Fun Ways to Test Reading Comprehension with Kids!
6 min read
Learning to read is a very exciting milestone, but does your child truly understand what they are reading? Reading comprehension tests can be intimidating, but thankfully there are fun ways to check if kids understand what they are reading.
Since we’re raising multilingual children in English, Chinese, and Korean, I’ll share examples of fun reading comprehension activities that you can try in your target language.
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How to know if your child truly understands what they are reading
Since my older child is an early reader, I’ve heard a lot of skepticism that she could truly understand the books she’s reading. I’ve even heard some criticism that she’s “probably just memorized lots of Chinese characters and Korean words.”
While these are valid concerns, I knew that she was fully enjoying many of the stories that she has read independently. She happily share’s reflections she’s learned from favorite books, but like most kids, sometimes she doesn’t feel like talking about it. She’s even wittily pointed out, “If you really want to know what the book is about, you can read and find out yourself!”
Since kids can be put off by direct questioning and quizzes, how can we test their reading comprehension skills?
Fun and creative ways to check reading comprehension
Reading comprehension involves decoding, interpreting, and remembering the meaning of words in sentences and paragraphs. Needless to say, a child’s brain is working hard to figure out the stories they hear and read.
Whether you’re a parent or a language teacher for kids, these fun, simple, and creative activities can improve reading comprehension skills at home or school.
Draw what you understand from the story
Snowy Day book in Chinese and English
Drawing is a great reading comprehension activity, especially for children who are shy or not confident about speaking a minority language or expressing themselves verbally.
After the child is done drawing, ask them to describe what they drew. Try to resist the temptation to guess what they drew and the meaning. In other words, let your child lead the way in the presentation. After the child is done sharing, model narrating your observations of the book!
Craft a key part of the story
If you have a kid who enjoys creating, building, and working with his or her hands, a book-based activity is a great way to help kids understand what they read. For example, here is a paper plate craft that we did with the Rainbow Fish book! To check my daughter’s reading comprehension, I asked her what she thought was important from the book. She then wrote those words on the “scales” of the Rainbow Fish craft!
Reading comprehension re-enactment
When my children and I learn new Chinese or Korean words, we try to act out what we just read to help us remember it. For example, when we learned about different animals around the world, we would pretend to be the animals. My kids have had such a blast hopping on the floor like bunnies, which is 兔子(tùzǐ) in Chinese and 토끼 (tokki) in Korean.
This reenactment activity is also wonderful for building and testing reading comprehension. While reading 司马光砸缸 (Sīmǎ guāng zá gāng / Si Ma Guang Breaks the Jar) in the 四五快读 series, we used toys and pretended they represented 司马光, friends, and the giant jar!
We’ve also had fun acting out audiobooks, such as 狼和七只小山羊 (Láng hé qī zhī xiǎo shānyáng / Wolf and Seven Little Goats). This video of my daughter reciting and performing in Mandarin Chinese is a wonderful example of reading comprehension in action.
Related: 3 Ways My Child and I Are Learning Mandarin Chinese from Audiobooks
True or false reading comprehension game
True or false (right or wrong) is one of our favorite ways to practice reading! You can do this verbally or by writing sentences about a recent event or story that you have read. Below is an example of sentences that I wrote for my daughter last year. To make the reading activity hands-on, we use Post-It notes for fun sticking action.
Please note that I am not fluent in Chinese, so what you see in the photo might not be grammatically correct (I think 与 (Yǔ / versus) should have been 或 (huò / or) or 还是 (háishì / or), and I always appreciate feedback!).
Since I’m trying to learn Chinese with my children, I try to write these short assignments to improve my own Chinese writing and reading comprehension skills. My daughter likes to read sentences that are relevant to her life! But you can also try playing true or false to check if your child understands a book your child recently read.
Guess the book reading comprehension scavenger hunt
Last weekend, I surprised my kids by arranging their Chinese books, Korean books, and English books into a rainbow. Then I hid something in certain books, and I gave my kids clues by telling them bits and pieces about the book’s plot, characters, and takeaway points.
This “guess the book” game was super fun for my kids, and they had no idea that I was checking their reading comprehension! My daughter also had fun hiding and giving clues.
If you prefer not to have a book mess like the one in the above picture, set out just a handful of children’s books! 🙂 You can hide anything, such a bookmark. See if your child has any ideas to spruce up the game and spark discussion about the books!
