Reading Comprehension for Kindergarten

One of the keys to nurturing successful, strong readers is to start them off early. Thus, while it used to be that in Kindergarten, students would be simply learning the alphabet and using it to formulate basic words, our demands on students have grown to require reading comprehension for kindergarten into the classroom. No longer is kindergarten just about learning to spell and use the alphabet, they now need to begin to string together sentences and understand the meaning of words in context.

In fact, because reading comprehension is stressed so heavily in older children, it is nearly impossible to avoid these more advanced aspects of reading in younger grades. Kindergarteners may not be able to read a great deal, but they will be asked to rewrite endings of basic stories, describe their own experiences of stories, and tell others how they feel about the characters. So while it may seem strange to many teachers, teaching reading comprehension for kindergarten is starting to become a requirement.

While it may sound as though I’m opposed to it, I really do think that using reading comprehension strategies in Kidnergarten is a good thing. What I don’t really like is the execution. Unfortunately, most teachers are somewhat in the dark as far as what they are supposed to do to increase the reading abilities of students who are so inexperienced with reading in general. They make stuff up on their own, much of which is simply too difficult for the kindergartener’s young minds to process. Despite this, many of the most common activities that older children do for reading comprehension can be used in a the same way for younger children.

Age-Appropriate Strategies for Reading Comprehension for Kindergarten

Generally, with the four- to five-year-olds you’d find in a typical kindergarten classroom, you’re going to need to give them the inference that an older student could have drawn from a text. Thus, if you read a story about a boy who got lost in the woods, you would start with questions like “the boy is feeling scared. Does anyone know why?” and you could expect a reasonably decent answer. Questions like “How does the boy feel?” will probably not be all that effective. This requires too much on the part of the student, although some students will be able to make the connection. You can try to tax them, especially by starting with questions about their personal experiences like “Have you ever been lost in the store? How did you feel when that happened?”

Reading Comprehension for Kindergarten

My first tip for teaching reading comprehension for kindergarten is the same as my most general tip for teaching at any grade level, namely, that you need to require them to use different words than the ones the text describes when you cite your answer. This is limiting, and will often result in very generic responses like “good” or “bad” as opposed to “angry” or “happy”, but it does connect the ideas and help build vocabulary.

Therefore, if the book says that the boy “went on a walk in the woods,” you might ask your students to try to say the same thing a different way. If needs be, you can supply a vocabulary sheet or refer them to a word wall. From time to time, I lower my expectations for kindergarteners on this simply because many of them simply don’t have the vocabulary to describe a situation any other way, but for older students, it can be a big benefit to their vocabulary and their writing skill later on to get used to paraphrasing from a very early age.

Second, recognize that for children who are only four or five, worksheets are probably not going to work out. You’ll want to ask the majority of your questions in the format of a dialog between you and your students, since this will give them the ability to display their full knowledge of a subject. They will lack the writing ability and the focus to churn out detailed answers from pages of text.

Third, when focusing on reading comprehension for kindergarten, don’t overdo it. While you may be required to include some elements of improving reading comprehension in your lessons, many of your children will not have the critical thinking ability necessary to handle those kind of questions. Ask for specific information from the story, and only ask broad questions that are specifically cited in a line of the text. Also, don’t be afraid to re-read large portions of the text, or even the entire thing if you find that your class is not following along well. This kind of review is essential, and it’s required by many students that they see where the story is going to go before they can logically build the bridges from one step to the next.

Reading Comprehension for Kindergarten – Conclusion

Teaching reading comprehension for kindergarten is far from easy, but it can be done. Use these tips, and try out a wide variety of strategies to increase your students thinking abilities throughout the year. Teaching this difficult skill at such a young age is still fairly new to the world of education, so the best practices are still a little fuzzy and unknown. Do the best job you can do, and always err on the side of challenging, while trying to make reading as fun and enjoyable as possible for your students.