Comprehension for Pre-K

What is Comprehension?

Photo of a child with a book.

Reading comprehension refers to the ability to understand what one reads. It is the ultimate goal of reading instruction. (Definition from University of Oregon)

In pre-k, children are able to listen to and engage in conversations about stories or text that are read aloud to them or experiences they have or hear about. At this stage, children demonstrate understanding through speaking and listening by engaging in conversation about the story, text, or experience. They are able to remember what is read, retell the story, answer questions, and talk about the story, text, or experience with support from an adult or peer.

What Does it Look Like?

What does it look like to support comprehension before reading?

How can comprehension be supported while reading?

How can a child demonstrate comprehension?

Practice Activities

Predict When Reading:  Have the child predict what will happen next when reading a book together.  Sample questions include:

  • What do you think is going to happen next?
  • Oh no! What is she going to do now?
  • What would you do if you were him?
  • How are they going to solve this problem?

Read Expressions:  Use illustrations to help a child build their vocabulary and start to understand emotions. When a character is sad, happy, angry or surprised, pause to look at illustrations and talk about the characters' facial expressions. Ask, "How do you think she's feeling right now?". Authors who are particularly skilled at portraying emotions in both words and pictures include Kevin Henkes, Patricia Polacco, Arnold Lobel and Mo Willems.

Make Connections:  Connect personal experiences with recently read stories or informational texts (e.g., Your shoes got dirty.  Now they look brown like Pete the Cat’s shoes in Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes.).

Recall Details:  Have the child recall a story or information from text (e.g., book, magazine, brochure).  The retell may be organized sequentially (e.g., first, next, last) or by a specific set of details (e.g., color, type of food, habitats, character actions).

Draw a Picture:  Have the child draw a picture of the story.  Ask the child to tell you about their drawing.  Engage in the 3Ts.

Act it Out:  Invite the child to act out parts of the story by pretending to be one of the characters.  Join in and pretend with them!

PEER Method:

  • P: Prompt the child with a question about the story. Prompting the child focuses attention, engages the child in the story, and helps the child understand the book.  Point to something in the picture, for example, a balloon. "What is that?"
  • E: Evaluate the child's response.  "That's right! That's a balloon."
  • E: Expand on what the child said.  "That's a big, red balloon! We saw one of those in the grocery store yesterday."
  • R: Repeat or revisit the prompt you started with, encouraging the child to use the new information you've provided.  "Can you say big, red balloon?" Each time the book is reread, the expanded vocabulary words are verbalized again.

Don't feel obligated to use the PEER procedure on every page, with every book. Keep it fun! Use PEER when it fits and when the child is engaged with the story. See PEER information in English and Spanish.

Practice Activities (with Printables)

If you don't have a printer, your child's school will print these for you.

Story Time: Ask questions before, during, and after reading together.  Story Time Questions

Online Activities

Story Sequencing:  This activity includes listening to a short story and putting picture cards in order (beginning, middle, and end) to retell the story.