Kids love to pretend that they are the teacher, parent, or any grown-up! After reading a book of your child’s choice, he or she can take the role of the teacher and ask mom and dad questions about the book.
When a child comes up with questions, he or she is using creative reading comprehension skills. Plus, kids often think it’s fun to test mom and dad! This child-led activity is a win-win for speaking, listening, and reading comprehension practice.
Tips for boosting and checking reading comprehension skills
Keep in mind that reading comprehension skills are more than just books. Decoding and interpreting are important parts of everyday non-verbal and verbal communication, too. In regular conversations with your kids, narrate how you noticed a person’s emotions and voice, and what they might be thinking.
When you’re out and about, read signs and labels out loud and share what you’ve understood from those important words.
Also when your child is showing understanding and good verbal and reading comprehension, be sure to give specific praise on their effort and observations. This positive reinforcement can help boost their confidence!
What are your favorite ways to test reading comprehension skills?
I hope these play-based reaching comprehension activities can help your child’s reading journey! If you have other favorite ways to check reading comprehension skills in kids, please share in the comments. We’d love to learn from your experience.
Research-based reading strategies
To learn more about research-based reading strategies for children, here are some of my favorite articles from Reading Rockets:
- What Research Tells Us About Reading, Comprehension, and Comprehension Instruction
- Key Comprehension Strategies to Teach
- Strategies that Promote Comprehension
Happy reading, friends!
How to Help Your Child With Reading Comprehension
What helps kids understand what they read? Being an active reader is key. That means focusing on the text, questioning it, and taking mental notes. You can work on these skills with your child at home. Use these seven tips to help improve your child’s reading comprehension.
1. Make connections.
When kids connect what they already know to what they read, it helps them focus. Show your child how to make connections when you read aloud. If a book mentions places you’ve been to with your child, talk about those memories. Then have your child give it a try.
2. Ask questions.
Asking questions encourages kids to look for clues in the text. When you read together, ask questions to spark your child’s curiosity. Ask things like “What do you think will happen?” or “How is that character feeling?”
3. Make “mind movies.”
Visualizing helps bring a story to life. That’s where mind movies come in. When you read with your child, describe what the scene looks like in your head. Talk about how it makes you feel. You can use other senses, too. For example, if the scene takes place outside, what does it smell like?
Then invite your child to make a mind movie, too. Point out how your child’s movie is different from yours. If your child likes to draw or color, encourage your child to make a picture of the scene, too.
4. Look for clues.
When you combine what you already know with clues from a story, you can make guesses or predictions. These are inferences. And making them is a great way to build reading comprehension.
For example, when we read “Kim’s eyes were red and her nose was runny,” we can infer that Kim has a cold or allergies. Help your child do this as you read. If a character is wearing gym clothes and sweating, ask your child what the character might have been doing before.
5. Figure out what’s important.
Ask your child: Who are the main characters? What’s the most important thing that has happened in the story so far? What problem are the characters trying to solve? When kids can point out what’s important, they’re more likely to understand what they read.
Your child can also use a tool called a graphic organizer to do this. A “story element” organizer keeps track of the main characters, where the story is taking place, and the problem and solution of the story.
6. Check understanding.
It helps to encourage kids to stop and ask themselves, “Is this making sense?” If your child gets stuck, suggest rereading the part that didn’t make sense. What about it was confusing? Were there specific words that tripped your child up?
7. Try new things.
The more kids know about the world, the more they can get meaning out of what they read. You don’t have to take an expensive trip or go to a museum to do this, though. You can expand kids’ background knowledge and vocabulary in lots of ways.
Shooting hoops or watching a baseball game can help your child connect more with books about sports. Riding the subway might make your child interested in books that take place in big cities.
Even with these tips, some kids still have a hard time understanding what they read. Learn more about how to help your child with reading. And get an expert’s take on why kids may have trouble understanding or remembering what they read.
About the author
About the author
Ginny Osewalt is a dually certified elementary and special education teacher with more than 15 years of experience in general education, inclusion, resource room, and self-contained settings.
What to do if the child does not understand what he read?
Parents of schoolchildren often turn to us for an online consultation with the request: “The child reads the text and cannot retell it, finds it difficult to answer questions about what he has read, how can I help him?”
