Teaching Reading comprehension strategies can be purposeful and fun, more so, if it is integrated with a non-fiction informational text revolving around a celebration – like the popular one – Halloween. Most students love to read anything spooky and an informational passage on Halloween would not only target key reading strategies, build on reading fluency, but also equip students with subject-specific content knowledge.
Reading Comprehension With a Halloween Scavenger Hunt
So what exactly does reading comprehension mean? To put it simply, it is the ability to understand a text – to make sense of the words quickly and derive meaning from them effortlessly in order to understand the gist of the text in question.
The degree of processing capacity or comprehending ability consequently determines a student’s success rate in responding to questions on a reading comprehension assessment.
Often some students may find certain reading passages too overwhelming to comprehend and one of many solutions to this problem would be to break down the subject matter into manageable chunks.
Throw in a fun activity like a Halloween Scavenger Hunt and the combination of reading and movement become a powerful combination that aid a student’s processing capacity.
In this Halloween Scavenger Hunt, non-fiction informational text is spread across 32 informational task cards. Thus reading comprehension involves the comprehension of specific facts pertaining to the subject.
The best part is that each informative fact is on a single task card, thus making the process of processing information less daunting to the student. And in keeping with subtle learning, the 32 cards may be hidden around the classroom, thereby adding an element of excitement to the reading activity and consequently piquing student interest and engagement.
Technology always seems to fascinate kids and the Halloween Hunt that has QR codes to scan is indeed a winner.
Quoting from personal experience, my students have so much fun with these hunts that they don’t even realise/realize they are assimilating important information – that’s the charm of subtle learning!
So in other words, a great way to convey complex, otherwise mundane content, is through fun and exciting Scavenger Hunts that provide an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning as well build key reading comprehension and literacy skills.
The Workings of a Reading Comprehension Scavenger Hunt
So how does a scavenger hunt work?
Well, first and foremost, prior to having the students go on a hunt, the teacher needs to engage the students in a 5-7 minute warm-up activity whereby a brief introduction is provided on the subject in focus. Rules are explained, difficult terminology is targeted, and subsequent activity is kept ready for early finishers.
Then students armed with their recording sheets go on the hunt. They have to find the corresponding fact cards to answer the questions on their recording sheet. This entails the careful reading of the fact cards and consequently comprehending the information on each one – now isn’t that some much-needed reading practice coming into play.
I find this application of reading skills particularly beneficial to my students who are reading challenged – in that, content information is presented in manageable chunks so to speak. The skill of decoding, reading and comprehending is still at work – but with snippets of text. Talk about the ideal way to set a child up for success!
You can also add an element of competitiveness to this activity by having students work in groups and rewarding the team that finishes the Hunt first or even setting a time limit. Kids love the excitement of competing – all in good fun. The best part is that learning is happening subtly, although outwardly – it seems to be all fun and games, students are consciously/subconsciously reading and acquiring information, information is being processed, and learning is undoubtedly taking place.
Documenting Reading Comprehension
A recording sheet helps students document their responses on Halloween facts. Each question targets a single fact card thus requiring students to recall processing of manageable information. The 32 questions target reading comprehension skills primarily pertaining to recollection and understanding of facts, thereby facilitating the student with key content information in the process.
The art of comprehending reading material also involves skillfully expressing it in written terms. Students need to know how to frame their responses to the question in written format. And focusing on a single question for a single fact card at a time makes the task less daunting.
In this Reading comprehension for Halloween facts on history and tradition activity, the layout of this recording sheet scaffolds a student’s written response by the number of lines. The questions also pertain to fact cards 1, 2, and so on – thus requiring students to focus on chunks of information rather than an entire reading passage in one sitting.
A flipbook is also another fun way to document information read. Each section of the Halloween Flipbook scaffolds research on the history and tradition of Halloween. This information collated could also suffice as a first draft to facilitate self and peer editing prior to publishing.
Reading Comprehension With Digital Text
There is much debate on whether students comprehend texts on paper better than those that are read digitally. Although some studies have shown that paper texts have resulted in students performing better on reading comprehension assessments, one must also take into consideration the possibility of distance learning should the likes of Covid-19 viruses make their appearance.
The same Halloween Scavenger Hunt activity can be done digitally, albeit with a slightly different model since there can be no movement characteristic of a physical hunt. Students will read and respond to the non-fiction informative text – but digitally.
Information will still be presented in manageable chunks like the paper task cards.
And questions will feature a multiple-choice option. This particularly makes it easier for students who experience difficulty with the written expression of responses.
The best part is as answers are pre-loaded, there is no marking for the teacher. Now that’s much-needed time saved!
It’s a win-win for both teacher and student. Data on the fingertips for the former and instant student feedback leading to more engagement.
And yes – there could also be an element of fun in a digital reading text. In the Halloween Digital Activity, students are rewarded at the end for all the reading they do – they get to build a monster!
Preparing Students For ELA Standardized Tests
Reading Comprehension tests are a key component of the ELA standardized tests and the Naplan Literacy Assessment. After students have had the opportunity to comprehend information in the paper or digital version of the Halloween Scavenger Hunt, the Halloween ELA Review is a follow-up activity that targets analysis of the language, namely grammar, punctuation and word choice.
Students access the same 32 Halloween Fact Cards in a Google Form. The questions require multiple-choice responses and short answer responses and once again answers are pre-entered so the test is self-grading and students get immediate feedback of test results after submission.
Now that is preparing students subtly for testing without all the unnecessary stress characteristic of test preparation.
Reading Comprehension Paper or Digital?
This is a heated question still in debate. In my personal opinion, I do not vouch for one over the other. Both are equally effective and have their limitations. What is important is to devise fun activities like the Halloween Hunt that make students genuinely want to read to seek information, whether the format is print or digital. Overall, giving students a choice in accessing the information would go a long way in building reading fluency and gaining key comprehension skills.
April Fools’ Day Reading Comprehension Freebie
So are you ready to try the April Fools’ Hunt to get your students reading and comprehending information on 20 fun fact cards? It’s a paper version so includes the fun element of movement – a combination that is believed to facilitate better reading comprehension – now that concept is entirely deserving of a blog post of its own.
So click on the image link to access the April Fools’ Day Hunt and watch your students read and process information to further dictate teaching and learning.
Reading and writing sure do go hand-in-hand. The experts have said it – the more you read, the better writing style you adopt. So, read all about how to ban the boring and teach writing that’s interesting.
And if you are looking for a great big bundle of celebration-themed reading scavenger hunts that you would like your students to go on during the school year, the Holidays and Celebrations Scavenger Hunts Collection features all the major holiday celebrations.
And if there’s one hunt, in particular, that is not listed but you would like for your classroom, then do let me know by commenting below. My students are always ready to do a new hunt!