Reading Comprehension- Thin vs. Thick Questions
First graders really take off as readers. Early readers make huge strides in first grade as they gain sight words, phonics and pattern recognition. More advanced readers work on comprehension much of the time. In second grade, all groups focus on comprehension.
Once children begin reading independently, many parents assume that if children are sitting with the book they are reading it all and understanding it. Often they are only getting the minimum surface meaning of the story by themselves, skipping over hard vocabulary or many words that influence meaning or rushing to finish and missing important subtleties.
Here is the Parent Reading Challenge:
1. Sit down with your children and give them a chapter or short story that either can be read by them or aloud by you for five minutes.
2. At the end of the section, ask your child to tell you the main idea of what they just read and summarize the important parts. Feel free to add some of the questions below. Can they do it?
Second grade children still need to hear you read to them and talk about the book with you to practice inferencing skills, reinforce and model fluency and thinking about the story as they go.
One way that second graders focus on comprehension is by answering THIN and THICK questions. THIN questions require the most basic understanding and repetition. They only touch upon the bottom part of the pyramid of understand in Bloom’s Taxonomy of understanding (see figure at bottom for more info).
THICK questions usually require longer answers, more thought, and ask WHY things happen. There are often no “right” answers. The answers depend on the child’s experiences and help them to connect to the story. Slowing down while reading and thinking about the story carefully will help children understand and retain what they read. Here are some examples for helping your children at home to analyze what they are reading along the way or at the end of the book. You can make up your own thick questions as well. Keep these in mind and maybe pick one to include at the end of your Book Talk when your turns come.
· Name the characters, setting, problem and solution.
· Where did the story take place?
· Retell the story.
· Answer questions with definite simple answers: Who, What, When, Where…
· Any Yes/No answers
Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation:
You can also pick some challenging vocabulary words from the story for your children. Ask them to read the paragraph the word is found in again and make a guess using context on what the word means. You can look it up in a dictionary or on the computer or tell them the real meaning. Use the words in some sentences so they can hear other ways it may be used. See if they can use it in a sentence.
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Bloom’s Taxonomy –
In 1956, Benjamin Bloom headed a group of educational psychologists who developed a classification of levels of intellectual behavior important in learning. Bloom found that over 95 % of the test questions students encounter require them to think only at the lowest possible level...the recall of information.
Bloom identified six levels within the cognitive domain, from the simple recall or recognition of facts, as the lowest level, through increasingly more complex and abstract mental levels, to the highest order which is classified as evaluation. Verb examples that represent intellectual activity on each level are listed here.
1. Knowledge: define, duplicate, label, list, memorize, name, order, recognize, recall, repeat, reproduce, identify
2. Comprehension: describe, discuss, explain, express, indicate, locate, recognize, report, restate
3. Application: apply, choose, demonstrate, dramatize, illustrate, interpret, sketch, solve, use, write, chart, classify, determine
4. Analysis: analyze, appraise, categorize, compare, contrast, criticize, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, examine, experiment, question, relate
5. Synthesis: arrange, assemble, collect, compose, construct, create, design, develop, formulate, organize, plan, propose
6. Evaluation: appraise, argue, assess , choose, compare, defend, estimate, judge, predict, rate, support, value, evaluate.