Read students a simple story based on their experiences: “One day David went to lunch at McDonald’s. He ate a hamburger and French fries.” Then ask simple comprehension questions beginning with who, what and where.
“Who went to McDonald’s?”
“What did David eat at McDonald’s?”
“Where did David go?”
Once students have mastered basic who, what and where questions, follow up with more complex stories and questions. Consider the following categories:
Sequencing Events: When appropriate, introduce slightly longer, more complex stories. Tell stories that have a definite sequence: “Sarah woke up and got out of bed. She brushed her teeth, got dressed and went downstairs.” Follow up with sequence questions, such as “What did Sarah do first?” “What did she do after she brushed her teeth?” “What did she do before she went downstairs?”
Attention to Detail: Tell the story with some details that students will be asked to recall. “Frank invited three people to his birthday party: John, Phyllis, and Tom. They ate chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. Frank received a lot of nice birthday presents. He got a game, a book and a new sweatshirt.” Follow up with questions about specific details: “How many people went to Frank’s birthday party? What were their names? What did they have to eat? What presents did Frank get?”
Drawing Conclusions: When students are able to answer factual questions about a short story, present stories in which they are asked to make inferences and draw their own conclusions. For example, “Suzanne lost her favorite book at school today. It was a special book that her friend had given her. How do you think Suzanne felt?”
Memory: After you have read a simple story, ask students to tell it back to you in their own words. Have them tell as much as they can. Prompt students as needed to encourage their memory of the details, the sequence of events, and the main idea. Note whether students are telling the story using their own words or if they repeat words from the story out of context. Often if students are able to use their own words, this indicates that they have more fully understood the story. Try having students retell the story into a digital recorder.
Main Idea: Tell a short story and ask students to tell you what it was about. Explain that you do not want them to retell the entire story, but that you would like a few words that tell what the main idea is. For example, the above story about Frank is about a birthday party, not a chocolate cake, or Phyllis, or a sweatshirt.