Assessing a student’s comprehension can be challenging. When students struggle to answer verbal or written “wh” questions after listening to or reading a passage we may need to change the way we assess the student. Here are some strategies I have used with my students.
Pair visuals with a book. I am a big fan of visuals. Many of the students I work with need lots of visuals to support comprehension. I often create visuals when possible to pair with book activities. I have found this really helpful for my students. Here is something I created for the book “Apple Farmer Annie”.
I created something similar for the book “There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Book”.
I have simple visual pictures to match each page in the book. I stop after each page and ask a question about that page. The student can select the correct picture to answer the question and place it in the book. For example, in the book “Apple Farmer Annie” I asked “who is the story about?”. The student can find the Annie picture and place it in the book.
I add a piece of hard Velcro in my books and a piece of soft Velcro on the back of the pictures so the student can just stick the picture right in the book. You may need to reduce the visual field to 2 choices for the student to select from to answer the question.
After I ask a question if it appears the student doesn’t understand the question I would give them either a visual or verbal choice of 2 answers. For example, in the Apple Farmer Annie book I might ask the question “who is the story about?” If the student is having difficulty understanding the question I would give a choice of 2 answers such as “boy” or “Annie”? Even if you don’t have visuals to pair with the answers providing a choice of 2 is helpful. I tend to use my hands to demonstrate the two different answers. I hold out my first hand and say one answer choice and then hold out my second hand while I provide the other choice. Sometimes I even have the student touch the correct hand to match the verbal answer I provided.
After I finish reading the book I have the students answer the questions with the book. The students can circle the correct answer from a visual field of 3. This both limits the correct answer to 3 and also provides the visual support.
After you read the book you can have the students draw a picture about the book. For some of our students they might understand parts of the story but struggle with processing and answering the specific “wh” questions. Have the student draw a picture of the story and have them tell you about the picture. You can have the student label some of the components of the picture or write a sentence about the story.
I also use pictures as we are reading to help the students remember what happened in the story and can help re-sequence the story. For example, in the book “There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books!” I created larger book pictures to use to help the students re-tell the story. If you have a magnet board in your classroom you can put a magnet on the back of the pictures and put up the picture of the school supply items in the correct order as you read the book.