Comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading and should be assessed before, during, and after reading. Readers of all ages should be able to successfully comprehend a text on their independent reading level and instructional level with guidance. Through a read-aloud experience, often of a higher-level text, listening comprehension is evaluated.
So, how do teachers check for a student’s post-reading comprehension in all of these scenarios? The following literacy and learning strategies that can be implemented during reading instruction are also most effective for checking post-reading comprehension for students of all ages in any grade level.
This strategy promotes critical thinking, conversation, and collaboration, and is best used after a whole group reading comprehension lesson. In this manner, a whole class of students can respond to a text by participating in a think-pair-share exercise. A think-pair-share means exactly what it sounds like it means. After hearing any piece of text, teachers provide students with a question stem or prompt for students to individually think about and answer on their own. Then, they pair up with a partner to share their thinking with each other before the partners share their responses out to the entire class.
When this strategy is used correctly, the students are leading their thinking and discussions while teachers are facilitating. The teachers are walking around listening in to the students’ conversations and asking additional probing or clarifying questions when needed.
This strategy can be altered by putting students into groups and assigning a specific question or prompt to each group while the teacher, again, facilitates. This time, when the sharing component begins, the students are learning something brand new because every group has a different topic to think and brainstorm about with their peers. The think-pair-share model allows teachers to observe students’ understanding and comprehension of an article, book, poem, or any text selected for a specific lesson or unit.
Graphic organizers are another way to check post-comprehension after a whole group or small group instruction. It is also an easy way to assess a child’s individual comprehension after an independent reading assignment. Graphic organizers are used to help readers think about what they are reading before, during, and after reading. They are selected to match a specific reading comprehension skill or strategy.
Teachers strategically select text to match a reading comprehension standard they want to teach. This may include understanding main idea, theme, or cause and effect. During an initial literacy lesson, teachers model how to complete a graphic organizer to match the selected standard. Graphic organizers are used to help readers think about what they are reading before, during, and after reading.
A great example of how to appropriately implement this strategy is to model the use of a cause-and-effect graphic organizer during a whole group lesson using nonfiction text. The students can work in partners or on their own to the complete the organizer after reading. The same graphic organizer can be used in small group instruction using leveled nonfiction text as well. Finally, after practice, teachers can assign a nonfiction article and the same graphic organizer template for students to independently complete to assess post-reading comprehension of cause and effect.
Retelling and summarizing are post-reading comprehension strategies students can use to show their full understanding of a text. While both comprehension strategies focus on highlighting the sequence, characters, setting, problem, and solution of a text in any genre, there are also a few differences.
Retelling is a comprehension skill that requires a reader to tell the details in order of everything that happened in a story from beginning to end. It is best assessed in a one-on-one setting between teacher and student and most appropriate for emerging and beginning readers. The student orally retells the story while the teacher makes note of the amount of story elements and sequence of events present in this child’s retelling.
While many students like to turn a summary into a retelling, the expectation of summarizing is different. Summarizing is a more complex comprehension strategy because it requires the student to be able to provide the main idea, characters, problem, and solution in the most concise way possible. Summarizing is also sequential, but rather than focusing on the details of the story, it focuses on the overview and takeaways from the text. Summaries are written examples of post-reading comprehension strategies that are most appropriately used for upper-grade and fluent readers.
QAR (Question Answer Relationships)
Questioning is a key strategy in comprehension, and the QAR model helps children understand question and answer relationships in a variety of text. This strategy can also be used after a whole group or small group lesson and can certainly be implemented after independent reading.
The QAR explores four types of questions that students will most often encounter during reading. “Right there” questions assess literal questioning skills while “think and search” questions require more inferential thinking skills. “On my own” questions can be presented without actually reading the text because it focuses on a child’s background knowledge. Lastly, the “author and you” questions are answered based on combining the information in the text and the reader’s personal experiences. The four square template of questioning can be used after any text to evaluate a student’s understanding in multiple forms.
Exit tickets are another way to quickly check post-reading comprehension skills and strategies after a whole group or small group literacy lesson. An exit ticket consists of one or two questions to evaluate a child’s understanding of the text. The question is most often found to be in the form of multiple-choice, true or false, a cloze sentence, or a short answer response. Exit tickets can quickly identify the students who fully comprehend a reading standard or objective after reading a text.
The one or two question format can also help teachers determine whether to reteach a comprehension standard and how to teach it so that students can best understand. After collecting student responses, the teacher can explain to students how to understand the question and how to figure out the correct answer. Therefore, when the same question is presented with another text at a later date, students will be familiar with how to successfully answer it.
Writing About Reading
While comprehension is the ultimate goal in reading, writing about reading is the most advanced post-comprehension assignment students can complete. The short answer responses, graphic organizers, and written summaries are a more guided way for students to practice written comprehension responses.
However, writing about reading provides the opportunity for students to analyze and interpret a text. Examples may include writing about the problem in the story from the perspective of one character, writing an alternate ending to the text, or writing what could happen next despite the fact that the story has ended.
Students can also use research to show their post-comprehension and write further about a nonfiction topic. Narrative and expository writing that correlate to the text help teachers to understand a child’s deepest understanding of a text after reading. Various writing assignments can be given for students to complete independently or during a modeled interactive writing lesson. All of these strategies help teachers to vary their instructional practices and check student post-reading comprehension.