This blog series will focus on intervention strategies you might try with students as they adjust to the academic expectations of the new school year, readjust to in-person instruction, and/or continue to receive instruction remotely. Each blog in the series will focus on one of the following domains of ELA instruction:

  • Listening and Speaking
  • Phonics and Fluency
  • Comprehension and Analysis
  • Spelling and Writing Composition

Before jumping into this blog post, see the first and second in this series.

Once you’ve identified students who require reading comprehension interventions, dig a bit deeper to determine which skills they need to build. A diagnostic assessment will help you pinpoint the specific standards to address. Try these instructional activities to guide your students toward mastery of the targeted standards.

Retelling and Summarizing Texts

  • Retelling Bracelets (Grades K–3)—After reading stories with students, provide them with chenille sticks and several colors of beads. Determine which colors of beads will represent the different parts of stories (e.g., blue for beginning, green for middle, yellow for end). Have students string the beads on the sticks in the appropriate order and use the bracelets as tactile supports as they practice retelling the stories. To deepen the connection, provide students with markable texts of stories and guide them to highlight or underline sections with the same colors to indicate beginnings, middles, and ends of the stories.
  • Cheap Summaries (Grades 4–8)—Sometimes, it pays to be cheap! When summarizing, encourage students to use fewer words to express the main points of a text. After reading a text with students, display a sample summary that includes extraneous details. Model assigning a dollar value to each word and “adding it up” to show that the summary is too expensive. Then, challenge students to write “cheap” summaries by retelling the main points of the text without including unneeded details. Encourage students to compare the number of words in the expensive summary and the cheap summary.

Understanding Character and Plot

  • Show Me the Evidence (Grades K–3)—To help students analyze characters and their traits, begin by teaching the differences between external and internal traits (how characters look vs. how they think and behave). Then, move to characters’ emotions vs. traits (emotions are temporary while traits are more fixed). Once these understandings are established, help students analyze characters’ words, actions, and thoughts to determine their traits. Guide students to identify the dialogue, thought, or action of one character and record it in the center of a sheet of paper. Discuss what the dialogue, action, or thought helps readers understand about the character and identify an appropriate trait word (e.g., fearful, kind, brave). Have students write the trait word on a sticky note and place it over the center of the paper, creating a flap they can lift to reveal the text evidence that supports the trait identification. Once students can complete this activity independently, invite them to challenge classmates to “show me the evidence!”
  • Graph the Plot (Grades 4–8)—You have likely used a variety of plot diagrams and other graphic organizers to help students understand plots of literary texts. Why not use actual graphs? Cross-curricular connections help students understand and retain content in new ways. Guide students to list the main plot events chronologically along the x-axis of a coordinate grid. Then, have students use the y-axis to indicate the event that is the highest point of tension or that provides a decisive moment in the plot (climax).
An example of a plot graph using The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell.

An example of a plot graph using The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell.

When students struggle, it’s more important than ever to present the concepts in novel ways to maintain student engagement and perseverance. In the next blog post, we’ll consider some more ideas to help your students with comprehension and analysis, focusing on main idea and details as well as theme and author’s message.