1st Grade

15 Engaging First Grade Reading Comprehension Activities

Moving beyond decoding to understanding what they read

First grade reading comprehension activities: "Inference using thought bubbles" with book page with illustration of duck reading newspaper and a thought bubble on a sticky note and "Ask questions using story sticks" with a glass mason jar with paper questions attached to paper straws inside

First grade is an exciting time of discovery for early readers. They’re spending less time decoding and word solving and more time comprehending and making sense of the texts they’re reading. Early readers are building reading identities and reading for meaning and joy. Explicitly teaching reading comprehension strategies like making predictions, asking questions, retelling, and inferring helps young readers build the skills they need. These first grade reading comprehension activities are a good place to start.

1. String up a retelling rope

First grade reading comprehension anchor chart about story retelling

Learning how to retell a story helps young learners as readers and thinkers. It helps them organize their thoughts as they read and recognize when their thinking changes. Using these symbols representing different elements of a story, students can string up a cute retelling rope while gaining valuable comprehension skills.

Learn more: First Grade W.O.W.

2. Visualize the story with illustrations

First grade reading comprehension strategies with student drawing of a story

Visualizing is an important skill for understanding what you’re reading. This blog includes two fun visualizing activities. In the first, students are given a title and are asked to draw an illustration that matches that title. In the second, students are given clues about an object and are asked to draw the object the clues are hinting at.

Learn more: You Clever Monkey

3. Make predictions with a graphic organizer

Student worksheet on making predictions wiht colorful illustration

Making predictions is a just-right reading strategy for emerging readers. During a read-aloud, find a few good stopping points to ask students what they think will happen next.

Learn more: Brown Bag Teacher

4. Make a “beginning, middle, and end” flip chart

First grade reading comprehension strategy using a beginning middle end flip chart

One tried-and-true way to teach summarizing to early readers is instructing them to identify the beginning, middle, and end of a story. This easy-to-make flip chart is just an 8 x 11 piece of plain paper folded vertically then divided into thirds. On the front half, students will draw a picture of what happens in the three sections of the story. Underneath each flap is a short written description.

Learn more: Bishop’s Blackboard

5. Ask questions with story sticks

Jar with first grade reading comprehension question cards on colorful sticks

Good readers ask questions before, during, and after they read. These cute story sticks make a game of first grade reading comprehension. Perfect to use with small reading groups or with partners.

Learn more: The Happy Teacher

6. Master the five-finger retell

Five finger retell

One strategy you can teach students is the five finger retell. Each finger stands for a different part of the story. Assigning a different finger for each part gives students a kinesthetic connection and makes it easier for them to remember.

Learn more: Mrs. Wheeler’s First Grade Tidbits

7. Summarize using simple signal words

Basic question cards

Sometimes with early readers, simpler is better. Start with these basic questions—who?, what?, when?, where?, how?, and why?—to help kids go deeper into their understanding.

Learn more: This Reading Mama

8. Practice with story maps

A graphic organizer in the shape of a star for young readers

There are tons of fun tools to help students build reading comprehension, and story maps are one of them. Here are 15 free downloadable story maps to help your first graders practice going beyond just the words when they read.

Learn more:

9. Figure out problem and solution with a graphic organizer

Student worksheet with two boxes- problem and solution

Every fiction story has, among other elements, a problem and solution. This lesson helps students understand that a story’s problem and solution fit together like pieces of a puzzle.

Learn more: My Primary Paradise

10. Retell the story using LEGO bricks

LEGO model of very. hungry caterpillar

Put two things that first graders love together: reading and building. Read a story together, then allow students to use blocks to build a scene from the story. As they build, they can describe details from the story.

Learn more: The Educators’ Spin On It

11. Retell using story cubes

Retell a Story Cubes

Retelling is a helpful comprehension skill for readers. These six cubes encourage readers to retell the story in different ways. They are prefect for reading partners and to use with small groups.

Learn more: Every educaid

 12. Play the Oh Snap! word game

Oh SNAP! High Frequency Word Game

Sight words (aka high-frequency words) are words readers encounter most frequently in texts. Early readers benefit from knowing a large bank of sight words, which encourages fluent reading. This fun sight word game is a great way to improve reading skills and build reading fluency.

Learn more: School Time Snippets

13. Use scooping phrases

Improve Reading Fluency & Phrasing Using Scooping Phrases - This Reading Mama

The goal of reading fluency is better comprehension. To read with fluency or expression, readers must comprehend the story events. Teach early readers to use “Scooping Phrases” to scoop up words to form phrases within sentences. This effective strategy also works well with struggling readers.

Learn more: This Reading Mama

14. Introduce wordless picture books

Journey (Aaron Becker's Wordless Trilogy, 1)

As readers encounter more-difficult texts, character traits become less explicit. To determine what the character is like, the reader has to do more inferential work. Using wordless picture books is a great way to introduce early readers to making inferences.

Learn more: Ashleigh’s Education Journey

15. Inference using thought bubbles

Thought Bubbles with Text

Foundational inference activities give first graders an opportunity to practice their inferring skills. As they move into texts, first graders can infer what a character is thinking in the story and then add a thought bubble to explain it.

Learn more: The Teacher Next Door

If you like these first grade reading comprehension activities, check out our fun, printable first grade writing prompts.

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15 Engaging First Grade Reading Comprehension Activities