3 Tips on Mastering Comprehension

kids reading

Mastering Comprehension is something which I hope my children would be able to do. Comprehension and Composition are the most difficult components of a language which a child has to grasp. Many of my students lose a lot of marks in comprehension as they are unable to fully understand the questions asked and answer them accordingly.

There are  various skills needed to ace answering the comprehension section of a test  paper or exercise.  The ten marks awarded in this section makes a great deal to whether the child passes or fail the exam. It would also add up to the total marks and  which band/grade  he would be awarded for English.


English and Maths marks are used to band and allocate students into classes over here in Singapore schools. Therefore, I feel that it is important for one to have a good grounding in all components of English especially comprehension.

I started introducing comprehension to my children when they are in Kindergarten 2 (5-6yrs old). We started out with simple passages and straight forward questions with answers that can be found easily in the passage.

Sample Passage

This morning Anne and her mother went to the supermarket. Her mother bought her a packet of chocolate milk.

Question: What did Anne’s Mother buy for her?

Answer: A packet of chocolate milk.

Tip #1 : Highlight the answer on the passage when teaching the child how to spot the answer on the passage.

By doing so you are teaching your child where the answer can be located and it would be easier for him to refer back to the relevant part of the passage when he is filling in the answer to the given question.

Getting younger readers to read the passage and question aloud would also help facilitate their train of though and help in the understanding of the given comprehension.

Once your child has master this first skill of answering straightforward questions you can move on to teach him how to search for a fact.

Sample Passage

Durians are one of the favourite fruits of locals. This fruit is nicknamed the king of fruits. Many people love eating it as it has a juicy and fleshy pulp. Durians can be eaten on its own however nowadays you are able to eat durian ice-cream, pies, chocolate and cream puffs as delicacies.

Question: People love eating durians because___________.

a) It is the king of fruits.

b) it has a juicy and fleshy pulp.

c) it is one of the favourite fruits of locals.

d) you can find it as durian ice-cream, pies, chocolate and cream puffs.

Answer : (b)

This is a bit more tricky then the first as the answer is “hidden” inside the passage and not so “clear” at first glance. The child would have to be able to comprehend the whole passage before being able to select the relevant information from it.

Tip #2 Re-read the passage after reading through all the options given in the question. Highlight the key components of the question which you need to focus on I.e: ” Love eating durians” so it is easier for you to spot the answer.

As your child progresses through school they will have to deal with more complex types of comprehension questions. Some questions require answers which require the child to input their own opinion, answer based on contextual clues, giving explainations to the meanings of words and even to draw their own conclusion. Being able to infer and predict are also some higher order questions which maybe asked in a comprehension.

How then to prepare your child for the increase in difficulty?

Tip #3– Read widely and have lots of chance to practice completing comprehension on different genres. Your child should practice on both multiple choice question and answer comprehension passages and open ended answers. Only through practice would they be able to hone their skills in the mastery of comprehension.

How do you tackle comprehension with your child?



75 thoughts on “3 Tips on Mastering Comprehension”

  1. Very good tips. Thank you for sharing.

    On tip 1 – do you mean tell the child the answer, highlight it then get the child to write the answer?

    Is it a must to include “Because” in the answer when the question ask “Why”? If yes, to begin the answer with because or so and so did this because …..?

    Is a lower primary child required to provide answer exactly from what is found in the passage or he/she can provide answer which is logically correct but not mentioned in the passage?

    1. @Shook,
      For Tip #1 I do that for Doggie boy as he is very new to comprehension when he started out. Now he does the highlighting himself with the highlighter. It is not necessary to use the word “Beacuse”. It is okay to just state the reason unless you feel that it answers in more detail. It depends on the actually question. It can be okay to write- He went to the park because he wanted to fly a kite.

      We do not encourage lifting from the passage. It is always better to write a logically correct answer if the child is able to do so.

      1. I will try your tip 1 on my younger boy when he is older.

        My elder boy refuses to re-read the passage when I asked him to read to me

        My elder boy was marked wrong once when he provided an out of the box answer.

        1. @Shook,
          Out of the box answer it will depends on the question asked so can’t conclude why CC was marked wrong unless I see the paper. Re-reading really does help as it does reinforce reading and understanding. They cannot assume that they understand everything from just one reading.

          1. The out of the box answer he provided is logically right. I didn’t look for the teacher as he wrote the word incorrectly.

            I praised him for giving an out of the box question but explained to him that if he didn’t write the word wrongly, I will ask his teacher. This is to encourage him to think out of the box.

            Normally he likes to answer the question in his own words but the problem is he makes grammar mistakes. So, I teach him to pick the answer from the passage, dilemma…

            What can I do to make him re-read a compre passage and check his work?

  2. I found additional support like Kumon classes and Logico Math, English and Brain Development exercises to be very helpful in building reading comprehension with my kids, even my slow learner.

  3. very informative post. i’m not sure if i can do it with my son (3 1/2yrs old). right now, he’s learning to trace and write letters though he doesn’t like this activity. hehe!

  4. Thanks for this very helpful post. Though my kids are all grown up now, I’m sure others with young kids can use these tips.

  5. thank for all these tips. This is going to be of great help especially that the school year is opening soon. Moms would be very busy assisting their young ones with their homeworks again.

