Comprehension Skills: Reading with Understanding

The Comprehension section in the PSLE English Language Paper 2 remains a concern for most students and parents.
One of the key reasons why students lose marks in that section is a lack of understanding when engaging with the passage. Engaging with the text involves comprehending the meaning, context and significance of the passage.
Based on research and our experiences in teaching critical reading skills, listed are some helpful tips for both students and parents to improve students’ reading comprehension:


Tips for Students
“How will I score well for my Comprehension?”


(1) Look Out for Key Ideas
Since the comprehension passages are often at the end of the examination paper, students may experience mental fatigue by the time they encounter the passage.
To help students focus on the passage, they may use the following guide:


  • What is the main idea of each paragraph?
  • Who are the main characters in the passage?
  • How did the characters feel?
  • Are there explanations or supporting details given?
Using the guide, students can devote their attention to each sequence in the story without getting intimidated by its length or being confused by the narrative structure.  It may also pre-empt them to the questions that follow.


(2) Tackling “Tough” Vocabulary
Challenging vocabulary may interrupt reading, but it should not impede the understanding of a sentence or a paragraph.
Students with limited vocabulary may wish to skim the passage for any difficult vocabulary first before reading the entire passage. Using a dictionary regularly will be helpful.
Otherwise, the meaning of the challenging vocabulary Otherwise, the meaning of challenging vocabulary words can be inferred from the context in which it is used. Look for clues in the paragraph that hint at the meaning of vocabulary word.


(3) Listen to your Inner Narrator
Have you ever read a passage and realised that you had forgotten what the entire passage was about? Unfortunately, many poor readers face this grave realisation and struggle to handle the comprehension questions later on.
Students are encouraged to read the passage to themselves, enunciating the words in their minds (phonological code). They may also read quietly to themselves.
Listening to the inner narrator in their minds, a technique known as subvocalization, activates the working memory which encourages the student to process the information given.
Note that this is not merely reading; through subvocalization, the students can get a “feel of the words” as it is expressed by the characters based on the incidents that take place.


(4) Read the Passage More Than Once
Students should read the text thoroughly by ensuring that they do not miss any narrative details. Students are also encouraged to make connections between the different parts of the text.


When attempting the comprehension questions, students should refer to the passage regularly.


Tips for Parents
How does a child become a proficient reader?


Learning to comprehend passages can be a difficult process but it should not leave you frustrated. Ultimately, we want to create a lifelong reader and ignite a passion for reading that will develop your child holistically. Through these tips, we hope that you will discover the joy of watching your children discover and decode a text independently.


(1) Encourage Your Child to Read Aloud
Find a comfortable reading pace with your child that does not compromise comprehension.


Enunciating words aloud will strengthen the ability for children to then mentally activate their phonological code that allows them to hear differences in language.


(2) Introduce Related Topics
Encountering new material will encourage children to pay close attention to digesting the information given.


Most children will already have subjects in which they are interested in. Look for adjacent topics and ask them to link the information to what they already know.


(3) Focus on Both Quality and Quantity
Being exposed to various writing styles will help build critical reading skills as children are able to encounter different ways of expressions.


Often, children may be drawn to popular titles or picture books. Introducing short stories or abridged versions of classics may nudge them to pick up more challenging titles. A diverse bookshelf is a healthy way to start fostering reading comprehension.
At Cognitus Academy, we believe in sharpening students’ ability to read critically, by developing their comprehension, inference and evaluation skills.


These skills are at the core of our teaching strategy, ensuring that students are not only prepared for examinations by instilling a disciplined answering technique, but they are also set up for success in the modern world.




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