Learning to read Chinese is a very exciting milestone, but does your child truly understand what they are reading? Reading comprehension is crucial and complex; the process involves decoding, interpreting, and remembering the meaning of Chinese characters in sentences and paragraphs.
My daughter is 4 years old and started reading at age 3. At first, many people were skeptical that she could understand what she is reading due to her young age. I have heard comments that she “probably just memorized characters.” While she does have a good memory (knows 800+ characters), she usually understands what she reads. Of course, the easiest way to test reading comprehension is by asking and discussing different parts of a story. However, we all know that kids don’t always respond to questioning (cue shrugging with a disinterested “I don’t know”). So here are 6 fun strategies that you can try to check reading comprehension skills!
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6 Fun Ways to Assess Reading Comprehension
1. Draw it
Drawing is a great way to kids to reflect on books that they are reading. This can be a great option for those who are shy or not confident about expressing themselves verbally. After the child is done drawing, ask them to describe what they drew. Try to resist the temptation to guess what they drew and the meaning – let the child lead the way in the presentation. After the child is done sharing, you share your observations and relationships that you notice with the book!
2. Make it
If you have a kid who enjoys creating, building, and working with his or her hands, a book-based craft or activity is a great way to apply and reinforce the reading material. Here is a paper plate craft that we did with the Rainbow Fish Book! I asked my daughter what she thought was important from the book, and we wrote those words on the “scales” of the Rainbow Fish craft!
More hands-on Chinese activities can be found in this link!
4. Reenact it
When my daughter and I learn new Chinese words, we try to act out what we just read to help us remember it. For example, when we learned the word 蝌蚪 (Kēdǒu / tadpole), my daughter had a blast pretending she was a tadpole swimming in the ocean (eg, being silly on the floor!). After reading, we also have fun reenacting the different scenarios. While reading 司马光砸缸 (Sīmǎ guāng zá gāng / Si Ma Guang Breaks the Jar) in the 四五快读 series, we used toys and pretended they represented 司马光, friends, and the giant jar! My daughter also loves to act out audio stories. Honestly, sometimes I’m not sure if she’s really listening to them, but she is paying attention to every word! Here is a video of her reciting and performing 狼和七只小山羊 (Láng hé qī zhī xiǎo shānyáng / Wolf and Seven Little Goats).
4. True or false
True or false (right or wrong) is one of our favorite ways to practice reading! You can do this verbally or by writing sentences about a recent event or story that you have read. Below is an example of sentences that I wrote for my daughter last year when she was 3 years old. We use Post-It notes to make it a hands-on exercise!
Please note that I am not fluent, so what you seen in the photo might not be grammatically correct (I think 与 (Yǔ / versus) should have been 或 (huò / or) or 还是 (háishì / or), and I always appreciate feedback!). But I try to write these short assignments to improve my own Chinese skills, and my daughter likes to read them because they are relevant to her life!
5. Guess the book!
Last weekend, I surprised my kids by arranging their Chinese books (and some English and Korean books) into a rainbow and hid our golden Montessori beads in them. This “guess the book” game was SO FUN for my kids! Clues included the appearance and content of the book, so it was a great way to assess reading comprehension! My daughter and I took turns hiding and giving clues!
If you prefer not to have a book mess like the one in the photo, set out just a handful of books! 🙂 You can hide anything, even a bookmark! See if your child has any ideas to spruce up the game and spark discussion about the books!
6. Play teacher
Kids love to pretend that they are the teacher, parent, or any grown-up! After reading a book of your child’s choice, he or she can take the role of the teacher and ask mom and dad questions about the book. When you come up with your own questions, you have to synthesize the information and consider what seems important enough to ask! Plus, kids enjoy testing mom and dad’s knowledge! This activity is a win-win for speaking, listening, and reading comprehension practice!
I hope these ideas help take your reading journey to the next level! If you need ideas on how to encourage reading in general, here are 10 Ways to Get Your Child to Read Throughout the Day!
For Chinese children’s book recommendations, here are books that we love!
For more Chinese teaching tips, here are my two most popular posts:
- Teach Your Child a Second Language at Home with 5 Key Steps
- Raising Multilingual Children as a Non-Fluent Parent: 7 Lessons Learned
To learn more about research-based reading strategies for children, I highly recommend the Reading Rockets website! Here are some of my favorite articles:
- What Research Tells Us About Reading, Comprehension, and Comprehension Instruction
- Key Comprehension Strategies to Teach
- Strategies that Promote Comprehension
Happy reading, friends!