Reading Comprehension Strategies for Every Elementary Grade Level

October 5, 2021

reading comprehension strategies

As children progress in their reading journey, the expectations and associated grade-level benchmarks will evolve and become more complex. In the early elementary years, children will be learning to read by mastering sound blends, sight words and through decoding skills. In the upper elementary grades (like fourth and fifth), children will likely focus on reading to learn.

As reading becomes a fundamental part of the learning process, comprehension skills will need to involve deeper thinking and abstract understanding. Comprehension mastery may be a struggle for children early on or it may develop later. Reading comprehension strategies can differ by grade level, as each year brings new literacy benchmarks. Try these grade-level appropriate reading comprehension strategies to help children who struggle in this area of reading.

Reading Comprehension Strategies

Kindergarten and First Grade

In kindergarten and first grade, comprehension expectations will likely be quite basic. There are many comprehension worksheets available online that can help parents to work with children who struggle with story understanding.

When reading together at home, parents can ask questions related to the w/h questions of comprehension: who, what, where, when, why and how. Ask about the story and what happened. Can children identify the main characters? The setting also might be an important aspect of the story. Discuss where the story took place.

There are also some fun activities that parents can use to help children work on early comprehension skills. Try these fun activities and games:

Comprehension Beach Ball

Making a comprehension beach ball is an easy activity; just use a beach ball and write questions related to those w/h prompts. Toss the ball and whatever question or prompt faces up is what children need to discuss.

Comprehension Hopscotch

A hopscotch game also can help children work on comprehension, too. This is the same concept as the comprehension ball but using paper tiles written with the prompts. Create a hopscotch tile board using different colors of construction paper. For each colorful tile, write a comprehension question or prompt. Then play hopscotch!

Act out the Story

Help children put on a play about their book or story. Create finger puppets or make puppets out of construction paper and popsicle sticks. Grab some toy props for the scenery or have children draw background scenery using a dry erase board or a paper notebook (anything that can be propped). Ask children what happened in the story; see if they remember the basic details. Parents can write it down and then help children put on the play.

Second and Third Grade

In the middle years of elementary school (second and third grade), children will likely begin to read shorter chapter books. As stories are longer, the details of those stories might become more involved, too. The site K5 Learning posts worksheets to practice reading comprehension for each grade level. In second grade, comprehension begins to focus on the details (per the site). While students will need to know the basics of the story, they’ll also need to understand the ‘meat’ that adds layers to the text. The worksheets also include help with sequencing and story elements (like plot, setting, etc.).

In third grade, the site’s worksheets include a focus on the difference between facts and options, as well as exercises on making predictions, inferencing and identifying different aspects of the characters. Beyond worksheets, how can parents work on these skills at home?

Parents can still create comprehension beach balls. However, they may need to focus on prompts or questions to delve deeper into the story.

Reading comprehension bookmarks also could help children think about the story as they read. These bookmarks can be made by children; they often include different prompts or thoughtful questions related to the book.

Reading Rockets also offers several great suggestions for helping second graders with reading comprehension at home…although these recommendations also could be helpful for third graders, too. The site recommends asking children to make predictions while they are reading (or parents are reading with children); parents also should ask questions about the story as they read.  Reading Rockets also recommends encouraging children to draw a map of the book’s setting.

Fourth and Fifth Grade

By the end of elementary school (fourth and fifth grade), children will begin to delve deeper into the story. They will be making predictions and reading between the lines (inferencing). They may be identifying the unique characteristics of the main characters, too.

In fourth and fifth grade, reading is a fundamental part of the learning process. Not only will children need to show more advanced understanding of stories, but they may have to display this ability across subjects, too.

Parents will need to understand the grade-level expectations so they can help them at home. These rubrics are often provided to parents at a grade-level orientation event. Or parents can simply reach out to the child’s teacher.

Older children can benefit from using comprehension bookmarks as they read. These bookmarks can include more detailed prompts. However, children also could use bookmarks that include blank spaces so they can write down important information from the story.

Children in these late elementary years also will be primarily reading chapter books. Parents may or may not be reading with or to children in these later grades. Students, when reading silently, also could keep a notebook handy to take notes after each chapter.

Graphic organizers also can be used by students to keep track of the details of the book. These are a bit like story roadmaps, and graphic organizers can focus on different aspects of the story. Some are designed to focus on characters, others focus on plot. Teachers could provide parents with graphic organizer worksheets to use when reading at home, or parents might be able to find these resources online.

Reading Comprehension Strategies

Finding Additional Help

For some children, comprehension is a major reading struggle. While parents can use multiple resources and techniques to help children at home, some children might need more one-on-one instruction than parents can provide. Children who are reading below grade level also might need a more lesson-based approach.

Parents could research private reading tutors that can help children with comprehension skills after school. However, private tutors often charge per hour; if children need weekly sessions (or more!), parents on a tight budget might struggle to afford private tutoring services.

Children also could qualify for additional reading instruction at school. If children are reading below grade-level expectations, parents might meet with the child’s teacher to inquire about any additional help or a specialized reading program. Additional testing or evaluations may be required.

Reading apps or online reading programs also could be used when children need more immersive and instructional reading guidance. There are many reading comprehension apps and programs available, and parents might need to research what program or reading app is best for their child.

Programs that offer instruction for both fluency and comprehension also could be a great choice for parents looking for general reading instruction for their child. Readability provides a lesson-based approach that helps children with both aspects of reading.

Readability also includes a built-in AI tutor that acts as the child’s instructor via Readability lessons. The AI tutor is programmed with voice recognition software so it can identify each child’s unique vocal inflections. During lessons, the AI tutor will help the child correct any mispronunciations. At the end of each story, the tutor also will ask questions related to comprehension.

When children demonstrate mastery of both reading fluency and comprehension, they advance to the next level of the program. Some children might advance quickly, but others might need to stay at their current level longer.

Parents may wonder what level their child should begin with when starting to read via Readability. If parents know their child’s reading level, they can set the program to begin at that level. However, the program also can help determine the child’s reading level.

Reading programs shouldn’t be boring, and, hopefully, the also shouldn’t feel like another homework assignment. Readability was designed to be engaging and immersive. The stories on Readability include colorful pictures and interactive features; for example, children can click a word to find out its meaning. Children also aren’t alone during their lessons; the AI tutor will always be there to help and guide them.

Results are important, and parents who are focused on helping their child meet reading benchmarks will want assurance that their child is making progress. With Readability, parents are provided with their own private portal—the Parent Dashboard. This area provides parents with a detailed look at their child’s reading progress; parents can see how many words their child reads per minute, their current reading level and how long their child used Readability. Parents also can transform this data into an individualized reading report that can be sent to the child’s teacher.

While Readability provides a multimodal approach to literacy, parents might be unsure if the program will work for their child. Many programs including Readability—understand that parents might be hesitant to commit to a program before seeing it in action. For this reason, Readability offers a free trial period so parents and their children can explore all the features of the program. Children will have access to stories and the AI tutor for one week (seven days) for free; during this time, parents can help children work on the program and gauge their child’s interest, too.

Looking for a fun and immersive lesson-based program to help a struggling reader with comprehension? Try Readability today!