Saturday, February 7, 2015

10 Reading Comprehension Strategies for the World Language Classroom

10 Reading Comprehension Strategies for the World Language Classroom

Being relatively new to the TPR-S/CI method, I have been struggling to motivate my students to read. We are on our second novel of the year and they cringe when I announce we will be starting a new novel. Below are some strategies that I have used the past few weeks. I welcome any constructive critiques or suggestions you may have.

1.    Fact or Crap
After reading part or all of a chapter, a check for understanding is necessary. Students receive two papers: hecho and mentira. I read a line or fact from the reading. Some are made up, others are word for word from the reading. If what I tell them is true, they hold up the “fact” card. If what I tell them is false, they hold up the crap card.

2.     Cinco nuevos
Recently I have discovered the power of embedded readings. These help to build confidence in reading, build vocabulary with the students, and gain additional repetitions of learned grammatical structures. While this becomes quite repetitive for the teacher, it is incredibly powerful for the students. However, lately, I’ve had to hurdle two obstacles with my students:
1) Why is it called an embedded reading?
2) by the time we reach the final version of the reading, students don’t want to read it because they feel they have enough information from the first two to “just get by”.  
So, this week when we got to the third and final version of the reading, I had them look for five new things that we didn’t know before. This really helped them focus their reading and dive into the reading with fresh eyes. Not only didn’t have to find new information, but also identify what they already read before. The discussion that happened after was a deeper discussion than merely recall questioning.

3.     Prediction – Anticipation Guide
Another strategy I used to keep learners interested in the embedded readings was an Anticipation Guide for them to predict events of the story. They first completed the eight questions to predict what they thought might happen in the next chapter. Each embedded reading had additional details on the Anticipation Guide that they could accurately answer.  This kept their interest and wanting to read the next version to see what was accurate and what was not.  Plaza was a new use of an old vocabulary word that they already knew. I wanted to be sure they understood this word in this context so I translated it for them on the form. They didn’t question its use and embraced the new translation completely, using it later in correct context. YEAH TPRS/CI!


1.     Todo era un sueño y Laney no se le pegó la nariz.

2.     Laney ganará una plaza (spot) en el equipo Mantarrayas.

3.     Desi ganará una plaza en el equipo Mantarrayas.

4.     Luis le pone a Laney en el equipo de las Mantarrayas.

5.     Luis piensa que Laney sea tonta.

6.     Laney encuentra la llorona.

7.     Luis habla románticamente con Laney

8.     Desi y Luis eran novios.

Sí         No

Sí         No

Sí         No

Sí         No

Sí         No

Sí         No

Sí         No

Sí         No

Sí         No

Sí         No

Sí         No

Sí         No

Sí         No

Sí         No

Sí         No

Sí         No

4.     Story Cubes
A number of years ago, I had my shop teacher cut up marker board material and create marker cubes for me. The students were in groups of 3 and they had to summarize the chapter by drawing pictures and then retelling via a mini presentation at the end of the class period. This was done completely on their own without notes or referring back to the chapter/reading. While they all had different pictures and ways to approach the retell, but all were able to effectively and accurately retell the chapter/reading.

5.     Picture notes
If a picture is worth a thousand words, it seems logical for learners to draw pictures. Having visual images to accompany comprehension aids in the comprehension and also details about the events of the story. When they create their own images, there is ownership in their learning. I used this strategy with the students almost exclusively last year (my first year as CI), having them draw each time we read a chapter, and the students not surprisingly quickly tired of it. I knew I had to change some strategies to keep it novel and interesting for them. We have done minimal drawing this year and almost always combined with something else (see below) to keep it fresh and different.


6.     Sequence a story
With parts of the story written on strips of paper, learners reassemble the sequence of events. This activity not only offers additional reps, but they must also understand not only the story, but also the vocabulary and grammatical structures within the story.

