you read with your hand.
3. Think aloud as you remember what you read. “Okay, now let me see. I know I read something about Elizabeth Blackwell. I’m going to think about what I read and talk about it.”
4. Retell what you just read. “The book is telling about a woman named Elizabeth Blackwell who is the first woman to go to medical college. She has to be brave and tough even when she learns about gross things so that people will think women are strong enough to become doctors.”
Now give your child a chance to try it.
Your child might not remember anything from the first reading. Have her read the section again. If she still can’t think of something to say, give her prompts by asking simple questions about what she read.
At some points in this exercise, your child may simply recite the last sentence she read instead of giving main points. When this happens it may be that the material was too difficult for your child to understand. Go back and discuss key vocabulary words as well as the concepts. Then read it aloud yourself and prompt your child to retell it.
You may find that your child is resistant to this activity (it’s a lot of work, after all!). I’m not promising your child or students will love this one, and I don’t expect them to practice it on their own without you there to insist on it. But with repeated opportunity to practice this strategy with a parent, teacher, tutor, or classmate, your child’s reading comprehension will steadily improve.
READ. COVER. REMEMBER. RETELL.
Will you try it? I’d love to hear how it goes!
While you’re here … check out our reading
response sheets and leveled book lists!
Don’t miss the rest of our quick tips for helping struggling readers!
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