“Help! My child keeps messing up his comprehension section!”
That’s a cry that I have heard from worried parents countless times. There are many reasons why a child does not do well for comprehension, but the most common problem is one which I have constantly noticed from observing how my students tackle their English Comprehension questions. I often hand out comprehension passages of varying difficulties to my students and as practice, go through question by question with them to guide them through the thought process and actions of coming up with an accurate answer to the question. There are many fundamental mistakes that students make, (I can’t go through all in one post), but one of the most common and the simplest to rectify is this:
Students fail to refer back to the passage before answering the question.
It may seem like it is pure common sense to us adults but the truth is, children’s brains are not as developed as ours yet.
My students, from Primary all the way to Secondary level, all commit this silly mistake of not referring back to the passage to double-check the information before giving the answer. They will straightaway try to attempt the answer, with preconceptions in their mind.
The simpler the question, the stronger the preconceived answer appears in their mind, the faster they act. The result: They will write out the answer without ever performing the simple act of flipping the pages to check a specific paragraph to see if they are correct.
Here’s an example.
Question: What contributes to global food wastage?
Without checking the passage, some of my students immediately write based on preconceptions.
Student’s Answer: Throwing away left over food in restaurants and supermarkets contributes greatly to food wastage.
Although the answer is not totally wrong, the students fail to get full marks for it. Upon referring back to the passage, the students are surprised by additional information given by the writer, which is not seemingly obvious if you try to answer based on your “general knowledge” or “common sense”.
Correct answer : In less developed countries, food wastage occurs due to inefficient methods used in storing and transporting food. In more developed countries, food wastage occurs in restaurants or supermarkets where leftover food is thrown away.
Hence, you can see why, the more obvious an answer seems to the student, the higher their chances of making a mistake. Make sure your child avoids such complacency. Make sure he/she go through this simple process to answer comprehension questions:
After pointing out this simple process of Q>C>A to my students, they all answered their comprehension questions more accurately. However, after a few weeks, I noticed that they have gone back to their old ways of complacency again. So you see, even though it seems so EASY, students still FAIL to follow this process. The best way is to make sure the student does it so often enough that this process eventually becomes a HABIT.
Many times, as adults, we have difficulty trying to understand why something so seemingly simple, can be such a huge obstacle for our children. By thorough observations, we can read our children’s behavior and root out the mistakes, behaviours and thought processes hindering their learning progress.
I strongly recommend that when guiding your child in comprehension, make sure he/she follows this simple process of Q>C>A.
By Jerry Lee,
English Tutor & Auntie-Counsellor
Intellicat Tuition School
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