Recently I had a parent ask me about some hints and tips to help improve some her children’s literacy skills to best prepare them for high school English and VCE. I thought that this was a great question to help parents who want to best prepare their kids for learning in the older year levels. Here are three hints and tips you can use with your child while they read a given comprehension text which will ultimately help them to achieve a better understanding of it, but also to foster in them skills which would be of great benefit to them for studies in later years.
Ask questions about the text which get the child to infer meaning from the text.
In VCE students must analyse a text. Plot-based analyses usually do not receive the highest marks for the “Knowledge of the Text” criterion in the text response marking rubric. Generally speaking, students that are able to analyse more subtle aspects of the text (by this I mean they are able to infer meaning from the text which is not understood through a superficial explicit understanding of the text) tend to score higher for “Knowledge of the Text” criterion.
So the question is, how do you have our students develop the skill to read and infer conclusions from the text which are not stated explicitly?
What I recommend you do, and what staff are trained to do at BSLC, is to ask students’ facilitative questions about the text after they have finished reading it. Such facilitative questions are designed to evoke deeper, more profound understanding of the text. Their function is to have students make educated guesses about the text, based on the evidence provided in the reading passage. One example of a simple facilitative question is “Do you think that Peter Rabbit was feeling happy or sad?”. Even though the text may not explicitly state that Peter Rabbit was sad, we can infer that he was as he was “crying” and had “given himself up for the lost”. Here, the student is to look around for evidence which supports the idea that Peter Rabbit was happy or sad and to make an educated guess, based on the surrounding evidence in the passage, that Peter Rabbit was sad. Naturally, inferring aspects of the text is not always so easy. But getting students to think more profoundly through a string of thought-provoking questions is certainly going to assist that child along the way to develop the skill to independently draw conclusion about the text which are not stated on the surface.
Next blog will deal with the second hint you can employ to assist students in their understanding of the text; that of asking questions which assist children to justify the conclusions they have drawn. Please leave comments below.