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Reading and Understanding

Maybe because I have been helping Only Son with his book report, and at the same time trying to figure out how to encourage Youngest Daughter to read books other than dog and horse books, that I reviewed something that I wrote three years ago. It is about reading comprehension questions, one of my beloved teaching tools. 

The piece was originally posted in my now closed blog. I made some revisions and now I share it with you.

I am a big fan of reading comprehension questions. After one of my children gets over the hump of reading a story all by himself, I am eager to know how much of what he is able to read can he actually understand. Reading comprehension questions directly address this concern, while training my child to fully understand and review his reading assignment.

Types of comprehension questions. In the early grades, I noticed that the questions are usually of the simple and linear who-what-where-when type. I think it is for training the child to recall details and build factual knowledge. I am amazed at how fast children can absorb facts at this stage... and how quickly I, the teacher mom, forget. There are times when just after reading a story together with my child, I still need to rely on my answer key to check his answers!

When the why-how type of questions is introduced, the dimension of critical thinking is added, and comprehension questions become more challenging. After the fourth or fifth grade (earlier for some), I think it is good to teach the child to be conscious of the elements of character, setting, plot, moral or lesson, while reading a story.

Answering reading comprehension questions. I used to force my children to write down their answers to each and every comprehension questions (taskmaster tendencies, tsk, tsk). I have to confess now that in the early grades, this drove them (and me, occasionally) to tears. It was stressful for all of us, and therefore, self-defeating. I know now - on 20/20 hindsight - that at a very young age, a child has to enjoy learning; otherwise, he will never love it.And if he grows up not loving the learning process, he will never muster the fortitude to plod on later in life when learning may become boring but necessary, or momentarily exacting but rewarding in the end. But I digress.

Most children love to talk. I know that one of mine does. So why not let them answer reading comprehension questions orally. This may lead to an extended conversation with mom about the story or poem just read. Then it would not be just an exercise on fact recall, but also on forming and expressing opinions. Also, while in conversation, feedback and re-learning, when necessary, become immediate.

Children can also draw their answers to reading comprehension questions. I find this especially useful for answers that describe actions or appearances. What did Juan's mother do when he came home late from school? How did the house of the richest man in the village look like? How do you think did Noah fill the ark with animals?

Eventually, though, those answers would have to be written down. And the child who was guided and not rushed to producing manuscripts would be ready - and willing - to deliver. An answer can be all of one complete sentence. One of my most gratifying moments as a teacher mom is when a child has written a complete and interesting sentence.

Offshoot activities and skills.  This is still a semi-wish list for me. After coming up with answers with accurate content and correct grammar, it would be good to linger some more with a really good story. A life of a saint or hero can be enriched by a short research paper on his place of birth, recognized miracle, or the congregation that he founded. After being assigned a patriotic poem, a child could read about the actual historical account behind it and come up with a historical timeline-map project. The possibilities are numerous, bounded only by a child's (or mom's) curiosity and imagination.

I hope I didn't sound too preach-y in this post. Reading comprehension questions just happen to be one of my ol' reliables in homeschooling. If you read this far, I hope the post will be of help to you.

Let's all read more this year than we did last year!      



  1. Very good post...I need to increase the reading time with my youngest. Above the assigned reading; fun reading. Somehow the hours in the day just fly by (or I'm just too tired).
    I think your last sentence is a resolution I need to make for this year!


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