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Exercises to Help With Reading Comprehension

By Josh Baum ; Updated June 13, 2017

If you notice that your child is having difficulty retaining the information he reads, it could be a simple matter of poor reading comprehension skills. Reading comprehension is a skill separate from literacy and involves digesting the information to give it meaning. Additional practice and instruction is sometimes necessary to fully develop those skills and keep them sharp.

The K-W-L Process

The K-W-L Process is a reading comprehension exercise detailed in "Reading Comprehension: Strategies for Independent Learners" by Camille Blachowicz and Donna Ogle. In this instance, "K-W-L" respectively stands for "Know", "Want to Know" and "Learned," which serve as categories readers can segment their reading comprehension experience. This exercise works best with an instructor or moderator and a group of readers, but it can be used independently or with a single reader.

To begin, ask your youngster what she already knows about the topic she's about to read, and write these concepts under a "K" column on a blackboard. Next, discuss what your child wants to know about the subject, and write these concepts under "W." After this, instruct your child to read the material, then question her about what she learned from the reading. Write these concepts under "L." Have your child write a brief essay summarizing what she knew about the topic, what she wondered about, and what she learned after completing this process.

Retelling the Story

Summarizing a narrative's main events is a helpful way to reinforce reading comprehension, according to "Reading Comprehension" by Alyssa Moran and Tracey Orzo. A brief illustrative exercise for this concept involves writing one sentence separately on five strips of paper with each sentence describing a step in a process that only makes sense in one specific order.

Mix the strips up, then work with your child to arrange them in the order that makes sense. After this, explain how authors use words like "first", "next", "then" and "last" to help readers follow the series of events. Have your youngster read a short narrative essay full of sequenced events either alone or as a group. Afterward, ask him to think of five main events throughout the story and the order in which they occurred. Have him write out five sentences describing each of these events in the proper order and encourage him to use the sequence-specific words discussed earlier.


An exercise called "CATAPULT," described by Jeff Zwiers in his book, "Building Reading Comprehension Habits in Grades 6-12," encourages better reading comprehension by researching and thinking about a piece of literature before reading it. Each letter in the word "CATAPULT" represents a concept that each reader should spend a few minutes researching and writing about in advance.

"C" is for Cover--what does the book's cover suggest might be inside? "A" is for Author--what other types of literature has the author written? "T" is for Title--what does the title suggest the story is about? "A" is for Audience--who is this story written for? "P" is for page one--read the first page and consider where the story might go from there. "U" is for Underlying Message--what is the main concept the author wants readers to understand? "L" is for Look--look through the book for illustrations, photos, graphs and other visuals, and consider what they suggest for the work as a whole. Finally, "T" is for Time, Place and Characters--based on all your previous research, what do you know about these three categories in this work?

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