How to Improve in Chinese Comprehension (Part II): Read Purposefully

Instilling a habit of reading Chinese books in your child from young is fundamental to doing well in Chinese reading comprehension (阅读理解) later in school. However, not only the types and quantity of materials he/she reads matter, but also how he/she reads them and your parental role in the reading process. In this blogpost, we highlight ways to read and decode stories and comprehension passages effectively.

Parent-guided, child-directed reading makes the difference

Are you wondering, “How ‘complicated’ can reading with my child get? Isn’t it just about picking up a book and reading it from cover to cover?”

As a parent, you play twin roles in the reading process. Firstly, give your child the space and time to do child-directed reading; follow his/her lead in what interests him/her. Secondly, be his/her reading support, guide and model. Make use of the interesting elements to guide him/her to expand his/her thought process.  

Engage your child in ‘guided reading or storytelling’ (导读), and not just passive story-reciting (朗读).

How to conduct guided reading

We understand how tempting it can be to treat reading with your child as an item on your task list to tick off, especially at the end of a tiring day at work and home, as your bed is calling. However, do try to resist the temptation to flip over the cover page right away at the start of each reading session and make a beeline for the last page of the story book. Instead, aim to make each reading session a two-way dialogue discussion, an interactive sharing experience (讨论分享) and a joyful parent-child bonding opportunity.

Decoding the cover

Before opening up the book to begin reading, spend some time observing and exploring the cover page. Children’s picture books (绘本), in particular, offer plenty of rich details as conversation starters. Encourage your child to draw upon his/her own interest, imagination and life experiences to deduce what the story is about, with these suggested prompts:

  • Introduce the title, author and illustrator’s names. Ask your child what he/she thinks the story is about.
  • Get your child to pick out details that catch his/her eyes and express why they are interesting to him/her.
  • Go beyond highlighting details to elaborate on the specific meanings of different visual cues (e.g. why the author/illustrator uses certain elements, different colours, different sizes, different positions).

For a spot of fun, you can also print the cover picture, cut it up into many pieces and make it into a jigsaw puzzle for your child to do. This can help to sharpen his/her observation skill.

Unravelling the story

As you delve into the story, you can do role play and read the story together collaboratively, if your child is old enough to recognise the words.

Remember to allow for pauses along the way when your child has questions or wish to share his/her thoughts as these are great opportunities for clarification and to promote understanding. You can also take the lead in pausing to ask questions at suitable points in the story, such as:

  • The 5W+1H questions – who (/什么人), what (什么东西/什么事情), where (哪里/什么地方), when (什么时候), why (为什么) and how (怎样).
  • “How do you know that?” (你怎么知道?)/”Why do you think so?” (为什么你这么认为?). This is possibly the most important question to ask your child as it trains his/her analytical, deductive and inference skills. It also enables you to understand his/her thought process.
  • Ask your child what the moral of the story is, whether the subject is doing the right thing, what lesson he/she can learn from the story, or what he/she would do if he/she was the subject of the story.

Pro Tip

Scaffold your questions progressively, from easy to hard, and be sensitive to the age of the children. Avoid plunging right into deep questions from the start. Always be encouraging, and don’t be too quick to correct a wrong answer. Aim to create a positive reading and learning experience every time.

Such guided reading is beneficial not only for reading comprehension, but also for the latest PSLE composition writing and oral format, as well as critical thinking in general, in the long run.

How to read comprehension passages

Reading in context

Unlike the English language, Chinese words (词语) are usually formed by and derive greater meaning from combining two or more characters (字).

At KidStartNow, we teach our students to read word by word (词语), not character by character (字). This is to help them understand the context of each sentence in the paragraph and the meaning of each paragraph. You can practise the same technique when you are reading with your child at home.

Example:

Instead of reading like this:

        亲                                                  

read like this:

今天    母亲姐姐    喜爱  鲜花    妈妈  买了  一束  红色  玫瑰  妈妈  感到  很高兴

Another plus point about reading word-by-word is this – even when he/she sees a word or character in the middle of a sentence that he/she does not know, he/she can skip it and move on to other parts of the sentence or passage to try to understand the larger context. With contextual understanding, it will help him/her make an educated guess of the meaning of the word that he/she does not know how to read.

Read like it’s a team sport

Note: Student names blanked out

What about students who get turned off by having to read long paragraphs of text during comprehension exercises? During KidStartNow’s lessons, our teachers break the class into two or more groups and pit them against one another to read the passage or paragraphs in turn.

When one group is reading, the others listen attentively to check if the group is reading correctly. Teachers record the teams’ scores using a quiz-based teaching app. This competition format motivates our students to pay attention in class and try to do better in comprehension.

Coming up next

We have covered tips on what to read and how to read story books and passages to aid comprehension. If you’ve found this post useful, please share it with your friends.

Look out for our next blog post where we will share tips on how to read comprehension questions as the next important key to answering these questions effectively.

