Reading Comprehension: Read All About It!

With the start of the school year around the corner, I always love to research new teaching strategies and skills I can incorporate into my classroom for the following year. My main research focus this year is how to increase comprehension within the classroom environment.

comprehension tips, teach reading

Below, are some of the best resources I have found for teachers and parents when it comes to understanding the word “comprehension” and how we can best support our children.

  1. At a basic level, providing graphic organizers can help students organize their thoughts and questions. I prefer graphic organizers with lines since spacing can be an issue for a lot of students.
  2. Students should make connections with the text. Simple prompts such as “What does this remind you of?” “Has something like this ever happen to you before?” can help students connect the dots and remember more details after they are done reading a passage.
  3. Students need to make a habit of asking more questions as they read. This helps create a purpose for reading as well as an interest. I do something in my classroom called “Stop and Ask”. After one paragraph, students need to generate a question about what they just read. This helps a lot of students reread the passage and create discussion.
  4. Students also need to dissect what type of question is being asked of them. According to reading rockets, there are four different types of questions. Please see the image below.
  5. Lastly, students should feel your excitement about reading. Decoding and comprehending texts is hard, and teachers and parents need to be constant cheerleaders. We should model out loud how we want our children to approach literature by stopping, asking questions, visualizing, and making  connections with the text.

Here are some additional resources for further research:




Four different types of questions: (courtesy of reading rockets)

teaching reading, asking questions, increase

Story Elements

When reading, students need to think about the different elements that make up a typical story. Here is a poster we use when we do a read aloud or read a story in a small group. Students can write right on the poster or write on post-it notes. This poster uses the images found in the reading and writing program, Framing Your Thoughts, which is created by Project Read. The graphic symbols remind students of the different elements found in a story.

read aloud, comprehension, setting, characters, problem, wish, solution,





Back-to-School Highlights

I find the first week of school to be one of the most exciting parts of the year. Teachers are fresh, students are ready to learn, and the upcoming year is filled with endless possibilities. I wanted to highlight some of my favorite activities my classroom participated in during the first week of school.

This year, I decided to start each day with a morning meeting. I am following the responsive classroom approach, which outlines the morning meeting time with a greeting, sharing time, an activity, and a morning message. My kids and I have loved this time to connect! I am using Roxann Kriete’s Morning Meeting book to guide my practice.

responsive classroom, classroom community, teaching, early ed

My first homework assignment was for students to create a “Me Bag”. This gave them something to share during our morning meeting the second day of school. Students generally feel comfortable talking about things they like and activities they are good at. Students brought in gymnastic medals, dance shoes, toy cars, pictures, and special monuments bought while traveling.

homework, new teachers, back to school, first day

Next, we talked about how we wanted our classroom to run for the year. Together, we created “the great classmate is” chart shown below. Students in higher grades can write their ideas and children in lower grades can draw pictures of the words written on the chart. We had students drawing people being responsible, helping others, and saying kind words to others. After we completed the chart, we acted out different scenarios in which students could practice being a great classmate. The next day, a student in our class had the opportunity to do one of the scenarios we acted out the day before. It was a great moment for all!

back to school activities, community building, kind classroom ideas

During our professional days before starting the official school year, our administration emphasized the importance of goal-setting. My classroom used BrainPop’s “setting goals” video to introduce what a goal was and how to set a goal. I had to break down each SMART step for my students, but felt it was a good video to help my students set their own goals for the year.

brain pop, videos about goal setting, SMART goals, back to school activities

One of the goals for our classroom this year is to think before we speak. Our classroom talked about the importance of good communication and speech. I posted this acronym on a bulletin board close to my desk to help guide all of our talking for the year. This “think before you speak” practice is helpful when doing partner or group work, and creates a safe and friendly classroom environment for all.

think before you speak, classroom, kind, back to school activities

Another importance aspect of a great classroom is putting up functional posters and schedules that guide student learning. The “I love reading” bulletin board in my classroom outlines what great readers do, highlights our small group schedule which will eventually showcase our different stations and has a poster that records how many books each student will, in time, read throughout the month. During our goal-setting activity, my students’ individual goals are to read between 8-12 books by September 30th. To help achieve this goal, we are using our “We love reading” chart to record the number of books each student reads in class and at home.

bulletin board ideas, back to school, classroom decoration

We have had a great first week and I am looking forward to learning with my students throughout this school year. I am thankful for all the ideas I was able to pull from the internet and hope this post can guide your second week of teaching! Thanks as always for reading. 🙂

Teaching the 5 Literary Elements

“Plot, Character, Conflict, Theme, Setting…” An interactive Prezi presentation that teaches the five literary elements through style and song.

Recommended Use: 3rd to 8th grade (Applicable in high school for some students/settings)


Other video resources can be found on BrainPop.

Top Disability Sites for 2014

With the end of the year approaching, I thought I would share my favorite blogs/sites of 2014. For people who are interested in learning more about disabilities (latest research, ideas, personal testimonies, and stories); here is a list of some sites to check out.

1. (Sara Hendred: co-founder of the Accessible Icon Project)

2. (Interview of people with disabilities)

3. (Features women with disabilities writing to their younger selves)

4. (Girl with autism who shares personal experiences and stories)

**Recommendations 2 and 3 based on sites mentioned on

A Shared Vision of Access

The president of my school, Dr. Michael Lindsay, recently wrote an article for the Huffington Post commenting on The Accessible Icon Project and Beyond Disabilities Week, the focus week I hosted at my college. He explained his understanding of  “shared vision” and wrote how Gordon College  from its beginning has always been a place that valued access and opportunity.

The recent focus week has generated a lot of conversation that concentrates on how society views individuals with disabilities. These conversations, which have been informally held in the cafeteria and dorm rooms, have also taken an academic approach through various research papers presented in class. Many professors have also started hosting conversations in their classrooms and have been assigning reading materials that get students to think about access, ability, and disability within the context of education and society.

Please join the conversation by reading my President’s article here: A Shared Vision of Access.


The Accessible Icon Project on The Neighborhood Writing Alliance

I was recently asked to write a guest blog post for the Neighborhood Writing Alliance, a blog based in Chicago. The blog aims to  provide opportunities to provoke dialogue, build community, and provoke change. My piece on The Accessible Icon Project was just published today. Feel free to read it here.

Website of the Month Choice: EveryBody-an artifact history of Disabilities in America

A professor from Gordon College recommended this new website: This website aims to collect the history of various people with disabilities who have been present throughout American History. Since people with disabilities have been stigmatized in years past, many stories have not made it into history textbooks because of the person’s physical or mental condition. This site’s goal is to save those stories and make them available for the general public. The website is even available in Spanish. Be sure to take a look at this month’s Website of the Month Award!


We must be learning to feel fully alive

“We must be learning if we are to feel fully alive, and when life, or love, becomes too predictable and it seems like there is little left to learn, we become restless-a protest, perhaps, of the plastic brain when it can no longer perform its essential task”. (page 116)

Doidge, Norman. The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science. New York: Viking, 2007.

A fisherman’s tale about life without education

 James Arruda Henry, a fisherman for most of his life, never learned to read or write. He decided he wanted to learn how to read at the age of 90. After many hours of tutoring and practice, he was encouraged to write a book about his life at the age of 96. This is an inspiring story of this man’s life.

Check out his new book “In a Fisherman’s Language” and watch the video below to hear this encouraging story.