To understand this issue, let’s start with the basics. There are two important aspects in the process of reading: technical and semantic. They are interconnected. At the beginning of learning, it is important for a child to master the technical side: to master the sound-letter connections, automate the recognition of a syllable, and gradually increase the speed.
At the same time, the semantic side develops: what is the text about, what is the main idea. As reading technique improves, so does reading comprehension. However, it happens that one of these aspects is inhibited, and the child has difficulty reading. At this point, it is important to turn to specialists (speech therapist, neuropsychologist), who will determine the nature of the difficulties, recommend directions for assistance, and help in choosing correction methods.
When learning, it is important to move from simple and easy tasks to more complex ones. Therefore, we advise you to gradually increase the number of words in the task, as well as the semantic load.
For successful reading comprehension, it is important to develop three areas:
- Work with oral speech
- Word and sentence work
- Working with text
Oral language work
Pay attention to how the child speaks, expresses his thoughts, answers questions and asks them.
At this stage, it is important to expand and refine vocabulary, develop the grammatical structure of speech and coherent speech.
What games for the development of oral speech can be played with a child?
- Correct the mistake. Think of incorrect phrases and sentences, ask them to correct them. For example, “Mom put on a bathrobe” or “There is a white cup on the table”
- Explain proverbs and sayings. How do you understand this statement?
- Come up with a riddle. Think of any object or animal, use as many adjectives as possible when describing
Word and sentence work
Here we also recommend a playful approach:
- Solve puzzles, crosswords, riddles, codes. Let the child feel like a detective
- Match what you read with the picture
- Collect an offer. It is necessary to pre-print the sentence, cut it into separate words
Working with text
It is important to choose tasks and manuals that train the ability to find basic and secondary information in a text, analyze texts of varying complexity, explain, reason and prove.
- Name the text
- Divide the text into semantic parts
- What’s next? (make up a continuation of the story)
- Draw an illustration for the text (use your favorite paints and pencils)
A selection of board games for the development of oral speech
- We clarify the meaning of the words: “Alias” (say differently)
- Expanding vocabulary: «Answer in 5 seconds»
- Telling stories: Impromptu
A selection of manuals for the development of the semantic side of reading
- Suschevskaya Texts with holes and tails.
- N. Bogomazova Reading. Understand. I reason.
- E.M. Plusina Learn to read and understand what you read.
For more information, watch the Working on Reading Comprehension webinar.
Speech therapist. Master in the direction «Modernization of PMPK activities in the education system. » Member of the Russian Dyslexia Association.
#Games and exercises
Working on reading comprehension
Playing and Reading: Parents and Professionals
Dyscalculia: why my child can’t count
How to teach a child to understand and retell what they read?
How to teach a child to understand and retell what he has read?
We often underestimate the role of retelling in school and life. In fact, this skill is needed not only in literature lessons.
Thoughtful reading and presentation of the essence of the text helps to solve the problem in mathematics, to master the content of the chapter from the textbook on the world around, and to understand the meaning of the text not only in the humanities, but also in the natural sciences. A child who cannot retell what he has read and formulate a thought in his own words is forced to memorize entire paragraphs of text. Memorization may help with assessment, but does not provide real knowledge.
Educational standards suggest that a preschooler is able to present about 30% of the meaning of the text, a junior school student — at least 50% , and an intermediate student — from 60 to 100% . Of course, not only teachers, but also parents should help to learn how to retell the text to the child. It is important to start classes on time, while the amount of information in the lessons is not too large.
When retelling, memory, thinking, logic and analysis, as well as emotional perception work. The child develops vocabulary, learns to compose full-fledged sentences and correctly express his thoughts, assessing the actions of the characters.
What is the presentation of the text and how is it evaluated?
Three types of retelling are conditionally distinguished depending on how completely the information is conveyed:
School teachers evaluate the presentation according to several criteria. The child should speak in his own phrases, without memorization. At the same time, figurative expressions characteristic of the author and unique vocabulary increase the quality of retelling. It is important to follow the logic of the narrative and establish causal relationships between events or phenomena. The completeness of the transfer of details for scientific books and speech expressiveness, if we are talking about literary works, are also evaluated.
Why do children have trouble retelling?
