Our district requires us to administer comprehension assessments at six weeks intervals to all grades K-5. Here are my ideas on what to do to improve students’ performance on these assessments.
Students will need both Test Taking Strategies as well as Real World Comprehension Skills.
Test Taking Strategies
- Review the assessment.
This need not be done in one sitting.
However, students should have an opportunity to see where their mistakes were.
- Teach students to read question first.
It’s very difficult to keep all the text in one’s head while you attempt to answer questions about it. It is often easier to read the question first and then read to find an answer.
- Teach students to eliminate “silly” or obviously wrong answers.
Multiple choice tests will include two answer choices that are totally wrong, sometimes even ridiculous. The sooner students learn to game the tests, the better they’ll do.
- Teach a QAR (Question-Answer Relationship) Strategy
Some answers are “right there” whereas other answers require the reader to “think and search” or use only their own head. (worksheet available here)
Real World Comprehension
- Explicitly Teach Reading Strategies
Many teachers use the language of the reading strategies (predicting, making connections, summarizing, etc.) but how many students can explain what each of the strategies are or why you would use a particular strategy? Recommit to teaching the strategies, not just as incidental to reading but as the objective of lessons. (for help with reading strategies, including printable posters, see here)
- Promote Student Discussion
Through handing-off (student-led discussions) or some other means, allow students to discuss literature on their own terms with the teacher acting as the facilitator.
- Allow Practice with “Real” Books
Your basal reader is not enough. Students will be bored with reading and not develop their strategy use unless they have opportunities to read additional high interest literature in addition to anthology stories. Whole class readings, small group literature circles, or independent reading workshop, can give students that practice.
How do you improve comprehension?