Wh- Comprehension Building Blocks

When I started as a Special Education Teacher, I was a second grade co teacher.  My days were filled with dissecting texts and teaching my students how to answer questions. I remember having to practice writing BCRs (brief constructed responses), which I really struggled with. I specifically remember one student who quite literally changed my viewpoint about the skills that needed to come FIRST before trying to produce these types of responses.  We were writing about how the characters in a story changed over time as a class and I asked my student, “who is the character in the story?” and she replied “sled!”. There was a sled on the page but that was not the “who”.  I then pointed to the queen and asked, “who is this?” and she replied, “girl!”.  It was then that I realized this student was in second grade and truly did not understand the different nouns and descriptors.  How was she supposed to write about how a character changed over time when she didn’t yet truly understand different wh comprehension type skills? This skill starts in the much earlier days as littles when families are looking through board books and babies’ first 100 word books!

Labeling Nouns and Verbs as Babies and Toddlers

The first step in building comprehension skills is to teach children how to label nouns and verbs. Babies and toddlers learn language by hearing and mimicking the words and phrases they hear from adults. Teachers, parents, and caregivers can help children develop language skills by talking to them frequently and pointing out objects in their environment. For example, when you are playing with your child or at school out on the playground, you can say, “Look, this is a ball. Let’s roll it,” while rolling the ball. This helps the child understand that the word “ball” refers to the round object you are playing with.  Match objects to pictures such as the ball to a picture of the ball and then move into matching pictures to pictures.  This will be fundamental when moving towards answering comprehension questions both on paper and when asked verbally!

As children develop into toddlers, they can begin to learn about verbs as well. You can do this by using action words frequently in your interactions with them. For example, when you are playing with your toddler, you can say, “Let’s jump up and down,” while jumping. This helps the child understand that the word “jump” refers to the action of moving up and down. *Just a friendly reminder this can be used at other ages depending on the skills you are working on!

Once children have learned to label nouns and verbs, they can begin to understand basic sentences that contain these words. For example, “The dog chased the ball” is a simple sentence that contains a noun (dog) and a verb (chased). By understanding these basic elements of language, children can begin to build their comprehension skills.

Reading Aloud and Asking Questions in Preschool

Preschool is a critical time for developing comprehension skills. Reading aloud to children is an excellent way to help them learn to understand written language. I love using adapted books to capture the attention of learners (especially those new to print).  The interactive pieces are so engaging and work on visual discrimination skills while adding in a motor component of matching.  I find many times when I add a motor component such as physically matching something or putting an object in a box after labeling it can be powerful when teaching language.  I also love using tasks cards because they are quick way to practice skills in a different way.  Feel free to use a dry erase marker or clothespin to help spice up how to answer! Check out all the amazing different resources for this skill!

Building comprehension skills in children is a critical part of their academic success. By starting with the basics of labeling nouns and verbs as babies and toddlers and progressing to answering questions about a story in grade school, we can help our students become confident and skilled readers who are well-prepared for their academic futures. Happy Learning! Wh Resources


  1. Fantastic advice, Gina!

  2. Can you link the resources in the pictures ?

  3. Which are the two items picture? The one with the grocery store asking what does Bryce need? And the cards that say who is skating, who is ____?


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