The main reason for difficulties in the presentation of what has been read lies in the poor understanding of the text. Boys and girls try to pronounce syllables correctly, focus on quickly reproducing letters and do it mechanically, without delving into the meaning of what is written. Part of the child’s problem is to blame for school reading speed tests, for which there is no necessary preparation.
There may be other reasons besides automatic reading. Fatigue and health problems can interfere with concentration and memory. A meager vocabulary and the fear of asking lead to the fact that some words and whole parts of the work remain incomprehensible. Due to the inability to select synonyms and build associative series, retelling can be scarce and incomplete.
How can I help my child learn to understand and retell the text?
It is important to find together the cause of failures and try to eliminate it. Do not scold the child and do not force him to reread the passage repeatedly until he understands the essence. Such methods only reduce motivation and discourage the desire to learn. It is necessary to change the algorithm of work and the approach to the exercises in order to achieve a correct understanding of the texts.
Reference images help to remember the essence better. Preschoolers can look at the illustrations in the book, and older kids can look at pictures drawn or printed from the Internet.
Narration from the point of view of the hero
Ask your son or daughter to describe the situation as the protagonist sees it. For a middle school student, you can complicate the task. Ask for the opinion of other actors as well. This will help to better understand the text and trace the reasons for actions.
It is interesting to recreate stories in faces with babies. Use finger puppets or any suitable toys to act out the story you read.
This is a basic technique that is suitable for students. The algorithm allows you to select semantic blocks and key thoughts in them, so that they can then be combined into a coherent story.
The technique is suitable for middle and high school students. The student keeps a special notebook in which he writes down information about all the books he read: the author, title, characters, main plot and other details. Practice trains mindfulness while reading, because after that you will need to answer questions. And it’s also convenient to return to the diary when preparing for exams in literature.
How to read and retell the text according to plan?
We offer a step-by-step guide on how to work with the algorithm and read thoughtfully.
Step 1. Have the child read the text and then ask questions about the content to check for understanding. If there are unfamiliar words, give them a definition.
Step 2. Together highlight the semantic blocks — paragraphs or sentences with a complete thought. This is the framework of our future retelling.
Step 3. Give a title to the first part and identify what it is about. Highlight key words that convey the main idea of the passage.
Step 4. Work through each semantic block in sequence and make a written plan with highlighting parts and key words. Based on these notes, it will be easier for the child to restore the content in memory.
Step 5. When the child has completed the first part, invite him to return to the text and check himself. We also sequentially retell all the blocks.
Step 6. Re-read the entire material and ask for a full outline of the material.
How to choose texts for training?
The right choice of material is very important, especially at the beginning of classes. The text should be age appropriate and interesting. Boring, too long, scientific or «adult» passages with an abundance of incomprehensible words cause problems, are poorly absorbed and reduce the motivation of the child.
Educators suggest several criteria for choosing good exercise materials:
- small volume allows you to read the text at a time, rhymes and short tales are suitable for preschoolers, short stories or chapters for elementary school students;
- interesting stories hold attention and are remembered better than a figurative description of nature or a chapter from a textbook;
- a few characters with vivid characters or details arouse interest and increase concentration on the task.
Suitable materials can be easily found in popular search engines according to the age and interests of the student. You can also use school books for independent reading.
Comprehension and Recitation Exercises
As with everything related to children’s learning, games help with reading comprehension exercises. We offer several effective options on how to spend time together in a fun and useful way.
Print out a short text and cut the sentences into separate phrases or words
Invite your son or daughter to put together a puzzle according to the meaning.
Choose a story, fairy tale or chapter from a textbook and ask them to cross out all the words without which it would be possible to keep the meaning of what was written
This technique teaches the child to understand the main essence of the text and to make a brief retelling of what they read
Invite the student to put himself in the place of the hero and come up with an alternative ending
This method will help to better understand the motives of the characters and remember the text, and will also become a good parenting technique.
Solve text puzzles and logic problems. In them, it is important to subtly understand the text you read in order to find the right solution.
Solve text puzzles and logic puzzles
It is important to understand the read text subtly in order to find the correct solution.
For the development of vocabulary, observation and imagination, it is useful to talk while walking.
Discuss the landscape around, invent stories with people and animals, guess the reasons for their actions, and so on. Active observation, speaking, fantasizing enriches speech, develops thinking and memory.
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