Hello everyone, I am Ms Kathleen, an English teacher from Lil’ but Mighty! Today I’ll be sharing about how parents can build their child’s comprehension skills from young.
Why do we need to build comprehension skills from young?
1. We are living in a world filled with texts around us! Being able to comprehend these texts is extremely important.
2. The comprehension component is tested as early as in Primary 1.
3. Parents can help support and build these skills from an early stage which will help when students encounter more difficult questions as they move up to the upper primary.
Knowing how comprehension skills are essential, we should definitely seize every opportunity to practise comprehension. This does not necessarily mean doing more comprehension exercises in an assessment book. It can be in written form or even through our daily conversations!
Here are two types of questions which a lower primary child should know. After this, I’ll share how you can get into the action with your child.
Type 1: Literal questions
Literal questions are those with answers that can be found directly in the passage. They usually are presented as 5W1H questions.
Type 2: Inferential questions
Inferential questions are those with answers that must be interpreted from the information in the passage and are not directly stated. As mentioned in our post on inferential questions (https://www.lilbutmightyenglish.com/blog/2015/10/12/comprehension-answering-inferential-questions), good writers describe what happens in a story instead of telling readers directly. When we are reading a text, we respond to it by comparing the pieces of information in the text with what we already know (prior knowledge)
Are you ready to try out the 2 types of questions?
Let’s look at the paragraph of an informational text now.
Adapted from Life on the River
Literal question : What can bamboo be used for?
Answer : It can be made into furniture, musical instruments and all kinds of tools.
As seen in the above example, literal examples are direct and definitely simpler to ask and answer. This type of questions is a good starting point for practice with your younger ones especially if you would like to train your children to read more closely. Being simpler also means that you are helping your child build confidence when they can answer the questions. However, do not underestimate direct questions as with longer sentences in the text, this can still be hard for your 8 or 9-year-old! Keep practising!
Let’s look at a paragraph from a story now.
Inferential question: How did Hare think that the race will end? Why do you say so?
Answer: Hare thought that he would win the race. He could imagine showing off his trophy to the other animals while Tortoise crawled to the finish line.
In this question, it was not stated whether Hare thought that he would win. However, the evidence of “showing off his trophy” tells us that Hare thought he would since our prior knowledge allows us to link the idea of a trophy to winning a race.
With a clearer idea of the two types of questions, what can parents do to practise such questions or conduct these mini comprehension practices with their child?
Always start with a level 1 question so as not to stumble your child.
You would probably need to explain your answer too if your child is struggling to get it right. Build up their confidence and interest first! This also means that you should tweak the difficulty level of your questions to make it fun and to encourage your child.
Avoid questions which require only a “yes/no” answer.
If it is a “yes/no” question, follow up with “why” for the children explain and show their comprehension. For example, Did Hare think that he would win the race? (Yes/No?) Why do you say so?
Let learning take place anywhere and in any form.
As mentioned, you can either ask your children to write down their answers or if you are looking at the description of different nuts at a supermarket, simply pop a question during your conversation. Take for an example, how are cashew nuts good for health? The answer may not be in complete sentences but if your child demonstrates understanding of what has been read, do acknowledge that.
Be creative with the resources you have.
Apart from assessment books, use texts from around us like a flyer and poster at the lift landing — authentic learning. You may also use short snippets from any book which the child is reading.
The bottom line is to focus on helping your child to be intrigued about the texts around them and to be interested to make meaning as they read. As you practise with your child, you can even offer to reverse the roles and challenge your children to ask you a question too!
Can you think of any other direct or inferential questions based on the paragraphs in this post? Share them below!
Have fun learning!