Tag Archive: comprehension

Strategies: Comprehension Cubes

IMG_6170Picture 005While Mr. Brace is working with my regular 3rd graders, I am lucky enough to work with a different group of 3rd graders.  Today we read Venus, The Flytrap That Wouldn’t Eat Flies and had a focus on deeper comprehension and facilitating a book discussion group.

If you aren’t familiar with the comprehension cubes that you can get practically anywhere (I got mine from Amazon), you should consider getting them.  There are dice for before, during, and after reading, and the kids go absolutely bananas for them. 

IMG_6172Each student was able to roll the dice and answer the question and then I had the discussion prompt sheet sitting up so students could add on to another student’s answer.  Let me tell you–it got a little heated when students didn’t agree with each other.  This was a great lesson on how we can respectfull disagree with other people in the group.  Everyone is entitled to their opinions and it’s always appreciated if an example from the book can be used to help support your opinion/answer that you share with the group.

Students had a lot of fun reading about a Venus Flytrap that didn’t eat bugs and came up with some great main ideas and author’s message for the story including, “You don’t know what you might like or not like until you try it so you should be willing to try new things.”

The dice were a great way to break the story up into parts and helped to lead our group discussion.  It’s fun when everyone can bring something a little different to the table and we all learn from each other.

IMG_6069While Mr. Brace is working with my regular 3rd grade group, I am lucky enough to work with a different 3rd grade group and we are having a lot of fun!  One of the things that this group needs it to work on main idea, author’s message, and in-depth comprehension strategies.

This week we read a book called Good Friends and my 3rd graders had to locate evidence of how Froggy and Duck were good friends to each other, write it on a post it note, and put it on the appropriate character.  Students had to put the page number and the evidence they found.

From there, students were asked to write about a good friends they have in their life and provide details/evidence of how they are a good friend.

IMG_6067One of the things I love about having a student teacher is I get to see some of the new strategies being taught in college.  Mr. Brace had the 1st grade group complete a retelling strategy called the Retelling Rope.  They had to make their way through the rope by taking off different questions and retell and answer the questions for the story.  This was a fun, new, and interactive way to get the 1st graders thinking about the story and a great way for Mr. Brace to check story comprehension.  It’s nice for the kids to be able to get different instruction from another teacher to help accelerate them in their reading!

Thoughtful Journal Entries

If you’re anything like me, you find it difficult to constantly be coming up with purposeful and thoughtful writing responses.  I often times feel like we are writing just to write and then I kick myself when it comes around to testing and the students didn’t do as well as I wanted or expected.

In Linda Dorn’s Teaching for Deep Comprehension: A Reading Workshop Approach, she has a page of thoughtful journal entries that you can use with your students.  I am trying to incorporate these more into my writing day of my group.  I wrote the prompts on little cards (similar to my mission cards) and do put them in envelopes.  This way students are answering different questions and I can make it more appropriate to the different levels within the group.  I’ve found this to be a great way of mixing it up and differentiating what I’m asking of the students.  Plus, it keeps it interesting for me to read different answers and get different insight to what’s going on in their minds.

Respond personally to the text

  • How do you feel about the text and why?
  • How has the text changed your life in some way?
  • What is your favorite part of the book and why?

Respond to the theme and/or author’s purpose

  • What is the author trying to teach you?
  • What is the author’s purpose or message in the text?
  • Why do you think the author wrote this text?

Offer opinion of text

  • Do you like or dislike the text and why?
  • Who is your favorite or least favorite character and why?
  • Will you read this book again?  Why or why not?
  • Will you recommend this book to a friend?

Ask questions

  • What does the word/phrase _____ mean?
  • Why did the character act this way?
  • What did the author mean when….?
  • What is the author trying to teach you?

Make predictions/inferences

  • What do you think might happen and why?
  • I think ______ because ….

Respond to the writing style or author’s language

  • How does the author use language to create sensory images?
  • How does the author’s language deepen your understanding?

Respond to the traits and/or actions of the character(s)

  • Do you like, dislike, or admire the character(s) and why?
  • Would you act/react differently and why?

Share connections

  • Does any part of the book remind you of the world and what is occurring now or has happened in the past?
  • How have your own experiences deepened your understanding?
  • How is this text (characters or events) similar to another book (characters or events)?
  • Do you connect in any way with a character from the text?

Critique the text

  • Did the author do a good job organizing the text? crafting the text?
  • What are the resources the author used to provide you with accurate and current information?
  • Did the author use text features to help you understand the information?
  • Did the author follow the text structures for the genre?

Good luck as you begin to use some of these prompts with your kids.  When I first started using more thoughtful prompts you would have thought I was asking my students for their left arm.  Stick with it!  Getting them to think deeper and more reflective is good for them! 🙂  Happy teaching and happy writing!


I was finding my students kind of grumbling when it came to discussion after reading a new book.  Normally this is an opportunity for me to check their reading and comprehension.  I decided I needed to make this time of the lesson a little more fun.

I decided to make my own Top Secret comprehension cards.  Really Good Stuff makes their own cards, but I wanted to customize my cards based on what we’re working on in the classroom.  I ended up with about 30 cards.  I tried this today with my 2nd and 3rd graders and they absolutely loved it.  I started out by telling them to read their story carefully because I would be giving them an ultra-top secret mission after they finished reading.  Students began to giggle, but they were all very curious what this secret mission was.  They read and as they were reading I went through my cards and picked out the card I felt was most appropriate for each student.   On little envelopes I wrote TOP SECRET and slid the mission cards into an envelope for each student.

As they finished reading and were waiting for their card I totally played it up.  I made them promise they would keep it completely top secret–that they would show no one their card.  It was for their eyes only!  Each student had a ginormous grin.  Who doesn’t love a good secret??  Some students were so into the secret that they went and go dividers for their desk so no one could see what they were writing.  It was so cute to see students carefully slide their card out of their envelopes just far enough to read it and then push it back into the envelope until they needed to check it again to make sure they had written down the correct information.

From there students wrote their answers either in a journal or on a post it note.  We did end up sharing our secret notes at the very end, but it was really cool to see students looking back in the book for information, taking their time, and really thinking about the story.  They were all so bummed when group was over and secret mission time was over.  I promised them these cards would be back.  I’m super excited to see how these cards will continue to help students read more carefully, comprehend more information, and take their reading to the next level.