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Year 4 DD has been given a 4A in reading but still struggles answering comprehension questions

(46 Posts)
MrsCantSayAnything Thu 01-Nov-12 09:05:35

She's a young year four and reads avidly....she has always found comprehension questions befuddlling though...her teacher this year seems to understand her and says "It's a technique thing....she'll get there."

She went on to say "She obviously understands the books she reads because she reads SO much...and obviously loves it..."

So my question to Mumsnet parents and teachers is why can't she answer comprehension questions easily?

I have every confidence in her teacher as she really "gets" DD somehow....DD is very articulate and grasps quite sophisticated reasoning and philosophy/humour...but how can I help her to respond "right" in comprehension tests etc.

Iamnotminterested Thu 01-Nov-12 09:38:55

hmm How can a child considered to be a 4a if they can't answer comprehension questions competently?

MrsCantSayAnything Thu 01-Nov-12 09:45:05

I don't know! She can obviously grasp the plotlines and can discuss them in depth...she can answer some questions but others get her irritated and she won't really try.

She reads far and above her age though and can have an intelligent discussion about most subjects if they interest her. She's extremely articulate.

rainbowinthesky Thu 01-Nov-12 09:47:42

She doesn't sound like she is actually 4 a.

MrsCantSayAnything Thu 01-Nov-12 09:50:18

Well I wanted advice on how to help her...not to dispute the teacher's reasoning. I don't care what level she's on...I want her to be able to answer comprehension questions. She reads things and likes talking about's when she's faced with dry questions about them that she seems either unwilling or unable.. hard to say which as she's a bit of a pain when it comes to talking about things like that.

MrsShriek3 Thu 01-Nov-12 09:54:23

To get 4c,4b or 4a a child needs to be able to skim, scan, make inferences and deductions, and predictions. It's possible that she can do all of these - but as you say they're quite often evidenced through comprehension tasks either orally (guided read etc) or in writing.
Is it the written variety that your dd struggles with or are you saying that the skills aren't secure?

Acinonyx Thu 01-Nov-12 09:54:55

I've got a similar issue with dd. Her reading is several years ahead but she really hates answering questions like this. 'Irritated' is exactly the word. I can sort of see her point but unfortunately, it's something they have to be able to do.

It's also partly, I think, that writing is a very different skill to reading - so talking about a book is very different to writing about it.

MrsCantSayAnything Thu 01-Nov-12 09:56:11

The written things MrsShriek she can and does discuss things in detail and her teacher said she's very articulate when it comes to doing this...but sitting down with a sheet of questions not so much!

MrsCantSayAnything Thu 01-Nov-12 09:58:41

Acinnyx yes...she gets all "Oh I don't care about THAT!* and it seems to diminish her pleasure in the book somehow. Her writing isn't as high as he reading, it is at a 3A.

MrsShriek3 Thu 01-Nov-12 10:08:53

Acinonyx has hit the nail on the head IMHO, writing it is a whole different kettle of fish and my ds1 is similar, also a y4 4a reader but simply cba when it comes to writing an adequate answer. It's like their brains go too fast for their hand to keep up and they end up cutting corners or getting muddled. or they simply have too much info and can't sift it or reduce it.
If she's got no real difficulty answering the questions, then it's more about organising an answer and getting it on paper that may be the issue. I often ask children who have clearly understood and given a great verbal answer (with suitable praise that their response was very good) now let's think- if we had to write that down, how would we start? Which bits shall we write and what are the best words to use? (ime they sometimes don't know where to start or what to write first)
All that said, just carry on enjoying reading with her and try not to get too bogged down. It may just take a bit for the written side to catch up, and the skill set is different. The important thing is that she continues to enjoy reading and understands what she's reading, reading between the lines too smile That's what makes reading fun.

MrsCantSayAnything Thu 01-Nov-12 10:17:23

That makes sense...she took ages to get to where she is with writing. I expect the gap will close eventually. smile Thanks so much.x

learnandsay Thu 01-Nov-12 10:48:07

I think that maybe if it was my child and if answering these questions was important I'd go about it slightly differently. It looks from your discussion OP that your daughter actually knows the answer, her problem is formulating it in speech. And possibly/probably not being motivated even to try in the first place if the questions appear to be a bit pointless.

