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Tutor Maryam shares her top tips to help improve your child's comprehension skills

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Jan 18, 2023, 10:55 AM

How can you improve your child's comprehension skills?

It’s that time of day again. You’re sitting with your child, a text on ‘Potatoes: how it all began’ laying on the desk before you. You question if things could get any worse. Your child brandishes a pen - ‘mightier than the sword’, they say. You both stare at your next quest. Who will take the first step?

I’ve had a lot of clients ask me about reading skills, so I decided it was time to put together this guide to outline 5 key steps to ensure your child can enjoy (yes, it’s possible) and improve their comprehension.

1. Encourage active reading

The initial introduction to a text is often the ‘make it or break it’ in terms of keeping your child’s interest, especially if the topic is one they may not find particularly riveting or relatable (reading about the anatomy of a ship can be quite yawn-inducing). Engage your child by asking questions throughout. These could be knowledge recall, opinion-based or making inferences and predictions.

Before you start reading

  • What do you already know about potatoes?

  • What’s your favourite form of potato? Fried? Baked?

  • What do you think the text will be about?

Midway through reading

  • Can you explain what’s going on so far?

  • What do you think will happen next?

  • Do you think Sir Walter Raleigh is a good person?

After reading

  • What did you learn?

  • Can you give me a quick summary in your own words?

If your child struggles to answer a question, break it down into digestible parts for them. Put ideas into context based on their own experiences - after all, you know them best!

2. Supplement reading with additional activities

Provide additional activities beyond the typical verbal and written questions throughout. This could be drawing out images described in a text like a setting as a perfect visual aid. Writing short summaries is also a great way for them to actively consider using synonyms and implementing a range of vocabulary.

3. Modelling

From my experience, students respond really well after embedding the ‘I do, we do, you do’ model with a given activity.

I do:

Demonstrate how to answer a question, guide them through your thought process and how you may put ideas down into words.

We do:

Work on the next question together. Allow them to lead but do prompt at times if need be.

You do:

They work independently to answer a question.

The ‘we do’ method is an excellent way to make learning seem more peer-like. Work on tasks alongside them and make it clear you are learning too.

4. Vocabulary buster

Before pulling out a dictionary, guide your child to use clues in the text. You could:

  • Look into root words.

  • Think about how the word may be used and ask them leading questions.

  • Regard the tone or mood of the text in influencing meanings.

  • Use punctuation or contrast clues.

5. Critical thinking

Critical thinking is an essential skill for the future. Sow seeds by introducing concepts of ‘bias’ and ‘objectivity’, question the reliability of narrators, and stimulate them to seek out evidence of this. Consider the type of text and its purpose as a method of conveying bias.

How can you add these steps into your routine?

It won’t be easy to integrate all these steps at once, but taking them as inspiration and slowly building them into sessions will maximise your chances of finding yourself at the end of a rainbow!

About Maryam

Maryam has been a tutor for 3 years. She prides herself on maintaining engagement and making content easily digestible for students with exciting activities.

Maryam specialises in tutoring for the 11+, SATs preparation and general academic gains at a KS2 level. She has extensive experience in supporting students to gain entrance to competitive independent and grammar schools such as Lancaster Girls’ Grammar and Royal, Liverpool Blue Coat, Kingston, Wallington County Grammar and Withington Girls’.


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