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Help your kid with reading comprehension
Here are some tips to help your kid with understanding the texts that he needs to read for school:
- Let your kid draw the story
When my daughter was 3 I could already read long stories and books to her with only very few pictures. My son however depended on the pictures for a long time and still needed them when he was already going to school. For him it was very useful to draw the story. If the story is long you can break it down to paragraphs or even to sentences and let him draw one picture per paragraph or sentence.
My son was often not reading carefully and making up part of the story instead of reading what the text was saying. Having to draw everything helped him learn to concentrate and work with the text. Of course at first he only drew a small part of what was in the text. When we then reread the text again and he had to check sentence for sentence if he had drawn the action he began to see how much he had overlooked. It took a while but eventually he started to read more carefully and catch what was really said in the text.
You can start as easy as you want. Just make up a small story where every sentence is drawable. E.g. "It's the giraffe's birthday and she receives many presents. A table and chairs are prepared for the guests. Three guests are expected in total and the giraffe and the little bear are already seated. There is a cake on the table with 4 candles. One candle is red, one is blue, one yellow and one green. A ball is lying under the table. The giraffe is wearing a scarf. Both, giraffe and bear are wearing a party hat." I hope you see what I mean. When your child can master this you can go on to other stories that are a bit more challenging to draw. For my son this really was an important step in learning to process all the information that he was reading.
- Find some pictures and make some sentences and let your kid find the sentence that fits to a particular image.
- Find some pictures and let your kid sort it in the right order.
Later you can do this with sentences as well.
- Make sure your child works with the text.
Let him have a pencil while reading so that he can underline important words. Be careful however that he isn't just randomly underlining something.
- Start with a text and questions where all answers can be found in the text. Let your child underline the right answer and copy it.
- Work with him through common questions so that he knows what to look for in the right answer
This asks for the characters / the persons in the story. Grammatically speaking you are looking for nouns.
What is happening in the story? What do the characters in the story do? This asks for the action in the story. You are looking for verbs.
This asks for a time. This can be a particular time but also just a day of the week, a month, a season or just something like 'morning', 'evening', 'today', 'yesterday', 'last week' etc. Sometimes this is only given implicitely. That is when the text e.g. says 'on their way to school' then we know that it must be in the morning because usually kids go to school in the morning. Does the story happen now (present), did it happen before (in the past) or is it going to happen later (in the future)?
This asks for a place.
This asks for a reason or cause. Tell your kid that if he reads 'why', his answer must have a 'because'.
- how is it happening?
This is asking for action like the what questions.
- How can you describe the characters? how does s/he look like / how does s/he behave
This asks for a description, for adjectives.
- How do the characters feel?
Look for explicit words that tell an emotion. You are again mostly looking for adjectives here.
- Do you like the story? Why? What do you like best? Who do you like best?
Sometimes a question asks for their opinion. These often look like yes or no questions. Tell your kid that the teacher wants a reason for his/her answer so he/she needs to write yes/no, because...
Practise synonyms with him /her
Make a list of different words that express joy, love, happiness, sadness, fear, surprise etc. Let him / her make sentences with each of them. If you read a story with your child point out when you come to expressions that express those words.
(The ghost made "booooo" and her face turned white, she trembled with fear.)
For French I found that this is a good synonym finder:
Ask your kid to retell the story to you in his / her own words
If your child still has difficulty try to find out why
-Maybe he can't concentrate long enough and has already forgotten what was at the beginning of the story when he finished reading it. Start with very short stories and practise reading with him. The more he reads the better he will become.
- Maybe he doesn't understand the story because his vocabulary isn't big enough yet. This is especially true if he studies in a language that isn't his mother tongue. Go through the story together and make sure he understands the words. Repeat the story again on several other days so that the vocabulary can sink in. Again the more he reads the wider his vocabulary will become. Read some texts where you go over every word and read other texts without interfering.
Always remember: There are a few cases where more practise will help. But mostly more of the same will not help. You need to try something that is different from what is done in school if you want to see an improvement in your kid's achievement.
Copyright © 2004-2019 Katja Socher, tuxgraphics.org