One strategy that I have used for years is my comprehension question grab bag. I have used it in the classroom, with small groups, one on one, and at home with my kids. It is simple and effective in getting kids to think about what we are reading. I wanted to share this strategy with you!
I really like talking about strategies. Things have come a long way, but back when I started teaching strategies weren’t talk as effectively as they are today.
I can remember getting into a heated discussion with a teacher once about lesson planning. As the reading specialist teachers still wanted me to take groups of struggling readers. In order to do that I wanted to know what was being taught in the classroom so that I could reinforce those skills in my lessons. The teacher was still using the basal and teaching whatever was the next lesson in the book. I was trying to show him that we need to choose a strategy to teach and then a book that will reinforce that strategy. I’ll never forget the conversation:
Me: “What strategy are you teaching the class this week?”
Teacher: “You know, all of them.”
Me: “All of them? Which one are you specifically focusing on?”
Teacher: “All of them.”
He couldn’t even name me one comprehension strategy. Since this conversation I have made it my mission to make sure everyone knew what comprehension strategies were and how to effectively teach them in the classroom and at home.
The most effective way to teach strategies, or any skill, is modelling. Kids learn through observing. What better way to teach how to think than to show your kids how you think as you read! Pointing out and modelling comprehension strategies is a great way to show kids what thinking while you read looks like.
Good readers do these strategies automatically and we don’t need to model or teach them. In my opinion, it still helps to teach them and make sure they know how they are thinking. It helps to know what you are doing and that it is correct.
Some of the questions in the grab bag are about story mapping. There are questions about the character, setting, problem and solution. Story mapping can be taught using my story rope. Learn more about that here. I love my story rope and use it almost as often as the grab bag. What a great way to help kids write stories in sequence as well as retell a story.
Comprehension Question Grab Bag
This is such a simple activity and it can be used again and again. Admittedly, sometimes kids can get tired of it, but I find kids get tired of repetition when it comes to school work. This is so fast and effective I don’t care what they say!
I have a set of cards that I print on card stock. I never laminated them, but that is an option. I then use a bag. I have always used a simple gift bag because I can fold it up and store it away more easily than I can a basket, hat, or bucket.
The questions cover a mix of comprehension and story mapping.
How to Use the Comprehension Grab Bag
If it’s our first time with the bag, I introduce one question a day. Each day, or two, I build on by adding one question until I have introduced each question. We do not use a question that I haven’t introduced or taught.
Once all the questions and strategies have been introduced and taught…
I put the cards in the bag. We read the story and at the end each child picks 1-3 cards to answer. This is totally dependent on how many kids you are working with, how much time you have, and how much you think the child can handle. Whatever question(s) they pull out are the questions they have to answer.
I do allow them to look back at the book because looking back is a great strategy to learn and reinforce.
It may take a few rounds of use for the kids to get used to the questions and activity, but then they know what to do and pick and answer with ease. It’s awesome.
I would recommend teaching the strategies before using the questions. This way the kids are better prepared to answer the questions when they pick them.
Get Your Copies Here!
Now you can your own copies here. As I said above, it’s best to print them on cardstock. I didn’t laminate mine and they have held up for YEARS! I simply use an old gift bag so I can fold it up and store it without taking up too much space. I grab the bag and use it often.