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The Art of Reading Comprehension

Posted by Dawn Burnette on

Do your students like to draw? Could they also use a little practice with reading comprehension? Combine drawing and reading comprehension practice, and you get You Can Picture It. Let me explain.

You Can Picture It is a reading series that helps students make the connection between reading words and reading for understanding. It doesn’t use the format of many comprehension practice programs, which is to read a story and answer questions. You Can Picture It allows students to practice comprehension skills by using their creativity to illustrate a story.

Students use their illustrations along with the words to make a book. The children choose a title, draw cover art, and write a short summary on the back of the book. This summary reinforces their comprehension of the selection. Their book can then be shared with others and used as reading practice over and over.

By reading the words and then creating pictures, children are gathering information, interpreting the facts, and making deductions about the text. This process leads to understanding, and if you use a reading passage about an interesting place in America, students learn some history and geography along the way!

So here is what you do:

Step One: Pick out a short article about a place to visit around the United States, write one with the class, or choose one from the book You Can Picture It: Nonfiction. Read the selection with the students and discuss any information and specific facts found in it. Encourage them to picture the setting in their minds before they draw on paper. Some questions to ask would be: What do you think the place looks like? What are some of the details about the setting? Does the author tell you everything or do you have to figure out some of the details? Have you ever visited a place like this before? Are there any new vocabulary words to understand?

Step Two: Divide the article into four parts and have the students write or type those parts on paper with space in between the parts. Cut the article apart.

Step Three: Glue each section to the top or bottom of a bigger piece of paper (81/2 by 11 works well). You should only need two pieces of copy paper because page two is glued to the back of page one, and page four is glued to the back of page three. Make sure the parts are in the correct order so the article makes sense when they are put together as a book.

Step Four: Once the words are on the page, it is time for the students to begin drawing the illustrations. Drawings should always be done in color so that the details will be obvious in the illustration.

Step Five: Once the students have completed their drawings, it is time for the cover. Tag board or construction paper works well for the cover. Have a discussion about titles, pointing out that a title should get the reader interested in the book. Of course, on the cover the student should write his or her name as the illustrator.

Step Six: You can bind the books in different ways. They can be stapled and the staples covered with colored duct tape, punched and tied with yarn, or put together with brads. Check to make sure that the pages are in the correct order before binding.   

Step Seven: The last step in the completion of the book is to write a summary of the article. Discuss that the summary only gives the main idea of the selection and does not give away all the details. Have the students choose five to six key words from the article. The students should then use these key words to build their summary. Two or three sentences should be enough. Have the students write the summary on a small piece of paper and glue it to the back cover of the book.

Step Eight: Once the books are finished, the students can read and enjoy them. Have the students exchange books and see how others “saw” the destination in the article. You can also look up the destination on the Internet to see how the actual place looks or do a map study to see where the destination is located.

Illustrating is especially helpful for new readers, English learners, struggling readers, and even for advanced readers working through particularly difficult texts. You can use passages from poems, stories, or nonfiction articles based on each student's reading ability. Or you can use ready-to-go passages from DGP Publishing's You Can Picture It series.

In this blog, I used a grade four nonfiction article from You Can Picture It: Nonfiction. The You Can Picture It series also includes collections of fiction and poetry. You can look at the books here:

You Can Picture It

Blog written by Judith Holbrook

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