Reading comprehension 

Looking for clues

If you remember from last month's article: ‘reading’ means understanding the author’s message, not just calling out words? If you cannot answer comprehension questions after reading a page, you have not truly read anything.

There are specific reading-comprehension skills that will help you understand what you are reading. Whereas the last article focused on Main Idea, Predicting Outcomes, Inferences, and Fact or Opinion; this article will cover Context Clues, Cause and Effect, Drawing Conclusions, and Sequencing.

When reading be sure to ask yourself questions that reinforce these comprehension skills.

1. Context Clues – When you are reading, suppose you come across a word that you have never seen or heard before. If you understand the other words, sentences, and paragraphs that come before and after the new word, you should be able to figure out what that new word means.

For Example: Two friends met and had a persiflage over lunch. They talked about seeing a film, going shopping, or going to the beach.

Can you tell that ‘persiflage’ means light, frivolous conversation? In other words, the two friends did not discuss anything of major importance.

2. Cause and Effect – We all know that actions have consequences. Think of the actions as causes and the effects as their consequences.

For Example: The Miami Heat want their fans to wear white during the NBA Finals games. As a result, the seats in the arena are filled with fans wearing White Hot shirts!

WHY are the fans wearing white shirts? They are wearing white shirts BECAUSE the Miami Heat team requested that they do so. When you ask a why question (the effect), you want to know the reason (the cause). Clue phrases that indicate a cause is to follow include phrases like ‘as a result’ and ‘in order to’.

3. Drawing Conclusions – Sometimes you will be asked a question about information that has not been given. However, there may be enough clues for you to work it out.

For Example: Marvin was exuberant that his parents were allowing him to stay up past his bedtime so he could see the fireworks at a nearby park. Luckily, there would be a great view from his own patio! The fireworks were scheduled to start at 11:30 PM but, by 10:30, Marvin was feeling extremely tired. When he woke up the next morning, Marvin asked his mother why the fireworks had been cancelled.

Although the information is not implicit, you can draw the conclusion that Marvin was so tired that he fell asleep and missed the fireworks.

4. Sequencing – As the old saying goes, “One step in front of the other.”

When you place things, directions or events in sequential order, you start at the beginning and continue step-by-step, in a logical or chronological order, to reach a conclusion. Young children just learning this skill begin their sentences with First, Next, Then, and Last; but as we get older we do not necessarily need those key words.

For Example: She rubbed oil all over it. She went to the store and bought a chicken. Into the oven it went! Following that, she sprinkled some seasoning on it.

As written above, this story does not make sense. Who put oil on top of what? Do you really season a chicken after it is in the oven? (Basting does not count!) The correct version would read like this:

She went to the store and bought a chicken. She rubbed oil all over it. Following that, she sprinkled some seasoning on it. Into the oven it went!

To review, then, there are specific reading-comprehension skills that will aid in your understanding of the written word. A few of these skills are context clues, cause and effect, drawing conclusions, and sequencing.

When you begin reading at a more advanced level, you need to start thinking critically and you should question your own comprehension.

And remember…Reading is FUNdamental!