I'd start from the other end. I'd work out what the answer was supposed to be. (Say, she gave Snow White the poisoned apple because she was jealous.) I'd close the book, get a clean sheet of paper and talk a bit about various emotions that are possible. Then I'd ask a few unrelated hypothetical questions like how do you think the three bears felt when they saw LRRhood asleep in their cottage, (thinks totally unrelated to the question at hand, to ensure that I wasn't leading my daughter to the correct answer.) And when my roundabout methodology was completed I'd ask, So why do you think she gave Snow White the poisoned apple?

ie I'd try to soften her up a bit by asking general children's literary questions and then ask the one I want. That may make her feel a lot less on the spot and obliged to give specific answers about this book that we've just read. (Maybe as time went on I'd form my discussions not quite that closely to the answer. I can see that even discussing emotions in characters is a bit leading. But as the method becomes more established I'd imagine the mum can become more vague and still get the answer she's looking for.)

Whistlingwaves Thu 01-Nov-12 10:52:16

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MrsCantSayAnything Thu 01-Nov-12 10:55:33

learn you see...if I even tried to do that....get the paper out and ask her questions, she'd just refuse to comply. She knows when I'mm trying to get her to do this work and won't do it.

whistling that's old is your DD and what is her writing level?

MrsCantSayAnything Thu 01-Nov-12 10:55:56

And what is the processing disorder called?

gwenniebee Thu 01-Nov-12 10:58:57

I teach my kids how to "steal" from the question so that they can "not cheat, but be a bit sneaky" about answering. They tend to love the fact that they think I am telling them to be naughty. So, for example, if the question says, "Why was Billy's mum happy?" the children know that a "why?" needs a "because", and then they "steal words" from the question so the answer reads "Billy's mum was happy because...".

At this age reading is often ahead of writing - I wouldn't get worried about that unless the discrepancy is vast.

Whistlingwaves Thu 01-Nov-12 11:18:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Acinonyx Thu 01-Nov-12 11:24:42

''if I even tried to do that....get the paper out and ask her questions, she'd just refuse to comply. She knows when I'mm trying to get her to do this work and won't do it.''

That's exactly what happens here. Do you find your dd generally non-compliant? Mine is on principle - and it makes homework a nightmare. Her free writing is much better than when answering questions. But it isn't just non-compliance, I think she does genuinely get stuck with this kind of writing. The only way to improve is to practise which of course she is not at all co-operative in doing. We get extension work set which never gets done because I struggle so much just to get the basic HW done.

The gap for us, is pretty huge and I fear it will actually get a lot wider quite quickly and I don't think that would be good.

lingle Thu 01-Nov-12 11:44:23

DH and I have noticed that there are frequently ambiguities in the questions. Sometimes teachers just don't seem to be able to see these for looking any more (when you know the kind of technique needed for the answer, the question seems clear). Even if there is no ambiguity, they are often very "pat". They don't get to the heart of the story and they don't engage with the dynamics of the story.

So I'm wondering if she dislikes the way they cheapen and take the magic out?

Otherwise, I like this approach, which combines doing the set work with acknowledging the naffness of the questions.

"I teach my kids how to "steal" from the question so that they can "not cheat, but be a bit sneaky" about answering. They tend to love the fact that they think I am telling them to be naughty. So, for example, if the question says, "Why was Billy's mum happy?" the children know that a "why?" needs a "because", and then they "steal words" from the question so the answer reads "Billy's mum was happy because..."."

lingle Thu 01-Nov-12 11:47:07

also, if the OP's teacher says this is a "technique thing" maybe that's consistent with the child picking up on the naffness issue?

I think that when something is precious, like a story or music, cheapening it with questions that don't really communicate much can make a smart child bridle.

learnandsay Thu 01-Nov-12 12:00:32

Surely if it's mainly a question of naffness then the parent could just ask harder, more sensible questions. But if the child is just flat refusing to answer any questions it's got more to it than cheesy, pointless questions. It's got a disobedient child.

lingle Thu 01-Nov-12 12:20:36

It starts with the naffness-awareness and hardens into a habit of refusal because adults deny how you feel and point you away from exploring what you enjoyed into reductive questions. The person who should be your partner in wonder, your mum, doesn't have to insist on comprehension questions.

MrsCantSayAnything Thu 01-Nov-12 12:33:55

lingle I think you've got it really....there IS often ambiguity in the questions....there are too many variables in some of them and DD can be a bit cheeky/precocious.

But Learn she is far from disobedient. SHe's very well behaved ...but she's annoyed at what Lingle pointed out.

MrsCantSayAnything Thu 01-Nov-12 12:34:56

That's how I've played it Lingle...just given her the ones she liked and now she does it alone as she prefers that. If she wants to discuss a book I will but I don't tend to ask questions anymore as she hates that.

Acinonyx Thu 01-Nov-12 12:36:03

Lingle - I find the HW reading book set questions oddly tedious and I'm sure this is part of the problem (unnatural, is the term that strikes me, personally). But if this is their HW and this is the kind of thing they are generally asked to do then confused what to do about it.

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