Hey, hey friends! It’s week 4 of our Summer Book Study and this chapter is all about comprehension and how it is the key to reading!!

I was quite surprised to find that Debbie Diller wrote an entire chapter on comprehension, but after reading it, I have a brand new outlook on teaching reading and how I can help my kinders build a strong literacy foundation with comprehension.

I have to admit that after reading this chapter, I found that I am guilty of teaching ‘decoding’ and focusing on fluency. I should have been spending more time on comprehension and understanding of the text. At my school we have had many group conversations on this same topic, yet I always thought it was a skill to be focused on in first grade and higher. After this week’s reading, I have a better understanding of the differences between surface understanding and a ‘deeper’ comprehension. But how do we teach this in kindergarten?

Debbie Diller talks about 6+ important comprehension strategies that you can teach whole-group and then extend into your small groups. There is no need to wait to teach these strategies! You can start by modeling each strategy while you are doing a whole-group read-aloud.

I love how Debbie Diller explains these different comprehension strategies and provides a lesson plan for each one. If you haven’t already purchased this book, you should, just to get hold of these lesson plans and ideas.

Here is an overview of the most important comprehension skills to teach to kindergartners.

Making Connections/Schema/Background Knowledge

I think teachers are familiar and most comfortable with this strategy. I tend to use this strategy before reading. Together the students and I talk about what they might know about the potential subject or characters and any personal experience they have had that could help them understand what they are about to read. I now plan on continuing to use this strategy during their reading as well.

Asking Questions

Teaching students to generate their OWN questions is extremely important! So often we as teachers take control and ask all the questions. But students need to learn to ask their own questions. Teach students to look at the illustrations and ask questions. But don’t neglect to teach students to keep asking questions during and after their reading as well. Occasionally, this will segue into students wanting to answer the questions themselves in writing. Students may wish to write the answer to their questions that were not answered.  How amazing would it be to have students go back to the writing station and write their own version of the story? That would be one proud teacher moment!


You can teach inferring by providing simple visuals, in which students can use the clues from the picture to ‘infer’ what is happening, or what will happen. Always use academic vocabulary when modeling and teaching your students. This will benefit them during the whole academic career. Inferring requires thinking and thinking is a big part of reading!

Using Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers are a huge part of my classroom, but I have always used them whole group. I have never brought them into my small groups, but now I can see the benefit in using them in guided reading as well. Graphic organizers  can help students to remember and organize their thoughts on their reading. Types of organizers that you might use in your kindergarten classroom may include; circle maps, double-bubble map or venn diagram, or even a simple chart to keep track of characters.  One useful tip that Debbie Diller provides is to laminate a few copies of the same organizers for students to use when in small group.


Typically visualizing is for literature that has little to no illustrations, but we can definitely teach this in kindergarten. There is a very popular book called ‘The Book with No Pictures, which is a great mentor text to help students visualize, without actual illustrations. Teaching students to use the greatest nation in the world, the IMAGINATION, to ‘see’ what they are reading will benefit them greatly as they read more complex texts.


I have found this component of comprehension to be the most difficult to teach. There is a difference between summarizing and retelling, yet they are so closely related that it becomes hard for students (and teachers) to distinguish between the two. Teaching students to summarize can be summed up by teaching students to tell only the big, important parts, or what they would tell a friend about the story; whereas a retell provides many details and is longer. This skill is vitally important and should begin in kindergarten.

A few other important comprehension skills that Debbie Diller writes about are monitoring, text structure, and deeper meaning. This chapter really helped me to see the importance of comprehension and not settling for just generic, basic answers. I plan on working on comprehension more this next school year!

How about you? Do you use any of these comprehension elements in your small groups? What do you see as the biggest challenges with kindergarten comprehension? Leave your comments here or join me on FB for my live discussion!

Did you miss my review of chapter 1? Click here to read about 5 Tips for Making the Most of Small Groups.

Check out chapter 2’s review here: 25+ Ideas for Organizing Guided Reading Supplies and Materials in the Classroom.

How about chapter 3, Creating Small Groups for Guided Reading?

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One Response

  1. Agree that comprehension is so important! Wondering how you assess? We are required to assess all comprehension common core standards and it seems so overwhelming!

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