If your child reads for entertainment every night then he or she is in a good position to begin to extend their comprehension skills. If they do not have a reading programme in place, then click on the Reading tab on the right hand side and then How to fix your child’s reading.
There is a general consensus that talking to your child about the chapter they have been reading is the way to improve comprehension. It is true, but you have to watch that it doesn’t spoil the relaxed fun of their private reading session by making it feel worthy, like a bad class lesson. A naturally-occurring chat in the car on the way to school or when you have a moment together is the ideal way to do this. Ask about the setting (where, when, well-chosen?) and the characters (likeable, interesting points, surprises?) but keep it light.
In our clubs we have tried many approaches to a new piece of comprehension text, and this one definitely has the best results…
- Read the passage through reasonably quickly, getting a simple idea of where it is set, who is in it or what it is talking about. This read through is for navigation and not for information. The details are not a concern at this stage.
- Scan the questions briefly, to get an idea of how many there are, how similar they appear (as if reliant on the same bit of the text for their answers) and most importantly – whether there is a given mark-scheme. Younger children don’t need to do this.
- Tackle the first question. Underline or mark softly the exact piece of text that the question refers to – and read above and below that particular part to check the context.
- Answer the question precisely. If you need to quote from the text, try to only copy a word or short phrase and use inverted commas around the quote. Use simple full sentences where they are required. If the format is multiple choice, then check each option before you pick one. Sometimes there is a better answer on second glance.
- Imagine you are the marker – have you given enough to gain the full marks for that question?
First comprehensions for beginners
To improve comprehension skills, your child doesn’t always need to write their answers down on paper. And try to avoid tediously boring comprehensions. Some of them really are appalling (Schofield and Simms for instance – please avoid).
The series of books linked up below is quite fun. They have the odd error in (we discovered a ‘to’ instead of a ‘too’ in one) – but they are lively and entertaining. You could ask your child to read one at bedtime and then go through the questions together afterwards. The answers are all in the back and you can click on the book image below and read inside, to check the level is correct before you buy.
If your child is to take an exam with a comprehension element to it, don’t worry. Click on the Exam tab on the right hand side and then on ‘Preparing your child for a comprehension exam‘.