Improving comprehension

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Post by willow » Fri Jul 07, 2006 9:37 pm

Frances, if I rememebr correctly your son is about 3 1/2? I suspect he does know the story but sees little point in repeating it back to you when there are lots of exciting things to do!

My ds is the same, try and get him to 'tell' you anything and he won't / can't but we have had some success with the 'what happens next / what else might happen' questions. it shows that he is understandong the story and you can really go to town on silly ideas, incidentally introducing new words. One other thing we do is always try and introduce a new word and explain what it is, then use it so it is building up his vocbulary.

My dd is great - she meets an unknown word and spells it out to me to expolain what it means. Very hard if i am driving to concentrate on long words and even harder to try and find a 5yr old friendly definitiion!

Good luck

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Post by maizie » Fri Jul 07, 2006 11:57 pm


I'm really sorry, please don't take this the wrong way, but your son is not yet 5. I don't think that Roald Dahl was writing for a 5 year old audience. I think that the book is way beyond him. No wonder he can't remember the story.

To me, refusal to stop playing with his toys and curl up for a cosy pre-bed reading session says that he isn't interested in the reading. May be he finds the book unengaging. Why don't you try another book, something a bit more appropriate to his age?

I think that this habit of grilling children about the book they are reading, whether asking them to recall the story or predict it, is guaranteed to put a child off reading for life. How can you get lost in a story if some daft adult is asking you silly questions about it every 5 minutes? When I see how the NLS murders books I think it a wonder that any child survives the experience and ends up reading for pleasure :(

Do you stop every so often to review or predict the story when you are reading a book to yourself? I'll bet you don't. I know that I'm too busy turning the pages to find out what happens next.... I'd brain anyone who broke in on this with idiotic questions :twisted:

Does your son understand what you say to him? Can he tell you a story? Does he generally enjoy being read to (except for boring old Roald Dahl, who is vastly over rated )? If the answer's 'yes', I don't see you have anything to worry about.

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Post by CuriousMum » Sat Jul 08, 2006 12:11 am

My younger son can decode many, many, many words he can't understand (he is 4y 10 months now). That's fine by me - his comprehension will increase as he gets older. At least he has a good start by being able to read the words and ask what they mean.

I deliberately don' t ask him questions about stories he is reading to me or I am reading to him - if he asks what a word means, of course I tell him, and sometimes I offer a definition if I'm pretty sure he won't have a clue (an example from yesterday is 'susceptible'). I agree with Maizie about all this predicting stuff - I don't do it when I read, so why should he want to?

More generally, I think comprehension is built by sharing stories that he enjoys. Right now, my little one enjoys reading Beatrix Potter, because he likes the illustrations and the plots are easy to follow. Even though he could read much harder books, he doesn't want to - he loves lots of picture books, because they are written for children his age.

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Post by Anna » Sat Jul 08, 2006 12:13 pm

Hi Frances,

There are some wonderful picture books available now for this age group. I would suggest you take him to the library or bookshop and browse with him, see which ones grab his attention or ask his teacher which he especially enjoys looking at or listening to at Nursery/Reception. I am sure he has his favourites. Children of this age love to have favourite stories re-read many times over. I used to teach Reception and one of my favourite parts was choosing and sharing books with the class at storytime.

There are so many but some popular favourites which spring to my mind are the Elmer stories, the Gruffalo, the Mick Inkpen stories, lift the flap books are great too (my Year 3 -5 pupils enjoy these too, albeit with more advanced vocabularly and concepts!), We're Going on a Bear Hunt etc. I just bought a new guide by Jacqueline Wilson called 'Great Books to Read Aoud' which would give you some ideas for the 0 - 5 age group.

I'm sure if you share these with your son, bedtime stories will be the fun, relaxing time it should be. He obviously trying hard to please you but is clearly rather confused about what you are expecting of him and cannot repeat back a complex story, which was written for much older children.

I think at this level it is fine to discuss the story after reading sometimes, most children enjoy doing this and looking through the book again, discussing the pictures (which is fine when it isn't used as a strategy to help them guess words).

Hope this helps,

Anna :D

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Re: Improving comprehension

Post by Maltesers » Sat Jul 08, 2006 10:42 pm

frances5 wrote:My son is making good progress with jolly phonics. However I know that one of the critisms of synthetic phonics is that decoding is well in advance of understanding of words.

I regularly read to my son and I ask him questions about the story I just read. Although the language of the story is not hard, quite often he does not remember the story. I am sure he understands the story because his speech is a good standard.

How do you improve comprehension? It is a matter of developing memory? What suggestions do you have.
Perhaps he is just enjoying listening to your voice, perhaps he finds it relaxing and very enjoyable, perhaps he isn't taking in every detail but is enjoying the story here and now. I would hate reading if I was being grilled on it afterwards.....careful you don't put him off! I suspect if you read the same story to him over and over he would eventually be able to recall all the detail.....children do love this. I remember my youngest at 3 would love me reading the same book over and over.

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Post by Maltesers » Sat Jul 08, 2006 11:01 pm

frances5 wrote:My son is four years and 8 months. At the moment I am reading him the story of James and the Giant Peach. (which is well and truely beyond his reading ablities, I'm trying to introduce him to literature .... lol!) Andrew is doing quite well with jelly and bean stories though.

I get frustrated with him at bed time when he wants to play with toys rather than get into the bed and listen to the story. At the same time he is begging me to read him more and more chapters. I refused to read him any more and made him go to bed as he was refusing to sit still. Andrew then was defiant that he had been listening but he could not tell me about the story I had just read to him.

I will try and ask him what he thinks is going to happen next. I dont think there is anything wrong with my son's vocabulory, he just forgets what I have read to him.
Got to agree with Maizie here. This is far too advanced for a 5 year old. He might enjoy the film if you get it for him but listening to a story with few pictures to engage him could be very boring for him. Literature is any well written book in my opinion and there are some lovely books out there for your sons age group, which are beautifully illustrated.

How about some good old fashioned Fairy tales, Nursery Rhymes, or some simple non fiction books! I have found through experience that children love stories they can relate to. We used to visit an animal farm alot when my children were little and they used to love this old book I had about farms. I would look for something he is interested in and buy a book to suit it. I mean would you enjoy someone reading a book to you about Molecular Biophysics because I sure wouldn't :D In his eyes that is probably what you are doing to wonder he struggles to recall the story.

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Post by Judy » Sat Jul 08, 2006 11:24 pm

Frances - my grandsons (a little older than your son) are just the same when it comes to bedtime stories. They want to go on playing while they are being read to. But they wouldn't do without their bedtime stories (several!) for the world!

I am certainly not anti-TV but I do wonder whether it's because they are used to being able to carry on playing while listening to/watching the television? The television certainly doesn't ask them to stop what they're doing and pay attention! Nor does the television ask them what the story was about afterwards! I think more is probably going in than you realise.

(I wish I could say the same for some of the children I teach. I think it's the reverse a lot of the time! :( )

As a matter of interest, I wonder whether this is necessarily a bad thing. I think our minds operate on several levels at the same time. I certainly have done some of my best paintings while 'watching' TV and I often find I've found the solution to problems which have been worrying me while gardening or shopping!

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