Comprehension Deep Dive (Lower Primary)

Ask any primary school parent which Chinese topic gives their child a headache, and the answer is either comprehension or composition. We have previously discussed how to tackle composition and a general approach to acing comprehension, and in this post, we are deep diving into a specific comprehension passage (P2) to show how parents can apply these concepts.

As a quick refresher, we advocate the following three-step approach when tackling comprehension passages.

Step 1: Skim through passage to get an overall understanding of the passage and to identify its broad theme, topic or storyline.

Step 2: Identify and underline the question words (疑问词) in the questions (i.e. the 5W+1H questions; click here for more information). Knowing what kind of question word we are dealing with will give us clues on how to identify the answer.

Step 3: Do a detailed read of passage while using question words and context from Step 2 to find the sentences where answers are found. Underline or highlight these sentences and write the relevant question number next to it.

We are big advocates of reading the passage twice vs reading just once and it doesn’t take much longer since the first read is just a quick skim. From our experience, this simple tip greatly improves marks especially when it comes to tricky and “what do you think (感想)” questions.


Step 1: Skim through passage 

The very first thing we should do when we get a passage is to do a quick read-through to get a rough idea of the passage. From our first scan, we know the passage is about an ant bragging to his friends that he killed a tiger.

💡Pro Tip: Some students prefer to skip this step and read the questions first before reading the passage. From experience, students who do that tend to only read the passage once, which can cause them to lose marks. In comparison, skimming the passage first before reading the question will naturally “force” students to read the passage twice.

Step 2: Identify and underline question words

Now, let us take a look at the questions, while highlighting the important question words. For Q1 and Q2, we underline the question word【什么】- which tells us we are looking for objects, events or incidents (WHO/WHAT). In Q2, we also underline 【告诉】, which tells us we are probably looking for some sort of speech.

Q1. 小蚂蚁在路上捡到了什么?

Q2. 小蚂蚁拿着毛,告诉朋友们什么?

For Q3 and Q4, we underline【为什么】- this suggests that we are looking for a reason or justification (WHY). For Q3, we also underline 【说】as it implies the answer is probably related to some sort of speech.

💡Pro Tip:【为什么】questions should usually be answered with【因为】

Q3. 为什么小黄鸟那根毛是自己的?

Q4. 听了小蚂蚁的话,朋友们为什么笑了?

For Q5, we underline 【怎样了】-  which suggests that we are looking for an outcome or state. We also underline 【最后】which tells us the answer is likely to be at the end.

Q5. 最后,小蚂蚁怎样了?

Step 3: Do detailed read of passage to find the sentences where answers are found

Q1. 小蚂蚁在路上捡到了什么?

Typically, the answer to the first question is found in the first paragraph, so we start looking there. We know the question is asking for an object and also notice that the phrase 【小蚂蚁在路上】 is repeated in both the question and the passage, and we have our answer.

Answer: 小蚂蚁在路上捡到了一根黄色的毛。 

Q2) 小蚂蚁拿着毛,告诉朋友们什么?

From our question words, we look for some sort of speech that the ant says to his friend, and identify the sentence with the answer.

Importantly, we cannot just “copy-and-paste” because this question requires us to convert Direct Speech to Reported Speech, or the equivalent of converting  [Sam said, “I went to the movies”] to [Sam said he went to the movies].

Answer: 小蚂蚁拿着毛,告诉朋友们它刚刚打死了一只老虎,它手上的毛是老虎的。

💡Pro Tip: An easy way to lose marks is for students to answer only half of the question, by not including【它手上的毛是老虎的】. It’s not uncommon for students to correctly underline the correct answer, but only include half of it because they don’t want to write so much. Don’t give up free marks!

3) 为什么小黄鸟那根毛是自己的?

Based on our underlined question words, we know we are looking for some sort of spoken explanation by 【小黄鸟】, and easily identify the sentence with the answer. Similar to Q2, we need to convert Direct Speech to Reported Speech.

Answer: 因为小黄鸟认为那根毛的颜色和它身上的毛一样,所以它说那根毛是自己的。

4) 听了小蚂蚁的话,朋友们为什么笑了?

We see the question word【为什么】again, so we know we are looking for a reason or justification, and that our answer should start with【因为】.

Since this is a passage for Primary Two, it’s easier and we can use phrases that appear in both the passage and question like 【听】 and【 笑】 to easily find the answer. Harder passages are likely to use synonyms instead, which underscores the importance of having a solid vocabulary foundation.

Answer: 因为朋友们知道小蚂蚁没见过老虎,却说自己打死了老虎,所以朋友们笑了。

5) 最后,小蚂蚁怎样了?

【最后】and 【怎样了】tell us we are looking for what happens to 【小蚂蚁】 at the end, and that the answer is probably near to or at the end of the passage.

As we mentioned above, since this is a lower primary question, the passage and question repeats the word 【最后】, making it easier to identify the correct answer. However, the passage could had used a different term or omitted【最后】, and thus it’s important for students to know 【最后】means “finally”. 

Other important temporal terms include 【然后 / 后来】* and 【一开始】**, etc.

Answer: 最后,小蚂蚁的脸红了,飞快地跑掉了。

* after

** at the beginning


Comprehension can appear to be extremely complex, but given the proper techniques and vocabulary foundation, any child can tackle it. Having said that, answering techniques and vocabulary do not appear magically, but require constant practise and regular reading. Hope you find it useful, and please feel free to leave comments and suggestions!

Lastly, if you are looking for help with Chinese, KidStartNow runs weekly classes that combine time-tested teaching methods with proprietary AI technology to make learning Chinese effective and engaging. 

We are recommended by 20+ parent bloggers and 95% of our parents continue with us every term because they see their children improve week after week, month after month. We provide onsite N2-P6 classes at Bedok and online P3-P6 classes, and please leave your details below and we will contact you within two working days.

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