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How to improve comprehension (Yr 7)

(12 Posts)
namechangedtoday15 Thu 27-Oct-16 09:48:17

My DS has just started at secondary school (selective grammar). He is great at Maths and problem solving, less so at comprehension. I've noticed with quite alot of his home that there is a comprehension type element to it - even for science etc, the task will be to, say, summarise the article about the most dangerous plants etc.

We read every most night together, he occasionally will read on his own (not very often despite buying books for him / trips to the library etc).

Anything else that may help him?

BossWitch Thu 27-Oct-16 09:51:14

It's just practice really. So when you read together, stop every so often and get him to tell you what's happening. Also make sure you are reading stuff that will build up his vocabulary, as it's a big barrier to comprehension if he gets lost because he doesn't understand some of the words. In my experience it's a skill which is very slow to improve, so you have to just keep plugging away with it.

Will watch with interest in case anyone comes up with better tips!

irvineoneohone Thu 27-Oct-16 09:55:54

This site is great for comprehension. Short passage, interesting topics makes it easy for reluctant dc to try. Free.


namechangedtoday15 Thu 27-Oct-16 09:56:38

We do stop and discuss but he struggles to summarise, he picks on little details rather than kind of seeing the whole picture.

Thank you for your comment, Bosswitch, will keep plugging away at it.

namechangedtoday15 Thu 27-Oct-16 10:00:03

Thats a great site Irvine (although I've just got the first question wrong blush!)

redskytonight Thu 27-Oct-16 10:00:50

Is it actually comprehension or the retelling in is own words that is the hard bit?

DS used to understand things pretty well, but had no idea how to summarise, pick out the key points, tell me what had happened without just repeating half the original text. on the other hand he's quite good at expressing himself verbally, so we'd get round this by doing it by speaking.

So I might ask -"can you tell me what happened in as few words as possible" "what's the most important thing that happened?" "Who are the main characters and what can you tell me about them?" (for fiction).

and for non-fiction maybe get him to talk me through what was happening
and keep asking questions. telling him to assume I knew nothing (and for me to ask "idiot" questions helped make him realise when what he'd said was imprecise.

... but that only works if your DS is more of a verbal/auditory learner probably!

MrsWembley Thu 27-Oct-16 10:04:00

Yes to practice! Keep asking questions at appropriate moments, not just in reading but during television programmes to check he's caught all the possible meanings in a conversation. And yes to building up his vocabulary, not just to improve his understanding but to give him the ability to explain himself and what he thinks.

Give him examples of others' answers too. Sometimes the worst thing is knowing what you want to say but being worried that you're not going to say it in the right way. Sentence starters are useful at this age, giving him a way in, but his teacher should be doing this.

Lazybeans50 Thu 27-Oct-16 10:04:17

I wonder if he needs to be reading alone more to develop his skills at reading and understanding stimtaneously.

Yamadori Thu 27-Oct-16 10:05:00

Could it be that he struggles with comprehension because, unlike maths and problem-solving, there is no single actual 'right answer'?

It can be hard to get to grips with the concept of being asked for an opinion in your own words rather than a specific correct answer, and he's worried that he will get the answer wrong.

irvineoneohone Thu 27-Oct-16 10:12:03

My ds has exactly the same problem, struggling to summarize, and stuck with details.
The website does lots of summarizing questions.

namechangedtoday15 Thu 27-Oct-16 10:58:20

All really good advice, thank you.

Without wanting to out myself, it is a combination of factors I think. He has a bit of history if you like of having jumbled thoughts, almost too many ideas at once and being unable to communicate that (he was under a speech therapist for a stutter when he was 3 which, according to the therapist, was kind of a slight delay in speech and then everything coming at once - he had so much he wanted to say his brain and his mouth weren't in sync). Everything (as far as speech was concerned) was fine until Year 6 where there was more emphasis on speaking aloud and the stutter / hesitation is back (we're currently awaiting an appointment with the speech therapist).

So I do agree that it is a combination of inability to put it in his own words / fear of getting it wrong because there is no "right" answer but also a little bit of missing the point / not understanding the main themes.

I will definitely use that website with him, thank you.

JoJoSM2 Thu 27-Oct-16 11:30:03

In my opinion, to really help your son, he'd need to do more than just read books or have a chat about them. The sort of activities I do with students to help with that are tasks including summarizing in 1 sentence, in up to 5, giving time to rehearse + 1 minute speaking to summarize etc. The key point is to reflect afterwards on what they have done well but also to make sure that they notice when they waffle. You could also practise finding information in texts and supporting his opinions.
As reading and writing go hand in hand, it's important to look at different texts and pick out key features + have a go at writing them yourself. The things to practise would be topic sentences, developing arguments/explanations, text cohesion (again understanding those will help work with texts to unpick them in a range of subjects). Having ago himself, will help him tune into whatever he is reading and be more observant and analytical about texts.
In addition, there is a whole range of comprehension skills he will need to develop to do well in English - how writers organise texts and how their language choices are effective and what impact they have on the reader, reading between the lines etc.
If you feel that it's tricky for him at the start of year 7, I'd consider getting a bit of tuition as all these skills are crucial to do well in just about any subject.

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