Teaching "comprehension" with a difference

The author shares an interesting activity that she organized for her students to build their ability to read and comprehend.  

For a student,  language skills like listening, speaking, reading and writing are essential. It goes without saying that comprehension is a major aspect of listening and reading. As educators, we know that the ability to comprehend a passage that is read or heard is an essential skill that our students need to develop. The students are going to read newspapers, books and journals all through their life and we need to teach them how to "read and comprehend". 

Reading has two aspects to it:

1. Loud Reading
2. Silent Reading

While dealing with comprehension skills, it is the latter that matters. What I give below is an activity that I organized in the two grades that I teach. The students really enjoyed it.


The planning of this type of lesson involves a lot of homework for the teacher. During the vacation, I collected about 100 passages of approximately 300 words each, which was at the level of reading for Std. VI students. I made sure there were no words that they would not understand.

This is how it began:

Step 1 

Collection of passages from newspapers, journals and books. Make them into cut-outs. Stick them on charts of different colors. Read all the passages once to ensure that it fits the level of class.

Step 2

English comprehension for Class VII 

Discuss the concept of "comprehension" with the students of Class VII. Give each student a passage-card. Each passage will be different, with some being informative, some stories with values and some with anecdotes etc. Talk about how while reading, a person has to be silent.  Put up what "silent reading" indicates, on the board:

1. No movement of lips
2. Move only eyeballs, not necks
3. No whispering
4. If a sentence or word is not understood, don’t stop. Try to grasp the context.

Step 3

The task begins. The students are told that they are not students but TEACHERS! They will read the passages silently and prepare a question paper for the students of class VI. Each student is given a sheet of paper on which they will make the question paper.

Each student will write his/her name on the passage-card so that this activity can go on rotation.

Step 4

Students are given the following instructions:

Steps to prepare a Question paper for 25 marks:

1 Frame 5 questions which can be answered in one sentence.
2.Frame 5 questions which can be answered in two sentences or three sentences.
3. Frame 5 Fill in the blanks sentences.
4. Pick out 5 phrases for students to make sentences.
5. Frame a question for students to pick out 5 adjectives from the passage.

Staple the question paper to the passage-card.

The evaluation will be done by students of class VII, the day after the students of class VI have submitted their answers.

Step 5:  

English Comprehension for class VI

As with Class VII, discuss the concept of silent reading and comprehension with the students. The same points for silent reading are written on the board. Sheets of paper are distributed to all the students. The passage-cards with their respective question papers (prepared by class VII) are handed out.

Step 6

Instructions take 15 minutes. The task starts. Nobody is allowed to ask any questions. When the work is completed the teacher collects the answer sheets of the VI students and the passage-cards and question papers as well.

Step 7

Evaluation by Class VII

All the materials, the passage-cards, the question papers and the answer sheets of class VI are distributed to the students of class VII.  As they have already written their names at the back of the passage-cards, each student gets the same passage that they had made the question paper for.

The students may require a little help or clarification while evaluating the answers.

Step 8

All papers are corrected and the task is complete. The teacher collects all the materials from the students and tells them that they will be distributed to the VI standard students for judging themselves.

Step 9

Evaluation by Class VI

The students are given their respective answer sheets along with the question papers and the passage-cards and can clarify with the teacher any questions they might have regarding the evaluation.

Step 10

The task of the teacher is complete. The passage-cards are collected as they can be re-used ensuring that students get different passages each time.

A colleague asked me how I would be sure that the question papers were set and evaluted correctly. This is a herculean task for the teacher who has to read each passage, read all the question papers set by the students of one grade and also scrutinize each answer sheet submitted by the students of another.

I have found that students when allotted responsible tasks, do good work. It is also possible to do a random checking of both the question papers and answer papers rather than read all. I can vouch for the fact that children, when given tasks like "acting as a teacher", are very responsible and enjoy the work.  I also found that when the students of class VI were told that their seniors, their friends, were correcting their papers, they paid more attention and worked better. 

It is necessary that assessment should actively involve children. Feedback from peers encourages them to build on what they already know. Peer evaluation definitely motivates them to do better, and the evaluators enjoy it too!

There are certain elements that  are important in making "comprehension lessons" interesting:
1. Teachers must use different methods to make the lesson interesting.
2. Assessment must be done by students.
3. Students must also be able to assess themselves.
4. Students must act indepently to develop their skills.

This article first appeared on Hot Chalk and has been adapted here with the author's permission.


jyotikumta's picture

Loved the idea!

Deepti Prasad's picture

Liked this idea very much! Especially the part about getting them to assess and evaluate the work of other classes...it will make them more aware of what they write when they do a similar task.

sairam's picture

You are giving how to develop Lan.guageskils.Thanks a lot.

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