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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Promoting Comprehension

“Mum, I have read the question, but I still don’t know what I am expected to do.”

“I know that I have to look for key words. You have told me that before. I am just not sure what the words mean.”

If you sometimes hear words like there it may be a good idea to look at general comprehension.

Try to make sure that the books and other reading materials cover as wide a range of topics as possible. If one member of the family is interested in restoring VWs – and has piles of magazines – then you can not really expect your daughter to become enthusiastic about the subject – unless she likes working on old cars. Look for books and topics that not only reflect her interest – but also extend and enrich her reading.

On occasions read the article or a page from a book with your son or daughter and discuss how the author has put the paragraphs together. Work out how the author writes the opening sentence. Discuss the final sentence in the paragraph. Go back to the days when your English teacher did that sort of work with you. Try to remember those lessons all those years ago and school. You are now the adult who can read with comprehension. Try to give your child as much insight as possible into the construction of different types of paragraphs.

We all know this – and you have mentioned it one hundred times already – but highlight the key words. Key words on 11+ papers are different in context to those appearing in general literature. In literature you will be looking for themes, characters and plots. On an eleven plus paper you will be looking for words like `discuss’ or `product’.

The most useful tool you can give your child for eleven plus papers and for general reading is a wide vocabulary. Try to do this systematically. Using dictionaries, build lists of useful words will help. You may get quicker results if you build the vocabulary from your daily speech, the books your child is reading and the needs of the eleven plus papers.

The one area you will need to work on is trying to motivate your child to read in a different manner. By all means encourage reading for pleasure – but also try to you’re your child to read for information and answers. To do well on comprehension passages at school and at home your child will have to want to find the answers to questions. You will need to build your child’s confidence. The motivation will come with confidence.

An adaptation from a saying is: “The better I get the more I practice.”

We can add: “I feel more motivated when I feel more confident.”

The one step before bribery is paired reading. You read a page, your child reads a page, you read a page and your child reads a page. Page by page the chapters build up. Discuss what has been read. Talk about events, themes, happenings and what you think will happen in the future.

Any now onto the step that many parents have found a highly effective way of promoting good comprehension and reading habits. It is called bribery. You can pay by the word, the page or the book. It all comes to the same thing. A few pounds a month on encouraging good reading and comprehension habits may pay dividends.

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