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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Eleven Plus Comprehension Wed 29th

Parents and children often think of comprehension as being reading a set exercise from a book and then answering series of questions. Do you remember these words?

“Mind that you answer in full sentences.”

To some children working through a comprehension exercise must be highly frustrating. There could, for example, be difficulty in retaining what has been read. This could mean that a child could read a passage and, by the end, be unsure of what has been read at the beginning.

A number of comprehension passages are based on classics of yester year. The content would therefore be exercises taken from extracts from books long out of print. The subject matter may not be pertinent to today’s world. Other passages, however `old fashioned’, may appeal to different children. The words may evoke imagination and stimulate the mind. (One man’s meat is another man’s poison.)

I have the privilege of seeing GCSE English scripts on a regular basis as children write GCSE Foundation and Higher papers before starting lessons. Some children (even those at grammar school) have difficulty in working out what the passage is about. Some grammar school children have difficulty in establishing what a GCSE question is asking. The basis of good comprehension skills can be built on at the Eleven Plus stage.

Children working on verbal reasoning exercises need strong comprehension skills. They need to be able to read a question and work out what is expected. With multiple choice verbal reasoning exercises the child also needs a good reading vocabulary.

Parents could try discussing the passage to be read in terms of where the selected words sit in an overall story. (It helps if mum or dad has read the book!) The style of writing can also be discussed to try to bring the passage alive. Finally the passage could be skimmed for hard or unfamiliar words. These new words could be discussed.

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