The process of reading, being able to connect semantic input with the letters on the page, does not mean much if language learners cannot understand what they have read.
The following exercises, modified from Sherrill Flora’s Everyone Reads! will give you and your students some fun ways to make sure the meaning came through the words on the page.
Try These 10 Great Ways to Check Reading Comprehension
Grab Bag Goodies
After your students have read a story, check their comprehension with this sequencing activity. Write the major points of the story on note cards, put those cards into a grab bag, and shake it up. Each member of a small group should then pull one of the cards from the bag and place in its correct place in a sequence. Once group members have put all the cards in their correct place in the timeline, ask the rest of the class to check if the sequencing is correct. If it is, the group should then retell the story using the cards.
The Funny Papers
Blank comic panels are a great resource for the reading teacher. Once your students have finished a story selection, give each person a blank comic page in which to retell the story. (You can find dozens of empty templates online.) Your students should then retell the major events in the story by filling in the empty blocks with pictures and dialogue (when appropriate). Once students are finished, you can display the comics on a bulletin board or compile them into a book for students to read during independent reading time. You will know if they understood what they read, and they will enjoy expressing their comprehension in a creative way!
Good Book Glimpse
Your students may enjoy a different creative expression of a book they have recently finished reading, and their classmates may enjoy seeing it as well. So rather than a book report, try this activity with your ESL students. Ask each person to bring in a shoebox for the activity. She should then choose a favorite scene from the book and illustrate it on a piece of paper the same size as a small inside panel of the shoebox. (You can also have your student illustrate the scene and then trim it to fit on the short side of the box.) Once she is done with the illustration, she should glue the picture inside the box, and you should cut a small hole on the opposite side of the box. When she looks through the hole, she sees the illustration. She can also attach items inside the box to give a 3D effect for the viewer. On the top of the box, have each student create an original book cover that includes the title and author of the book she read. If you keep a collection of these peep boxes in a corner of your classroom, you may find that your students are inspired to read the books that their classmates have also read, and then he can create his own peep box on that book for the book box collection.
Reading a good story can easily cross over into a writing activity for your ESL students. When your students find a character they love in something you have read, ask them to write about the further adventures of that character. This will not only help them understand what they read, it will give them practice using vocabulary specific to that character found in the piece your class read. You can compile all these short fan fiction pieces into a book for the rest of the class to read at their leisure during independent reading time.
If your students are a fan of big books, this comprehension activity will be perfect for them. As a class, create your own big book for a story you have just read. Prepare 5-8 pieces of poster board for the book and write a description at the bottom of each page retelling each piece of the story. Working in groups, have your students illustrate what is described at the bottom of the page. Once all the pictures are complete, let your students decide what order they should appear in the book. Then secure the pages, read the book back to your class and make it available to your students during independent reading time.
Let your students relive their favorite moments from a story you have read with this activity. Ask a student to share his or her favorite moment from the reading selection, and have him write it on a notecard or write it on one yourself. Ask another student and then another to do the same. When you have about a dozen cards completed, ask your students to organize them in any way that is logical. There may be several organizations which are possible.
Map it Out
After finishing a fictional selection, ask your students to create a map of the setting for the story or book. They can either draw the setting or create a three dimensional model of it using cardboard cutouts. Have your students include any characters in the map as well.
Give each of your students two notecards and have him write true on one and false on the other. Then, read aloud a statement about the selection your class read. Make sure some of your statements are true and others are false. Each person should hold up his vote and his card after you read each statement. Have students check each other to make sure all agree. For the false statements, ask your students what they would need to do to make them true.
Encourage your students to act out in class with this post reading activity. Ask individuals or groups of students to pose as the characters in the story in a particular scene. Then, take a photo of your students. After printing the pictures out, bring them to class the next day and ask your students to explain what it happening in the book at the moment they are acting out!
Cast the Characters
After reading a selection as a class, ask pairs of students to write a description of each of the characters in detail. Then, have the pair decide which of their classmates is most like the characters in the story. If you like, you may want to have the students then reenact parts of the story.
Reading is only the start of what reading class is all about. Making sure your students understand what they have read is just as important as the word-by-word process.
Hopefully these comprehension exercises will inspire you and your students not only to read but also to understand and then put that knowledge into practice.
What are some of your favorite comprehension checking activities?