Helping your Child with Comprehension at Key Stage Two
Comprehension is a task in which children have to read and answer questions about a particular passage of English literature (poetry, fiction or non-fiction). In the 11+ exams, whether they are for grammar or independent schools, there is almost always a comprehension element to the exam. Often for grammar school entrance the comprehension task requires multiple-choice answers, and for independent schools it will often (but not always) require written answers. However, many independent schools are changing from written to multiple-choice style papers, perhaps as they are easier and quicker to mark!
Why does my child need to improve their comprehension skills?
Aside from examination preparation, there are many reasons why you should encourage your child to improve his/her comprehension skills:
1) Comprehension is essentially understanding what you are reading. Being able to understand what you are reading is a life-skill!
2) Once your child has learned to appreciate and comment on what they are reading, they will start to develop in other areas of literacy as well as broaden their interest in, and knowledge of, other subjects. For example, reading helps to: increase concentration; improve vocabulary and language skills; encourage interest in the wider world; develop imagination and empathy towards others.
3) Once your child understands why an author has used certain literary techniques, they can apply those techniques to their own work (e.g. writing stories or poems) to great effect – particularly with examiners! In these ways, reading, comprehension and creative writing become intertwined.
How can I support my child with their comprehension skills?
1) Encourage your child to read! Reading is at the heart of comprehension and creative writing. If you need some ideas for recommended reading, have a look at our blogposts:
Remember that your child will not be able to develop their comprehension skills fully if they have not gained an interest in reading. Reading is key!
2) Develop your child’s vocabulary. Have a read of our blogpost which lists a few ways in which you can do this. We have been using the Word Hippo app recently and it is great for helping a child with definitions, synonyms and seeing the word within a sentence.
3) Ask your child questions. When your child is reading, allow them to read to themselves but, every so often sit with them and listen to them reading aloud. After they have read a section aloud to you, ask them different questions to help with their comprehension skills. It is one skill to be able to read a story but another skill to really understand it! There are a range of different types of questions that you can ask them:
Ask your child a question where the answer is “literally” there in the text. These should be straight-forward for the child and will help with their scanning skills. For example, ‘What is the name of the street where the family live?”
Ask your child a question where they have to look for clues in the passage to find the answer. The answer is not explicitly written in the text so your child needs to be a detective to work out the answer. For example, ‘What season do you think it is in the story?’
Find a word in the text that your child may not understand. See if they can work out what it means by reading the sentences around the word. For example, ‘What do you think ‘inclement’ means in this paragraph?’
Ask your child their opinion about something in the text. For example, ‘How do you think the character feels at this point?’
See if your child can summarise what they read in just 3 or 4 sentences. For example, ‘Can you summarise this chapter in just 4 sentences?’
Discuss the character traits of one of the characters. For example, ‘What adjectives could you use to describe the character’s personality and appearance?’
See if you can work with your child to identify the language that the author has used to bring the story to life. Can you find any examples of figurative language such as similes, metaphors or personification? For example, ‘Can you find the language device used on this page to describe the character’s appearance?’ What image does this create in your mind?’
Throughout the year, we run a popular Comprehension Course for children from 9-11 years old. This course teaches children how to respond to different types of questions so they can feel confident when faced with a comprehension paper. Contact us to find out when the next course will be and to register your interest.
“Our daughter took a one week English Comprehension course with Dani in July 2020. We were very happy with the course and the quality of the teaching. Dani put our daughter at ease from the start and guided her through gently and with encouragement. I think our daughter was surprised with her own ability at the end. The group size of 6 was just the right balance to give the children enough attention but also work off each other. Wouldn’t hesitate to use again.” (parent)
“Hi Charlotte, I just wanted to say thank you so much for the comprehension course, it all sounded fantastic! So well structured, so much covered (and really difficult stuff!) and my son said he got so much from it! So happy you told me about it.” (parent)
Other useful blogposts
Other blogposts of ours which you might find useful include: