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Comprehension Strategies

How to help your second grader read and understand

Fix it up
As second graders read, they "listen" to themselves. When something doesn't sound right, your child needs to figure out the problem. Teach your child to stop and fix it up. This strategy is sometimes called self-monitoring or repairing comprehension. Encourage your second grader to use the following reading strategies to help problem solve and decode while reading:
  1. Stop and reread.
  2. Ask what is confusing.
  3. Read ahead and figure out what would make sense at the tricky part.
  4. Read more slowly.
  5. Use the punctuation.
  6. Search for clues (the picture, the previous text, the beginning of the word).
  7. Ask someone (a parent, a teacher, or a reading buddy).
Give your child these words to use.
  • "I'd better reread this. It doesn't sound (or look) right."
  • "Maybe if I keep reading, I will understand what is going on."
  • "This is a new word for me. I wonder what it means."
  • "Does the picture help me know what's going on in this story?"

How to help your second grader read and understand

What to do before you even start:

Switch on your brain
When adults pick up a novel for the very first time, they usually look at the title and cover art, read the synopsis of the story on the inside flap or back cover, read about the author and preview the first few pages of the story. This sets up the story and activates the process of comprehension. Readers start to think about the ideas in the book before they even start to read.

Your second grader should do the same thing, by taking a "picture walk" of the book. When you settle down with your child and a new book, spend a few minutes looking over the book before you begin to read. Look at the cover of the book - what's the picture on the front? What's the title of the book?

Make a prediction on what the book will be about. Look for an "About the Author" page. Have you read other books by this same author? What does this author like to write about? Does it look like this book will be about the same kinds of things? Leaf through the pages of the book together. Take a look at the chapter titles and any illustrations. Make more predictions about the story, ask questions or make connections ("that spider web looks just like the one we saw outside on the porch"). When you take a picture walk with your child, you are building a foundation for comprehension success.

Lead with your child’s interest. It’s important that they are excited to read and that they choose what they read. Re-read books over and over again.

Ask questions
Ask questions and search for answers before, during and after reading. Second graders are naturally curious. This strategy is all about being an active, rather than a passive reader. When readers have questions and are actively thinking about the answers as they read, they will more fully understand the book.

As you read with your second grader, help improve comprehension by asking the five "W" questions: Who, Where, When, What and Why.
  • Who is the main character(s) in this story?
  • Who are some of the other characters? T
  • Tell me about one of them (what does she look like, is she like anyone you know, do you think she would be a good friend?)
  • Where did this story take place (China, a forest)?
  • When did this story happen (the 1800s, the future, anytime)?
  • What happened in the story? (Was there a problem to be solved? What was the solution?)
  • Why do you think the main character acted the way he/she did?
  • Why did the other characters say and do what they did?
When you are done reading with your second grader, ask more questions.
  • What do you think the author was trying to teach us?
  • Did you learn anything from this book that will help you?
  • What are you still wondering about now that we've finished reading?