Another version of this was done electronically using googledocs. Being in a 1:1 laptop district, this was an easy activity. I modeled first with the numbers 12345678. Students went to my google calendar to fetch the day’s activity. The letters were listed in random order on the document and each student in the group had to claim one letter to display on his/her laptop.  Once the letters were placed in order and confirmed by me, the next round began.

As they were working on ordering the letters/events, I added another round to the calendar link. Starting with the second round, the letters were replaced with events from the story to be ordered correctly. Once they had the correct sequence of events, they won a point for their team.

What I didn’t expect, but was pleasantly excited to see what the deep discussions about how to order them. Even the struggling learners were debating with high-achieving students. What a great activity to see differentiation and success at its highest.

7.     Story strips
I am an avid garage saler who loves to find good deals. A few summers ago I found a giant box of maybe 50 or so new cash register tapes for 50 cents. What a deal right? At the time, my daughter was into writing stories, as long as she could make them, so this seemed like a great idea to buy these for her. Later I thought it would be great to have students do the same thing! Well it was.

After reading the second version of an embedded reading, the students were in groups of three. I gave each group a category that contained either a location in the story, a main character, or a problem that happened – anything that they could elaborate on.  I wanted them to be able to use all 4 types of questions from “Right There” types of questions to “Think and Search” and also “On My Own”. Using the categories that I did allowed the learners to answer all of these types of questions as they were preparing their retell.

To keep everyone focused I felt they needed to have a task in their group so created jobs: director, writer, and drawer. One group needed a fourth member due to odd numbers of students so I made that person the corrector. If there was a mistake written, she had to correct that mistake.


8.    Frayer Model
Being able to identify characteristics of an item is important to understanding it. This includes dissecting it according to what it is, what it isn’t, examples and nonexamples. I’m using this with characters, locations, and events in stories.

What it is…

What it is not…


Laney Morales (La llorona)
Who she is…

Girl that loves to play soccer
From Oklahoma
Works in Braum’s ice cream shop
Goes to Mazatlán to a soccer camp
Caught the eye of Luis

Examples that best describe her…

Mantarraya Team
Desi’s cabin roomate
Who she is not…

Top soccer player

Nonexamples that describe her…

Upper class (Luis)
Returning camper (Desi)
Outgoing (Jake)

9.     Veinte Vacas
This is a game in which I give details about the story for them to determine if it’s true or false, answer questions, or complete a sentence. In groups, students complete the task, with a “voicebox” being the official speaker for the group. If their answer is correct, they receive a vaca worth one point. If their answer is incorrect, they receive a cerdo, worth a negative two points. At the end of the game, points are totaled. The goal to reach 20 vacas.

10. ¡Caramba!
I can’t claim this one because I read about the initial idea on @srjordan’s blog. I adapted it a bit to meet my needs, however. Similar to other ideas above, I created a PowerPoint presentation that included various points on each slide and a few slides with “¡Caramba!” on it.  Using individual marker boards, one person from each group sat at the front of class and answered a question I gave them about the reading. The one who answered correctly first was awarded the points on the next slide. If it said “¡Caramba!” that group lost all their points. It became quite a ride as they tried to strategize when a caramba would show up on the board. Also they were aggressively trying to earn their points back to win in the end. Gracias al Sr Jordan. J

I would love to hear what you are doing for reading strategies! Share your ideas in the comments below.


  1. Congratulations on using so many creative ideas with your students! Keeping them engaged and successful is the key to their ability to acquire language through reading! So glad that you are part of the TPRS/CI community and blogging about it.

    Embedded Readings are named that precisely because each version of the reading is embedded in the next version. Each new version scaffolds for success by adding new information and new language. Having students identify the new information is a great way to make the next version interesting to read.

    I truly believe that doing a different activity (or having a different focus) for each reading is crucial! For more information, check out Check out the Tips for Success category on the right hand side for more ideas!
    with love,

    1. Laurie, thanks for your comment! I came across your blog and loved reading your ideas, too. Do keep sharing.