How BookShark Teaches Reading Comprehension without Worksheets

a child leans his head on his dad's chest as the dad reads The Boxcar Children

My fifth grader lies in the sunshine. Although her eyes are closed, I can tell she’s paying attention by the slight smirk on her lips. She loves this book—Where the Mountain Meets the Moon from BookShark Reading with History Level 5 Eastern Hemisphere. And in the passage today, we’re about to find the Old Man in the Moon. Our daily ritual of reading aloud is one of our favorite parts of the homeschool day. It's not only a time for us to lose ourselves in a story, but it is also time for us to talk and share our ideas. 

BookShark’s invitation to read and discuss literature with my child on a daily basis helps my daughter dig into themes, characterization, and main ideas without the drag of worksheets. In each of our discussions, she’s learning and practicing reading comprehension skills without detracting from her joy of reading. 

As an English teacher, I know how important it is to make sure our readers are understanding what they are reading. But reading comprehension as a homeschooler may look quite different from what you experienced in a classroom!

BookShark’s well-developed discussion questions mirror what a reading comprehension worksheet might teach. The questions help my daughter recall important moments in the text, clarify her understanding, and—best of alllead us into more discussion. BookShark curriculum is your guide, which means how you use the discussion questions is up to you.

New to BookShark or looking for ways to utilize the discussion questions? Below are my favorite ways BookShark’s discussion questions teach reading comprehension. 

Review and Predict

Discussion questions, even ones asked the previous day, are a great way to review and help a reader remember what they’ve read. You can also use the day’s discussion questions to help students predict what they are going to read about. 

Keep the Discussion Going

At the end of each chapter or section, I pause and ask my daughter a discussion question(s) provided. What I love is that her answer often leads to more questions or things to discuss. I don’t have a plan or list of additional questions. Our discussion is just that, an organic conversation between two people reading a book and authentically responding.

How BookShark Teaches Reading Comprehension without WorksheetsBookShark discussion questions are a place to begin. Don’t think of them as a stopping point. Get curious, dig into the story, and ask more questions. 

For example, one of the discussion questions in Level F asks, “How did the story of The Dragon’s Pearl impact Ma?" To dig deeper I might ask my daughter additional questions:

  • Why do you think this is important to the story?
  • What do you think of Ma’s character now?
  • How do you think the other characters will react to this change in her character?

Let Your Child Explain

One of the quickest ways to starve a discussion is to say something like, “No, that’s wrong.”

If you ask a question and your child gives an answer that doesn’t make sense to you, ask them to explain what they mean. If needed, ask follow up questions to lead them back into the story so they can clarify their understanding.

If they are still struggling to understand, you might offer your understanding, with an explanation. Model for your reader how a reader comes to know something in a story by going back into the text to look for evidence. 

Use the Questions as Writing Prompts 

BookShark’s discussion questions can also be used as writing prompts. You might have your reader expand their answer by asking themselves other questions or explaining why something happened or how it is relevant to the story or characters. 

Reading comprehension is our ability to understand and interpret what we are reading. While there are many ways to go about teaching and practicing reading comprehension skills, one of the best ways for kids to practice and develop their skills is by talking about what they’ve read. BookShark’s discussion questions, provided daily for each reading, not only help kids dig into the books they’re reading, they help create conversations centered on the stories you’ll share. 

See BookShark Reading with History Programs

About the Author

Kelly Sage of Curiosity Encouraged

Kelly left teaching middle and high school English to homeschool her children and reclaim how she and her family spent their time. Followers of interest-led learning, her family's days rarely look the same, but they tend to include a lot of books, art supplies, and time outside.

Kelly facilitates local writing circles for women and children and blogs about nurturing the love of learning on her blog, Curiosity Encouraged. She loves to journal, read memoirs, hike, and travel. She seeks quiet mornings and good coffee daily.