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30 Reading Comprehension Activities for K/1

July 26, 2021 by Suzanne Kelley

Reading is everywhere. As an adult, you have to read books, lesson plans, emails, texts, posts, blogs, recipes, directions, etc., every single day. So you already know how essential it is for your young students to become proficient with reading skills. And comprehension and comprehension activities are vital for reading.

Our students must, in simplest terms, gain meanings from what they hear us read and what they read to themselves. I am sure you do frequent read alouds with your littles and have become masters of asking the right questions. And, you probably have developed a ton of strategies to check for understanding. But, I’d like to add to your tool chest these 30 Reading Comprehension Activities;  #10, #13, and #26 are frequently used activities in my room!

Activities for Whole Group!

  1. Comprehension Purpose Questions.  I am sure you don’t need me to tell you how squirrelly some of our kinder and firstie students can be when it comes to listening quietly during read alouds. Before reading, give a purpose question that students need to listen to the text if they hear the answer. Then, allow the excited blurt-outs that will occur when they hear the answer.  If some kids miss hearing the answer, they definitely will be listening to their friends and repeating!
  2. Think Aloud Prompts. Just like above, students repeat what they hear and see! While reading out loud, ask yourself questions out loud as well. Hmm, I wonder what Goldilocks will do next. Gosh, I wonder why she did that. Model, model, model how your kids should be thinking while they are reading!


3. Story Structure. Story structure can be as simple as discussing the title, author, and illustrator then going into plot or problems and solutions. Or you can take the following steps by discussing the beginning, middle, and end of the books you read. To demonstrate understanding, I give my students a sheet of construction paper that I folded into thirds. Initially, the students draw a picture of the beginning of the story on the first fold. In the middle fold, they draw a picture of the middle of the story, followed by the ending on the last third. As my students progress, we add in words and then sentences.

Comprehension Activities to Guide Your Groups More!

4. Question Popsicle Sticks. For this activity, write the 5W questions on popsicle sticks. If you wish to go beyond the 5W questions, check out this blog! Randomly pull sticks or have the students pull sticks, and those become your questions for that story.

5. K-W-L Charts. I enjoy hearing from my students before a story. I show them the book, and we study the cover while discussing the title. Or, if I am introducing a topic, I will tell the kids what we will be learning about today. Then, the kids tell me what they know about the subject. I excite them about the book or topic, and the kids tell me many things they want to learn. After, we write down all of the things we learned! The kiddos love sharing!


And a Few More Group Activities!

6. Story Walk Retells. After my kiddos sit for a story, I need to get them up and to move! You can use a long piece of butcher paper and create a “Pathway” down the center for students to walk along as they retell a story.  I recommend making the pathway as a class.  Along the path, have visual reminders of essential pieces in a retell.  (Character, Setting, Events, Problem, Solution)

7. Making Connections. By making text-to-life connections and activating prior knowledge, students become invested in their reading.  Connections can be a powerful tool to keep them engaged and motivated when working on their reading skills. Furthermore, connecting what your students are reading to their lives and activating prior knowledge may help them retain more of their reading.

8. Story Beach Ball or Story Cube.  Teachers can purchase pre-made beach balls from various companies, but the easiest and cheapest is buying and blowing up a beach ball on your own and writing your questions. After a story, kids softly toss the ball, and whatever question their right-hand lands on (good practice for right and left hands) is the question. Keep passing, so all kids get a turn if you wish. It is ok if kids get the same question because repetition is helpful for all for comprehension!


9. Mirrors and Windows. Mirrors are books you can see yourself in, making personal connections. A book that is a window allows our students to look into someone else’s life and gain perspective. Both types improve our understanding and comprehension! Choose books that will enable your students to see in the mirror but also look through the window! For a great blog on this topic by Lanesha Tabb and Education with an Apron, click the link!

Comprehension Activities for Small Group or Individual Work

10. Directed Draw & Write. Kids enjoy drawing about things they read or hear, so you could give paper and have students draw a picture from the story with an accompanying sentence. ETTC has some fabulous Directed Drawings where kids follow the directions to create their image and then complete comprehension activities around the picture. Click the link to get on the list for our newest Directed Drawings!

11. Comprehension Strips. These Quick Comprehension Strips are great for Literacy Centers for Quick Comprehension Checks, Comprehension Practice, Megacognition Activities, Warm-Up Activities, and Intervention Activities!  100 strips in all!

12. Sentence & Picture Match-ups. With this activity, I use picture cards that I already own in my classroom. I then write corresponding sentences on word strips from the Dollar Tree (30 in a pack for $1.00!). During centers or stations, students match the picture to the sentence.

