Wednesday December 21, 2016
I don’t know about you, but I have always found that children struggle to answer questions in comprehensions properly and correctly. Sometimes they don’t know how to start finding the answers or what kind of answers they are looking for.
With the new curriculum putting more and more emphasis on comprehension, a lot of schools have been asked to include one comprehension lesson a week.
I was so confident and keen to teach my first proper comprehension lesson. There were plenty of textbooks around with engaging texts and good quality questions to make the children think. ‘Great’ I thought…‘that’s all I need’.
Sitting down with the children in our first new comprehension session, I felt like nothing could go wrong. I was invincible. We read the text together, modelled the first few questions and the children were great. I felt so proud. Famous last words it seems!
Full of confidence I sent them off to their tables to work on the next section independently… They proudly presented their work to me and I couldn’t believe what I saw! Where did I go wrong? Not one question right! But how, when they were so good when we worked together?
‘What’ questions answered using ‘because’, wild underlining when asked to pick out two words of a certain meaning and a general lack of understanding seemed to prevail. It seemed it was all a bit too much to do in one go and on their own.
‘Well, we will talk it through and try again next week’ I thought. ‘It can only get better’. But to my surprise there was barely a change to be seen over the next few weeks and then it dawned on me:
BREAK IT DOWN!
I had to break down the skills they needed to tackle comprehensions successfully and to focus on one skill at a time:
1. Question types:
Thinking carefully about what kind of answer the question word asks for. I didn’t give the children a text but they had to work out from the question word, which multiple-choice answer was correct by identifying whether the question asks for a time, place, reason etc.
2. Inference and finding clues:
Looking at the clues in the text and using them to make sense of what happened.
Thinking about language choices and understanding the meaning behind words and phrases, picking out synonyms etc.
Over the next weeks I focused on one skill at a time before confronting the class with a whole text again. It worked wonders! I got them talking in groups and we had proper discussions along the way.
The next text-based full comprehension lesson was much better. I have never felt more proud. The fabulous thing is that it does not take long to come up with these little exercises and you can link it to any topic! The ones featured here are all about Brazil.