How to Improve in Chinese Comprehension (Part III): Read Smartly

Let’s start with a quick recap. So far, we have learnt about how reading a wide range of materials from young and reading with a specific purpose in mind can help strengthen your child’s Chinese reading comprehension ability.

In this blog post, we delve deeper into comprehension passage reading techniques. In particular, through reading questions smartly, your child can uncover useful hints to help him or her find the correct answers more easily.

READ PASSAGE OR QUESTIONS FIRST?

At KidStartNow, we advocate the following process for reading comprehension.

Answering Process

Step 1
The aim of the first read is to get an overall understanding of the passage, and to identify its broad theme, topic or storyline.

Step 2
Understand what the questions are asking for or about. Identify and underline the question words (疑问词) in the questions (i.e. the 5W+1H questions; see more details below).

Step 3
With the second read of the passage, identify where answers can be found in the passage.

Pro-tip
Mark out the sentences where answers are found by underlining or highlighting and writing the relevant question number next to it.

Annotating a passage becomes especially important in upper primary levels when the student may need to derive the answer for one question from different paragraphs of the passage. With highlighting or underlining all parts of the answer, your child is less likely to miss out any part and lose precious marks as a result.

Unless your child is much older, such as being in secondary school, or he or she is running out of time during a timed assessment, we do not recommend reading the questions without first reading the passage.

IDENTIFY BASIC QUESTION WORDS (疑问词)

A comprehension question is made up of question words (疑问词) and keywords (关键句子).

The basic question words (疑问词) used in questions can offer useful clues to finding the correct answers in the passage. These question words are commonly known as the 5W and 1H (see table below).

Each question word has a different purpose. Guide your child to understand all five different question words and their purposes.

Question words (疑问词) What is it asking for/about?
Who 谁. 什么人, 什么动物 person or animal
What 什么东西, 什么事情 object, or event or incident
Where 哪里, 什么地方 location or place
When 什么时候 time
Why 为什么 reason, justification, motivation
How 怎样 method, way, process, steps

Pro-tip
When answering questions with basic question words, especially at the lower primary levels, it may be possible to lift answers directly from the passage. However, remind your child to always ensure that he or she answers the question to the point. This could mean having to paraphrase the answer in order to address the question directly.

FIND WORDS RELATED TO BASIC QUESTION WORDS

Some Chinese words exist in pairs because of the nature of Chinese sentence construction. So, one way to look for answers in the passage is to find words which are associated with the basic question words.

For example, “因为” ( “because”, signifying reason) is often followed by “所以” (“therefore”, signifying the result or outcome) in a comprehension passage. So, when tackling a “为什么” (“why…result/outcome”) question, look for sentences with “因为…所以” (“because”…. “therefore”) in the passage.

DECODE TOUGHER QUESTION WORDS

Question words typically get more varied, complex and difficult from Primary 3 upwards. This applies especially to inferential questions, questions that require the student to answer from his/her life experience, or questions that ask for personal opinion.

For example:

“从哪些句子可以看出…” (“from where in the passage can you tell….?”)

“如果你是作者/xx, 你会如何/怎样…” (“what is you are the author/subject, what will you…?”)

“你认为…” (“What do you think of….?”)

For such higher-level questions, it is not so straightforward as to lift the answers from the passage. Your child will likely need to infer and deduce from reading the whole passage, or apply critical thinking skills and his or her own personal life experience. This is where reading Chinese books from young, conversing in Chinese regularly and being exposed to rich experiences outside of school can make a difference.

IDENTIFY SIMILAR KEYWORDS (关键句子) IN THE PASSAGE
Keywords (关键句子) forms the main part of a question. They also hold the key to helping your child find the correct answer in the passage.

Guide your child to look for similar keywords that appear in both the question and passage. If necessary, adapt the answer by paraphrasing it to address the question directly.

QUESTION NUMBER CAN BE A HINT

Generally, teachers set reading comprehension questions chronologically. Assuming a passage with five paragraphs and four questions, for instance, the answers to the first two questions are likely to be found in the first half of the passage, and the last two questions in the second half. Observing the question number can help to narrow down where an answer to a question might be located in the passage.

KNOW THE MARK ALLOCATION

Students often end up losing precious marks because of incomplete answers. How to know how long your child’s answer should be?

Look at the number of marks allocated to the question. If it is a one-mark question, most likely one answer is sufficient. For questions with two or more marks allocated, there probably needs to be two or more parts to the answer, to make it complete.

ALWAYS CHECK YOUR WORK

Two other common pitfalls that result in students losing marks in reading comprehension is the omission of words and words being copied wrongly. Whether your child is lifting an answer directly from the passage or adapting the answer slightly to suit the question, remind him or her to copy words from the passage to the answer field carefully.

At KidStartNow, our teachers get our students to practise silent reading when checking through their reading comprehension answers. They read silently to themselves what they have written, word for word. This helps to prevent students from just glossing over their copied words quickly.

We have shared with you a wide array of techniques and tips that our teachers have found useful in helping our students improve in their reading comprehension. Have a go at getting your child to apply them and let us know whether they work equally well for your child! If you would like us to share tips on other aspects of Chinese learning, please also write in to enquiry@kidstartnow.com to tell us!

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: How to Improve in Chinese Comprehension (Part I): Read Widely | KidStartNow

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