13. 5 Finger Story Retells. (CORE BINDER) Your thumb is the setting, the index finger is the characters, the middle finger is the problem (beginning), the ring finger is the events in the middle, and pinkie is the solution (ending). If you don’t have our great resource, CORE Binder, which has several five-finger options, including the visual below, the students can trace their own hands and fill in all the information!


14. Sequencing Activities. Our Digital Sequencing Activities, including 14 interactive sequencing mats and 9 sequencing stories, are great for practicing sequencing with your students.

15. Silly Sentences Mix Up. Using my Dollar Tree words strips, I cut sentences that are silly into words. The kids love to mix and match the words to make even more ridiculous sentences. They then draw a picture that matches their sentences. So easy, but the kiddos love it!

More Comprehension Activities

16. Alphabet Foldable Books. Three versions come with these adorable Alphabet Foldable Books that allow you to differentiate with your students! Not sure if this product is right for you kinders or firsties? Try a freebie!

17. Graphic Organizers. Graphic organizers let students process information both visually and spatially, which encourages them to internalize the material.  The very nature of graphic organizers enables students quite literally to see the connections in what they are reading.

There is a slew of graphic organizer products out there, or you can even have your students create their own!  Here are some examples of how you can pair graphic organizers to any unit you teach! Find more close reading units with graphic organizers here!

18. Map Story Setting. I am not an artist says every teacher who is about to write on the board! Fortunately, my students think I am Van Gogh! I draw a big blob shape on the board, and then they tell me different things from the story that I need to add for the setting. So much fun for them, and what a great social skills lesson that everything doesn’t have to be perfect!

Bonus Activity:  If starting with a shape or line and then having your students transform that into a picture that they will then write about sounds great, try Transformation Station. And what’s a bonus without a freebie?

Keep Those Activities Coming!

19. Picture the Character.  Have you ever asked your students to draw a picture of someone other than themselves? Sometimes, the results are hilarious! We close our eyes and visualize the main character before drawing.

20. Character Comparisons.  Whether using a Venn diagram or another graphic organizer, I always make a character comparison for my stories. Sometimes, we compare good vs. evil, and other times, we pick two characters from the story. This lesson ties in nicely to both character traits and adjectives!

21. Practically 1st Grade Reading Comprehension Passages and QuestionsThe differentiation with these ETTC Practically 1st Grade pages is fantastic! Students can fill in the blanks, circle choices, or write a sentence from the vocabulary bank. Building up fluency helps comprehension, and these are leveled just perfectly for late K or beginning First!

22. Mind Movies (Visualization). Expanding on #19, we spend time visualizing the plot, setting, problems, and resolution and draw our visions onto lengthy strips of paper folded in strips as if it was a reel of the film!

23. 3-2-1 Strategy. After students complete a passage, ask them to write down 3 things they learned, 2 interesting things, and 1 question. By using this simple strategy, you not only boost their engagement but you allow them to improve their reading comprehension purposefully. You can find this in our CORE Binder as well!

And Finally

24. More than Books. Allow your students time to explore nontraditional reading material that interests them.  Other materials will motivate them and keep them excited about reading, but they will offer reading challenges that typical texts may not. Suggest material like newspapers, magazines, recipes, comic books, blogs, or song lyrics!  Keep it fresh and fun, and your students will be dying to read more!

25. Technology. Technology is the perfect way to not only get your kids excited about reading but offer them the opportunity to work on a variety of reading skills. If you don’t have it yet, ask your school for

26. Literature Centers for First Grade Who doesn’t want 120 non-seasonal first-grade centers for the entire year, including our 24 kindergarten literacy centers?

27. Turn & Tell. Let’s all agree here that Kindergarten and First-Grade students love to talk to their classmates. Ask a group question after a story, then have the kiddos turn and tell their neighbor their answer. Turn & Tell works best when the questions are open-ended and require some thought before responding.

28. Simon Says. To be able to comprehend, our students need to be able to listen and follow directions. Playing Simon Says will boost your students’ abilities to do both!

29. Act it Out. Many of our students love to entertain, and what better way than acting out the stories they have heard!

30. Scavenger Hunt.  I have increased my scavenger hunt game since distance learning occurred. And now that we can move around the building more, I love setting up scavenger hunts with clues requiring thinking and comprehension. The kids have a lot of fun, and usually, the result is something simple and cheap!

So, we have given you 30 great ideas for comprehension activities for your kiddos to give your students a great learning base for their literacy! I hope you were able to grab some tricks to use in the fall! Let us know in the comments if you have any additional activities to add to this list!


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