How to Improve Your Child’s Reading Comprehension in 5 Minutes

by Rachel

in Hands-On Learning Games

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reading comprehension gamesWinter break is coming up, and I’m betting a lot of parents out there are plan on working on reading comprehension activities with your child.

Improving your child’s reading comprehension doesn’t have to be a month long odyssey in Worksheet Hell.

Let me guess: you’ve got your fancy-shmancy workbook, assorted writing supplies (and you know there’s going to be a lot of writing; you may have lied to your kid but WE know better than that, don’t we?), and you’re raring to go.

Well, not exactly. Because when you put away the new workbook, you kind of happened upon the old ones that you really meant to finish someday. But this one will be different, right?

Wrong.

Improve your child’s reading comprehension in 5 minutes – or less

There are other ways of improving your child’s reading comprehension, with nary a workbook in site. Ways that your child will find fun, stress-free, and that don’t sacrifice one little rain forest tree.

And best of all, you can play this reading comprehension game in 5 minutes or less.

The goal: Help your child remember more details while they read

Many children with reading comprehension difficulties have trouble sorting out the chaff from the wheat. They don’t know what things they need to remember, and what things are relatively unimportant. So they end up trying to remember everything, which of course doesn’t work.

In this game, you’ll use a fun song to help your child focus on the part they need to remember.

How to play:

  1. Choose a song. If you don’t know the words, you can find them by doing a search for “lyrics for…” online. Choose a song both you and your child enjoy- no point in torturing either of you.
  2. It should also be a song with a refrain, but with more than two or three lines. Some examples: Yellow Submarine, and Don’t Worry Be Happy, are some examples of simpler ones that are fun and easy to use.
  3. Listen to the song a few times with your child. You don’t have to sit and concentrate on it, think-tank style. Just have it playing in the background while you go about your day.
  4. Once your child has heard the song about 2-3 times, you’re ready for the next step: the Challenge. In it, you or your child sing one line of the song, but leave out the last word. For example, in the Don’t Worry Be Happy song, you sing “Here is a little song I -  ,” your child needs to fill in, “wrote.”
  5. Continue your way working through the song until you finish it.

Bonus Points:

You can play this like a game show and give bonus points for top performance. For example, challenge your child to remember the key words at the end, without singing each line. So she would say “wrote-note” for the first couplet of the song. The more she knows, the more points she gets.

You can have them trade in points for a special night out with mom and dad, a toy they’ve been wanting to get (and you planned on getting them anyway – why not let them work for it?), or whatever else you want.

And that’s it. Play this game daily and in just a few days you’ll see a marked improvement in your child’s ability to remember details. And remember, the more your child plays reading comprehension games, the better they’ll get when they hit the books.

 

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

claire December 14, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Not sure that I understand Step 5. Do you just keep adding a word every few times, eg, wrote-note-boat-float, etc.. And with bonus, they don’t sing each line, instead say the words? Could you please explain the game some more to me? I’m a little unclear about how it helps children remember details.
Many thanks,
Claire

Rachel December 14, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Thanks for stopping by Claire. Happy to explain:

The problem kids have with remembering details is two-fold. One, they have to know what’s important to remember. Not all details are important – only some. Second, they have to be able to remember the details themselves, which is hard to do if their auditory memory is weak (like most children with language delays).

This game focuses on the second half of that: helping kids strengthen their auditory memory so they can remember the details. In order to make it easier for kids to practice on remembering details, this game takes advantage of songs (which are easier to remember than just plain words) and rhyme (which makes it easier to remember a pair of things – another problem for kids with language delays).

When you place this or any other game that I have on this site, my goal is that kids should be at least 80% successful with what they’re doing. That’s the percentage that scientifically has been proven to be the point where kids learn the most. If your game is too easy (i.e. the child is 90% successful) then your child won’t want to play because it’s too boring. And they won’t learn anything either.

If it’s less than that, than it’s too hard for them, and they give up. Too hard =no learning=your child refuses to play.

I want your child to be right at the “sweet spot.” That’s why I have a “tips” section (here I called it a bonus) so that you can have plenty of room to customize the game and make it easier for your child. In order from easy to hard, here are the ways you can scale this for your child:

-have your child only fill in the word that completes the second line (“note”). This is easier because the word “wrote” helps clue the child into “note” which rhymes.
-have your child fill in both ending words (“wrote” and “note”)
-have your child remember the ending words WITHOUT you cluing them by singing part of the verse. In this case, they’d have to tell you without singing “wrote/note, boat/float,etc.” The number of pairs they tell you depends on how good they are at it. Some kids can manage only one pair, and some two pairs.

No matter what level you choose, you’ll always go through the song slowly, and in pieces. So the first time you play it you might ask your child to only remember the ending word of the second line (“note”), and go through the whole song that way. By the third time they might be getting better at it, and maybe they’ll be able to tell you both “wrote” and “note.”

After doing several songs like this, your child will be able to repeat the whole line, not just the ending word.

I hope that makes it clearer. If not, let me know, I’ll be happy to explain some more.
(BTW- this game also helps with your child knowing what to remember, but that’s too long of an explanation for a comment, I think).

everlearn April 22, 2012 at 6:25 pm

This is an interesting activity to help with comprehension. Have you found this comprehension activity translates to success in reading in addition to memory?

Rachel April 22, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Good readers actually have several skills that help them read well. Being able to read whole sentences (not just word by word) fluently, being able to understand what you read, picking out the important facts from the not-so important facts, and remembering what you read are just a few.

So if you’re wondering whether or not this activity will help with reading, I’d have to say that it depends. This activity can help your child pick out the important from the unimportant, and it will help them remember what they read. But I would advise to try this with more than one song, since it takes a bit of practice.

At least it’s fun!

Acumen December 12, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Thank you for the article. I have never thought of it. It could be a great way in improving reading comprehension.

Rachel December 12, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Glad that you found it helpful!

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