Reading Comprehensions: An Alternative Approach?

28-February-2019 19:14
in General
by Admin


Reading comprehension is a such an important part of literacy learning, but do standard comprehension questions further learning in the best way possible? Do they help children get ‘under the skin’ of a text and understand its voice and purpose?

In my experience, reading comprehension questions all too often fall into two camps – those with a clear learning objective and…filler. Unfortunately, ‘filler’ questions on many reading comprehensions seem as commonplace as 6/10 songs on an average pop album. I’d say I'm more of a compilation fan – each track earning its place and there for a good reason; why can't this be the case for comprehension questions too?

This idea led me to experimenting with questions and tasks that would really help children connect with and explore any text. I was over the moon with the results: children began discussing texts between themselves, asking more questions in literacy lessons and wanting to write more. There could be several reasons for the increase in engagement: any-text questions/tasks require increased independent thought; the children realised that they didn't need to rely on a specific set of questions to unpick a text; the pattern of question/tasks became familiar thus providing a scaffold for children's ideas. Whatever the reason, I was just happy with the results.

Over time, I finalised a set of Literacy Task Cards – for fiction, non-fiction and non-narrative fiction; these cards can be used with any text – with questions addressing content, vocabulary, grammar, reader response and further thinking tasks. Downloadable here I’d absolutely love to hear how you and your class or children get on with them; they’ll be regularly revised and updated.

I’m not suggesting that we should throw traditional comprehension questions out of the window, but maybe extending the range of our questioning, then children will gain more opportunities to develop their own interpretation and understanding of writing style, voice and purpose. 

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Carolyn from Write Example