Exercises to teach reading comprehension

Once your child has learnt how to read fluently by recognising and pronouncing words in a passage, the next step is to teach your child how to read expressively with comprehension. 

Encouraging participation in exercises to promote reading comprehension will help instil a love for reading and promote optimal knowledge retention

Reading comprehension refers to the ability to understand the written word. Whilst word recognition does not necessarily require comprehension, word recognition without comprehension does not fulfil the purpose or goal of reading. Comprehension is required whether reading is for enjoyment, entertainment, learning or research. Reading comprehension occurs when the page, passage or book is understood as thoughts and ideas, and not merely words.

The more a child comprehends and understands, the greater the chance that they will develop a love for reading.  Avid readers become successful learners! In this article, we will explore some exercises to help improve a child’s reading comprehension


Reading Comprehension exercise making predictions

Making predictions encourages readers to make use of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Readers are given a chance to consider and assess the text, thus extracting deeper meaning and comprehension skills.

The process of prediction is to introduce a passage or a book and stop to ask the reader to predict what they think will happen next.  

Let’s try this exercise to encourage prediction skills. 

Lucy’s Mom’s phone rang.  She answered it quickly and spoke for a very short time. She put the phone down and said to Lucy, “Get your shoes on, we have to go to Dad’s office.  He is having car problems.  “But Paul is not home from rugby practise,” said Lucy with concern.  “How will he get into the house if we’re not back?

Mom quickly wrote a note and taped it to the back door.

Now ask yourself or the reader the following questions; 

  • Who do you think the note was for?
  • What do you think the note said?
  • What do you think Lucy and her mom did next?

Mom and Lucy went next door and mom knocked on Aunt Tilly’s kitchen door.  When she answered Mom said, “I have to drive to Ben’s office.  His car won’t start. I have left a note for Paul telling him the key is with you.  Do you mind if I leave the key with you?

Aunt Tilly agreed and Lucy and her mom walked down their driveway to the bottom of the garden.” 

Now ask yourself or the reader the following questions; 

  • Paul and Ben are mentioned in the passage. Which one of them is Lucy’s brother?
  • What relationship to Lucy is the other male?
  • What do you think will happen next?  

Skimming and scanning

reading comprehension strategy - learn how to skim and scan through an unfamiliar passage

The next exercise that we will explore to promote reading comprehension involves the skimming and scanning of text. Readers learn to skim and scan through an unfamiliar passage in order to look for specific information or details such as numbers, dates or proper names. 

In a passage on a particular province or region, for example, the readers might be expected to find the names of the major rivers, the population number and important industries or activities around major ports. Readers look for subject headings, topic sentences and captions under illustrations. They can then highlight or note keywords as they skim and scan the text.

Let’s try a simple skimming and scanning exercise. To complete this exercise read this article that gives information and facts about South Africa

Skim and scan the information to find out:

  1. The length of South Africa’s coastline.
  2. Six countries that share borders with South Africa (including one landlocked country).
  3. South Africa’s largest river.
  4. The height of the Kwazulu-Natal Drakensberg.
  5. The average annual rainfall in South Africa.

Identify the main idea and supporting details of a text

Identify the main idea and supporting details of a text

When reading, identifying the main idea of a text helps us better understand the point the author is trying to make. The main idea of a text is usually supported by details and facts which expand on the main topic. Identifying these features of a passage can help children improve their reading comprehension.

Once the reader finds the topic, they are ready to identify the main idea. The main idea is the point or most important thought about the topic.

To figure out the main idea, the reader needs to question what is being said about the person, thing, or idea?

The main idea is usually a sentence, and it is usually the first sentence. The writer then uses the rest of the paragraph to support the main idea. Let’s use the paragraph below as an example. First, find the topic, then look for the main idea.

Summer is a wonderful time to spend in Durban. It is a city with many beaches offering light-coloured, soft sand. The coastline goes on for kilometres and many people enjoy walking along it. Children like to play in the surf and walk along the rock pools that are visible at low tide at many of the city’s beaches. This is a fun city with beaches that suit people of all ages.

In this paragraph:    

  • the topic is Durban
  • the main idea (what the writer is saying about the topic) is that summer is a wonderful time in Durban
  • the supporting details are -  many beaches – long coastline – people walk – play in the surf and rock pools – suits people of all ages 

It is important to remember that reading with comprehension forms the basis of all learning and the strategies that build strong comprehension skills need to be continually reinforced.   

When a topic interests your child, for example, if they love dinosaurs, use it as an opportunity for them to practise one of the comprehension skills discussed in this blog by providing them with text resources on their topic of interest. This will help promote a love for reading and encourage them to practice reading and comprehension skills. 

Download Your Free Printable Homeschool Planner

Exercises to teach reading comprehension

Download Your Free Printable Homeschool Planner

Exercises to teach reading comprehension

Everything you need to know about setting up your homeschooling schedule with a free printable PDF planner.

Download Now

Other articles