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How to Improve in Chinese Comprehension (Part I): Read Widely

Writing

Does your child struggle with Chinese reading comprehension (阅读理解) in primary school? Reading comprehension not only tests students’ ability in understanding the Chinese language, but also in applying it. Not surprisingly, students often see it as the most difficult section of the Chinese Paper 2 to do well in.

Stay with us for the next couple of blog posts to pick up some useful strategies, techniques and pro tips that you can use at home as you coach your child.

Read from young

Firstly, help your child interest in Chinese and build a strong foundation in it through cultivating a reading habit from young, even before they step into P1.

Yes, mastering comprehension starts with reading! As your child gets exposed to more Chinese books, he/she learns to recognise more words, know more vocabulary and become familiarised with common Chinese sentence structures (which differs from English ones). In turn, these help your child understand the comprehension passages that he/she reads.

Now, you might wonder, what kind of reading materials will suit your child?

Different books for different ages

Before preschool

Read picture books (绘本) if you have a very young child.

Picture books generally have a bigger illustration-to-text ratio. Some of them can carry so few words that you might wonder if they are worth reading or buying.

In actual fact, picture books can be read at different depths to suit children of different ages and levels of Chinese proficiency, even right up to upper primary levels. We will share more on how to get the most out of reading Chinese picture books in the next blog post, so stay tuned!

After preschool

Read graded readers (分级书) with your K1 or K2 child. These readers are designed to cater to different reading levels. The levels start from emergent/beginner through advanced/independent level, with increasing number of words.

As your child enters primary school and builds up wider vocabulary, gradually encourage him/her to progress to other bridging books (桥梁书), which are usually simple, short chapter books with smaller illustration-text ratio.

Hanyu Pinyin – with or without?

Do you get stumped over whether to choose books with or without hanyu pinyin (汉语拼音)?

The most important factor to consider in choosing books is still based on their content and value – whether the storylines are interesting, engaging, appealing to your child, encourage thinking and conversations, and teach good values. Then, prioritise those without hanyu pinyin over those with, wherever possible. Your child will get a lot more practice in having to recognise and remember Chinese words this way and not just rely on hanyu pinyin to read.

Invest in a dictionary to look up words if you need help in this area. Dictionary-checking is also a useful skill to teach your child.   

Textbooks are not boring

What if your child has not formed a regular Chinese reading habit by the time he/she enters P1? Get him/her into the habit of reading the MOE Chinese textbooks 欢乐伙伴 every week at home, at least three times weekly. This will help in revising and remembering what he/she has learnt in school.

xuele

Make it a fun activity by taking turns to read alternate lines or paragraphs with him/her, or do role-play. Reinforce by co-watching the animations with him/her, listening to the songs and doing the quizzes at 学乐网, MOE’s repository of digital resources that complements the 欢乐伙伴》 syllabus.

Magazines as supplementary reads

Another reading resource is the popular Chinese magazine 《好朋友》(for P1 to P2 students)/《知识画报》(for P3 to P4 students)/《知识报》(for P5 to P6 students), also written based on the 《欢乐伙伴》 syllabus. You can subscribe to it through your child’s school or via Etutor’s website 知识网.

Encourage your child to read the magazines at home after he/she has done the exercises in the magazines in school. You can also read the levelled e-readers with him/her and try the online quizzes, if the subscription includes digital resources.

Get serious with comics

Check out Chinese comics such as 《闹闹漫画乐园》, 《这一班日记》and《又是这一班》at the local libraries or bookstores. Written by local authors, these stories are full of local flavour and humour. As your child can easily identify with the characters, places and situations in the comics, they may be more willing to read them over more text-based Chinese books.

Animation storybooks for the digital generation

Explore animation storybooks such as the Boshi Panda 《熊猫博士》 series developed in-house by KidStartNow. You can access the storybooks via a monthly subscription. New titles are added every month.

boshi

Or, sign your child up for our preschool classes (N2 to K2) at KidStartNow and he/she will get to learn new vocabulary and sentence structures through these animation storybooks during lesson every week. These storybooks are a hit with our young students as they appeal to their natural curiosity and interest in magic, adventure and travel to sustain their interest from episode to episode, lesson to lesson.

That’s not all. As KidStartNow’s student, your child also gets online access to the animation storybook that is taught in class after each lesson is over. Co-watch the episode with him/her as revision. He/she can even earn digital coins in his/her individual ‘digital bank account’ when he/she answers the word recognition quizzes correctly. Say yay to no more nagging him/her to do revision at home!

More about ‘guided reading’ in Part 2

Now that you know the wide range of reading resources out there, keep your eyes peeled to our blog as we share how you can get the most out of reading with your child through ‘guided reading’ (导读) in our next post.

Share this blog post with your friends if you’ve found it useful.If you would like to find out more about KidStartNow’s animation storybook-based classes for N2 to K2 or our primary school classes, please fill up the form below or whatsapp us at 9820-7272 now!