Tip of the Week: How Well is My Child Comprehending?

In my most recent tips of the week, I suggested there were three factors to consider when choosing the correct reader for your elementary child. The two discussed so far are the number of words read per minute and reading accuracy. The third factor is reading comprehension.

Reading can be thought of as two activities happening simultaneously: decoding and comprehending. Decoding, when reading orally, is the process of translating the words on a page into sounds. A student might read the typical number of words per minute for their grade level. A student’s reading accuracy might be near 100%. However, if after reading, the student is unable to answer some simple questions covering what was just read, she really isn’t reading, at least not the way we’re thinking about it here.

Educators have separated the kinds of questions we may ask our children into six categories. These questions have often been represented by educators as a pyramid to suggest that some questions are harder to answer than others. Questions at the bottom are easier than questions at the top. If you’re interested in how to frame the various kinds of questions up and down the pyramid, we’ve written a booklet, How to Ask Questions That Matter that shows you how to do just that.

But for the purpose of choosing the correct reader, ask questions at the lowest level. These questions that often start with the following phrases:

  1.  What happened when…
  2. Name the city where…
  3. How long was…
  4. Who painted the…
  5. What was the boy’s name…

After your student completes their one-minute reading test, ask two to three simple questions like the above to gauge their comprehension of the passage. Avoid asking too many questions about one passage.  You may inadvertently begin to measure their ability to remember, not just comprehend, what they read. Because a score of 80% (4 out of 5) is considered passing, having your child take two or three reading tests to reach this number may be best.

The ability of your child to comprehend simple questions is the last factor to consider when choosing a reader for your child. However, there is one overall principle that governs these three factors.

I’ll tell you about it next time.

Thanks for reading!

Curt Bumcrot, MRE

It’s not too late to enroll in NCCA’s Diploma Program! We offer accountability and support through this advisory service to homeschool families completing high school coursework. Click here for more information.

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