How We Learn Comprehension

I wanted to catch more eyeballs with a header that says “Ace your way in Comprehension” but I thought since our self-learnt method is not tried and tested, I had better be humble to share this post on how we learn Comprehension, the no tuition way.

We have been doing our #30minrevision every weeknight and only concentrating on nothing but English. We leave the Science and Math revision to the weekends when we have more time. The reason why we concentrate hard on English shows how I value the importance of the English subject. And it is also easier for us to concentrate on language rather than the heavy kind of revision in calculation or theories on the limited attention span on weeknights.

As most of you may have known that I learnt a lot of good tips from the PSLE Parent Workshop for English by Marshall Cavendish Education. I shared my learning with Missy 12 over 4 blocks of #30minrevision in 4 weeknights.

1st weeknight of #30minrevision – Reading Comprehension and explaining to her how to draw arrows on the Comprehension passage and infer.

2nd weeknight – Read Comprehension Questions and explain to her how to do highlighting on the questions. Then read the Comprehension passage a 2nd time to understand more in depth and relate to Questions. Start doing the Questions until 30 min is up.

3rd weeknight – Continuing doing the Comprehension Questions. Then check answers and explain mistakes. Try a 2nd Comprehension passage all over again starting from reading the comprehension passage once.

4th weeknight – Do the same steps as above to complete 2nd Comprehension passage and complete questions. This time round, Missy 12 could do it faster because she has grasped the Comprehension skills and concept.

6 Steps in Learning the Comprehension Skills


Step 1: Reading the Passage

This is the most important step to score in Comprehension! If one does not read properly and understand what the passage in depth, he/she will waste much time in answering the questions because he/she will have to refer back and forth and scan through to re-read several times. I told Missy 12 to spend more time to read the passage carefully and understand the passage as much as she can, once she is able to understand the passage, she will save lots of time when doing the Comprehension questions. It will be faster than skimping through the passage and dive right into the questions, only to have most of them answered wrongly.

Step 2: Annotate as you Read

I learnt this step from the PSLE Parent Workshop. There are many words in a passage that refer to one another. Sometimes, the reference of the words are not obvious and one has to infer (deduce or conclude) from the story to understand what the words are referring to. For example in the picture below, the word “a ten-year-old boy” is referring to “Wesley Binks“. And Missy 12 will draw an arrow to join these 2 inferences together. The word “It” highlighted in yellow is referring to the “firework”, hence, Missy 12 will similarly draw an arrow to connect both together for her understanding. While it may seem obvious, it helps readers to not get lost in the passage.

Comprehension 1

 You may ask if this is a time-waster in examinations. Well, I told Missy 12 that as long as she annotates during her regular Comprehension practices, she will annotate faster as she gets the hang of it and she can even annotate less during the examinations. What is important here is to first UNDERSTAND the passage.

 Look at the picture below, I teach my girl to write down meaning of phrases. For example, “feathers were still a little ruffled” means “angry“. So, what if she does not know the meaning of the word or phrase? I realised that it is good to make a guess and look one sentence above and one sentence below or within the same sentence for clues. I have gone through with her a few times and I find this trick works most of the time.

Comprehension 2

Step 3: Read the Questions and Highlight

Make a habit to highlight tenses and keywords in the questions. This will remind the child to answer in the right tense. Actually, most of the answers are usually in past tense for most Comprehension passages, unless the passage is a non-fiction passage. Then, you will spot most present tense usage in the passage anyway.

Step 4: Read the Passage a SECOND Time

Reading the passage a second time is very important. Usually, we will understand the passage better or catch the details that we had left out in the first read. This time round, when reading, do ask questions to yourself and answer them. In the Workshop, we learnt that this is a good habit to get used to. When one ask questions in the head and answer these questions, he/she will tend to get closer to the answers to the questions that examiners set, because examiners set the questions with the same kind of thought process in mind! In fact, when we get used to answering our own questions, we are training our mind to be analytical too!

Step 5: Answer the Questions

This is the time to answer the questions and I remind my girl: DON’T BE LAZY TO FLIP BACK AND REFER TO THE PASSAGE AGAIN AND AGAIN! I find that sometimes she tends to answer questions with her memory instead of flipping back the paper to refer to the passage. If the answer is in the passage, do not let go of a chance to get the answer right! Do not depend on just memory alone!!!

Step 6: Check G.P.S.

What is G.P.S.? Not the navigation of course! Get your child in the habit of checking Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling! There is bound to be mistakes! Never give up on checking carefully. I told my girl to point to each word when she reads her answer just to be sure she is using the right tense and right spelling.

The above 6 steps are how I want my girl to go through each Comprehension passage from now on. In fact, I told her if she gets the habit of doing these steps, it will help her go a long way into Secondary School when Comprehension passages are much tougher.

If you like this post and find it useful, do share with your friends who are struggling in Comprehension or preparing for PSLE like us. I want to selflessly teach everyone what I know and how I teach my children in academics. I do have a small ambition: To inspire more parents to go the NO-TUITION route like us! Let’s save money and save time for our children to play and unwind more! I think there is more to life than academic and tuition.

You may follow us in the NO TUITION PSLE SERIES by clicking on the link or follow us on instagram to see how we learn in our daily #30minrevision. And if you have a P5 kid, do hop over to DinoMama, a fellow mummy blogger who has started to document some good study tips from her daily revision with her son too.

Hope this post is useful to everyone out there who has a kid in school! Stay tune for the next post!