  6. I let him reread the story if he doesn’t understand. Sometimes I find the questions really easy and giving obvious answers especially the multiple choice questions. So sometimes I ask him to tell the story to me in his own words. It may not be his favorite but that’s the only way I learn he understood what he’s reading.

  7. My boys are 6 and 7 yrs old and they have been practicing reading readiness / comprehension since Kinder level. We even practice this at home during story time where I stop every now and then when reading the story to ask simple questions. It works! 🙂

  8. You’re right. It’s best to start teaching comprehension to kids at an earlier age. Taught well, kids’ brains are like sponge, they absorb everything.

  9. thanks for the tip.. my children really has been struggling for the school shift to Singapore math.. not only the kids but the parents as well… but gladly they’re coping up right fine … now they’re into singapore english na rin … .. thanks for the tips 🙂

  10. I don’t have a kid yet but I took care of my younger sister years ago. I usually make it animated or interesting for her so that she will have better recall. That accounts for more than half of comprehension already, I think. And then, repeating them in conversation later on also adds to the retention. 😀

  11. This is a well written post, thanks for sharing, lots of moms will be benefited by this.

  12. Re-reading might do the trick, plus one has to read aloud for better comprehension and English composition (works for me).

  13. My son has the same problem 🙁 he can read but cannot comprehend 🙁 your tips are really helpful 🙂

  14. Oh my, I got no kids yet but as a one-time creative writing teacher to Korean grade schoolers, I’d say we have to be patient in teaching kids how to comprehend the things they hear, read, or watch.

  15. I’m doing this with my daughter. I ask her questions when we read books together to help her pay attention to the story.

  16. Nice tips. I cannot use this to my son right now because he is still two years of age and still cannot read. Some can be used to him like tip 1 which highlights the answers to my questions orally.

    1. @allan,
      Hope that you can use this tips soon. My 20 month old is also slowly learning how to read.

      1. my son already know the letters of the alphabet but he doesn’t know how to read yet. He can also understand immediately what we say. He is a fast learner I guess. Once we told something to him, even once, he will remember it.

  17. I love your tips! My daughter is about to turn 3 and is already very keen on reading. I hope these tips would help me teach her 🙂

  18. nice post! I hope parents can read this to help their children to comprehend easily. 😀

  19. Thanks a lot for sharing this article. Nowadays learning become so easy and well explained because of many available tips uploaded in the WWW.

    Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6

  20. These are good tips. Comprehension exercises in school were something I actually enjoyed, I didn’t mind answering. This is something we can definitely do with kids even if they’re just reading for leisure. That way, we help sharpen their minds.

    1. @Vera,
      Yes it’s important to give kids the right tools to understanding comprehension.

  21. These are for keeps. I’ll bookmark it. Right now we’re still starting to read 3 letter words. Once my kiddo started reading phrases, will practice this.

  22. I have 2 nephews and a niece I help teach when their parents are busy. The tips you have mentioned are useful. I have noticed children have low attention span so I let them play for a brief time in between their studies and give them positive feedbacks when they are coping well with their lessons.

    1. @Farida,
      Yes kids have really short attention span. I personally find that 15 mins is the max a kid can concentrate especially if he is 5 yrs or younger.

  23. This is really helpful my daughter is turning 5 and ready for kinder. I just wish that she will learns comprehension easily.

  24. My little girl just turned 2, and already she’s in love with books. I’m bookmarking ths one for future references. Thanks for the tips 🙂

  25. I get my kids read and read and read books. I ask them questions or let them cite what the sTory is about. I think that lets them get used to analyzing stories. Those are great tips! Thanks!

  26. Thank you for the tips! I’ll be needing these soon as my little ones are starting school this year. They’re only 3 and 4 years old but has shown great capacity in remembering details from stories I read to them. I try to develop their comprehension by discussing books that we read and even movies that we watch.

  27. Very good tips! When I read in Japanese I use highlighters all the time (which annoys my husband to no end, when he opens his book to see pink and orange!). Good call on using them for kids as well.

  28. Great tips! I bet you are a good teacher.

    I think adding picture in the story will help the child develop his/her comprehension ability. I’m not so sure. hehe

  29. Nice tips. I do not have a child yet but I do have an 11-month old nephew. These tips will prove handy one day.

  30. Honestly, I never had the time to really sit down and teach my kids about comprehension. They love to read, surf the net, learn from other’s stories and watch shows, cartoons that are heartwarming and funny . Sometimes, they can even tell what’s going to happen next on a particular scene, or how the ending would be. Maybe I ma just lucky !

  31. interesting and very helpful. It’s a good find , i will check this out and read so i can apply them to my little child.

  32. Thanks for this post! I’ll be bookmarking this.
    One thing I want to be really hands on with my own kids is their education.
    I’m even thinking of reading up about homeschooling for them.

  33. Practical and useful tip!

    In my daughter’s case, I ask my daughter to highlight words she didn’t understand when reading so I can explain it after she finishes reading. It’s also a way to exercise her “dictionary skills.”

    1. @Meikah,
      It depends on the age of your kids. For me I do a selection with my kids who are aged 2, 6 and 8. We have books that we borrow from the library, some which we have purchased for them over the years and online reading via IPAD Apps or on the PC. I don’t follow themes but go with the books that I manage to get my hands on. Sometimes I get audio books( or books with CDs attached to them for the kids) so they can look at the words and listen to the story at the same time for a change instead of me or them reading it out.

Comments are closed.