Nonfiction Comprehension Fun!!

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I am always looking for better ways to work on nonfiction comprehension with my older students.  The teachers are always complaining that the students aren't carryover the skills into their classrooms.  But if you can tell my style by now, I don't like to do things traditionally!

I will show you how I took one motivating nonfiction story and targeted multiple goals over several sessions!

Have you heard of the book, “Hi-Lo Nonfiction Passages for Struggling Readers: Grades 4–5: 80 High-Interest/Low-Readability Passages With Comprehension Questions and Mini-Lessons for Teaching Key Reading Strategies?”  I definitely recommend it for those working in a public school with school aged students.


I found this great story on the  history of video games!!  Hi, motivation!!  Even the title of the story targeted goals: past and present!  We started off using this story by comparing/contrasting past and present, using the different verb tenses (2 goals right there!!).  We generated a list on my dry erase board with what my students thought video games were like in the past.  They got to predict what they would learn in the story.  We left this list up as we read the story.  They got a kick out of who was closest to the truth and who was very far off (I threw in some silly responses just to make them think and laugh like “I think only 6 feet tall men could play video games”).

I have many students working on expressing main ideas, recalling details, and using note-taking techniques/graphic organizers to organize thoughts/help recall/express summaries/etc.  I took some post-it notes and cut them up into strips.  I placed the pile of post-it strips in the middle of my therapy table.  As we read the story, we stopped after each paragraph and my students had to generate a main idea of the paragraph read.  We used my strategy “what was it mainly about and what happened to it?”  This helped guide them to narrow down all of those details into ONE sentence!!  We wrote these sentences on the post-its and they stuck them onto their papers next to the paragraph it went with.

Once we were done reading and writing/expressing main ideas, my students had fun verbally telling summaries using their “notes,” expressing sequences, and answering recall questions.  They loved that their post-its helped them locate the answers in paragraphs they couldn't automatically recall on their own.  It definitely reduced the “I don't knows” and “I can't find its.”  My students even got a chance to come up with their own comprehension questions and challenge each other!!

We then used my dry erase board and completed a Venn diagram to compare video games from the past to today.  My students did great pulling out the details from their story and using their own knowledge of video games!  They felt so successful!!  We also had discussions about what we think will happen to video games in the future!  Some got to draw and write about it too!  It was a great way to work on descriptive writing and using future tense verbs!

The stories in this book come with comprehension/vocabulary/grammar questions.  But who wants to answer questions with boring pencils?!  I took out my fun Crayola Stamper markers and let them stamp the answers!!!  So much more fun and motivating!!!  They didn't mind doing boring worksheets!

Since I used this story over several sessions and we read this story over and over and reviewed our post-it notes over and over, we focused on a different comprehension skill each day.  One day we worked on answering higher level thinking questions.  Students knew they had to use their notes and their own knowledge to generate answers, they couldn't just look back to find it!  Another day, we worked on using context clues to generate word meanings.  We looked at what the paragraph was about, what we knew about the topic, looked for clue words before and after the unknown word, and substituted all of the multiple choice answers into the sentence to see which makes the most sense!  My students did great using their strategies!!

So, let's recap, how many goals did I target with this activity?

  • Past, present, future tense verbs
  • Sequencing
  • Main idea
  • Recalling details
  • Inferencing
  • Compare/contrast
  • Predicting
  • Descriptive writing
  • Generating questions
  • Context clues
  • Expressing summaries
  • Note-taking
  • Conversational skills
WOAH!!! Now that is a lot!!  I am a huge fan of this book and recommend it!  I also recommend some of these strategies to target these common core skills that correlate to speech and language goals!  I hope you can use some of these ideas if not ALL in your therapy rooms!!

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