The Missouri Reader Vol. 40, Issue 3 - Page 64

As a preschool teache currently pursuing a master’s degree in literacy, I have found through experience and reading the literature that read-alouds are one of the most critical components of a preschool classroom. It is during read-alouds that teachers are able to begin laying the foundation for their students’ future reading success. Gunning (2014) states that read-alouds help students develop a sense of story, gives them opportunities to learn how to connect to a text, builds their vocabulary, and provides a framework for developing effective comprehension skills. Beauchat, Blamey, & Philippakos (2012), assert that young children who are not able to read independently can begin to develop foundational comprehension skills such as prediction and making personal connections to the text through the experience of listening to and interacting with a story. Pinnell & Fountas (2011) also address emerging comprehension skills by suggesting that when young learners are read to, they are listening and remembering important information to better understand the text. This early skill that develops a child’s ability to retell a story is an important one that they will build upon and use as they gain independence in their reading lives.

Comprehension has not always been a focus of early learning, but in recent years it is becoming a more intentional part of the preschool curriculum. According to Morrow (2007), “Comprehension is the goal of reading. Understanding what is read is one of the major goals of reading instruction. Learning to comprehend should be an active process when preschoolers listen to stories” (p. 147). Decoding words without understanding the meaning behind the text will leave readers with an incomplete experience. Knowing this, I have regularly and intentionally used the Directed Listening and Thinking Activity (DLTA) (Staufer, 1969) strategy in order to promote comprehension.

Morrow (2007) states that DLTA consists of multiple readings of the same story and three steps. The first step in the DLTA is to prepare students for listening to the story by using teacher-initiated questions along with opportunities for students to build background knowledge. The second step is to have the students listen to the story. The last step is to discuss the story. There are many activities that can be done in pre-reading and post-reading parts of the read-aloud to promote comprehension development in preschoolers. One such strategy I have found great success with is creating a picture-based story map as a retelling aid after reading.

Morrow (2007) advises that retelling a story helps a child learn how to sequence, identify cause and effect, infer and interpret, and describe in detail what they have read. Not only is retelling an important part of comprehension development, but it is also a great evaluation tool for teachers. Because retelling is often difficult for young children, using a picture-based story map outlining the setting, characters, sequence, and problem/solution becomes a great tool to build a foundation of recognizing the important parts of a story in order to best comprehend text. Routman (2003) states “when a student knows what’s going on,