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The WASSCE syllabus for English language singles out two comprehension passages as part of the assessment package for candidates. The passages, each about three hundred words, test the candidates ability to find appropriate equivalents for selected words and phrases; understand the factual content; make inferences from the content of the passages; respond to the uses of English expressions to reveal, reflect sentiments, emotions or attitudes, identify and label basic grammatical structures and so on.
It is therefore important that candidates be grounded in the techniques required for reading comprehension so as to be able to handle passages with the view not only to determine the factual content but to analyse, grammatically and semantically, as well as literarily, the details of the passage.
This module will expose candidates to reading skills and will provide tips on reading comprehension, citing things to note or features to bear in mind when analysing a passage. It will also focus on issues such as how to read an article, reading and understanding texts, reading to comprehend and learn, tips for increasing reading speed and so on.
It is hoped that at the end of this module, candidates will be in a position to meet the requirements and expectations of the English language syllabus on Reading comprehension.
Dealing with the Comprehension Passage:
Joseph Addison once noted that “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body”. It follows therefore that reading forms and integral part of one’s intellectual or academic life.
students may have problems with both the complexity and the amount of material they have to read. the reader should understand the purpose and type of text that he is reading as well the content of the passage. etc. explain. inform. Note whether the passage is to persuade. 5. Skimming and Scanning Non-verbal signals Structure of text Structure of paragraphs Punctuation Author’s viewpoint Reader participation: determining the meaning of words Summarising 1. 2.At the junior or high school level. 6. 4. describe. In both readings. Accordingly. The purpose of the passage is quite important for it gives the reader a clue to comprehension and hence makes him/her better placed to answer the questions on it. 7. This section on reading comprehension is devoted to providing students with some of the skills they need to facilitate comprehension when they interact with reading materials. 8. 3. the following syllabus subjects will be discussed: 1. . Skimming and Scanning Skimming requires a quick reading of the passage to determine the general idea while scanning requires a much slower pace of reading intended to get the main ideas or specific details.
Punctuation . details. examples and other supporting evidence. The second part of the paragraph contain sentences which develop the aspect. After that there is the introduction. Non-Verbal Signals Although this may not be included in the Examination paper. each dealing with one aspect of the subject matter and linked in a logical manner. Some start with a title and subtitle. The structure of paragraphs A typical paragraph consists of three parts. The conclusion puts the subject matter in the right perspective. 5. An understanding of the structure of the paragraph is a good aid to comprehension. The cast sentence of a paragraph is often a summary of the paragraph.The structure of the text The structure of the text could provide a clue to its meaning. bold print. The first sentence contains the topic sentence. All texts also contain non-verbal signs as style features like underlining. followed by a conclusion or summary. 3. The meaning of a text is not only conveyed by means of words. or layout features like headings. italics. The topic sentence contains the new aspect of the subject of the text. the body. subheadings. 4. These sentences may contain arguments. which is the heart of the paragraph.2. and captions all of which could serve as pointers to meanings. The introduction mostly informs the reader about what s/he can expect. it is important for students to be familiar with this technique. The body consists of paragraphs. explanations.
Students must therefore be able to interpret the meaning of strange or difficult words from the context in which they are used. the reader should try and deduce whether the author is neutral or biased and whether he gave his own opinion or not. i. its use in certain contexts and its relationship with other words in the sentences. This helps in understanding the meaning of the passage. For instance. The author’s viewpoint Understanding the point of view of the author in relation to the treatment of his/her subject matter is another aid to comprehension. the reader makes inferences or assumptions about the position of the author. Summarizing It is important that the reader make s a good summary of the main or key points obtained from a reading of the passage. it is important for candidates to note that reading according to punctuation also aids comprehension. Reader Anticipation: determining the meaning of words One of the foremost obstacles to comprehension is the meaning of words used in the passage. Under examination conditions.Though this aspect has been treated on the module on Grammar. it is impossible to look up the meaning of words in a dictionary.e. its function in the sentence. S/he must familiarize him/herself with the passage. 7. it will be easier for him/her to understand the grammatical structures. 8. Thus. determine the main . To help disclose the meanings of unknown words it is important to determine the word class. In reading a text. part of speech to which it belongs. when the reader understands the meaning and usage of punctuation marks. and hence come to terms with the meaning of the passage. 6. This is often only possible when the reader understands the relationships between words in meaning and form.
2. In this regard the PSQ5R formula will be introduced. the material varies from a newspaper. an attempt will be made to highlight certain tools or techniques to be adopted when reading a passage to comprehend and learn. In all of these cases. journal or magazine to a passage for an examination. While one can read for exam purposes or for mere entertainment. Reading to comprehend There are as many different types of reading materials as there are purposes for reading. In this discussion. Purpose This relates to the reason for reading the material and the objective to be achieved. Skimming . the degree of attention – which largely determines the efficiency of the reading – differs from one reading material to another. Readers need to first establish their purpose for reading a material and this will prompt them into using a reading method that will get what they want in the minimum amount of time.points made about the topic or subject matter and then write these points in his own words when answering the questions on the passage. novel. 1.
5. title of the passage or heading. . try to recite the answers to the questions. s/he is able to pinpoint relevant sections of the passage that answer the question. 4. Record The reader is advised to make a brief outline of the questions and their answers in keywords or phrases before writing them down on the answer sheet. a title of a passage that reads “The effects of smoking” can be turned into “What are the effects of smoking?” in order to guide the reader to determining the answer or focus on the main issues in the passage. and perhaps the perspective. Recite Without looking at the passage. that is. using your own words as much as possible. Skimming a passage provides the reader with the focus of the writing. Question At times to get at the heart of the passage and deduce meaning. the central theme or subject.It is important to do a quick reading of the passage in order to get a general picture of what the author is saying. 6. it is necessary to read the questions on the passage before the passage itself so that as the reader does his reading. Reduce. that is the approach or manner in which the author treats the theme. For instance. 3. At times. Read Selectively This implies that the reader must read to find the answers to the question. it is proper for questions to be composed about the topic.
at times. it is important that some kind of approach be adopted.7. P stands for Purpose. S for Survey. Recite. This technique. This. organization and reorganization of ideas and so on. This should be to provide the reader with the overall organization of the writing and the picture of the whole. their relevance. it is important that the reader reflects and meditates on the issues dealt with in the passage before putting down the answers. . known as the PSQ5R is a formula that stands for basic steps in learning from reading in an efficient manner. Reflect For a constructive and well-organised answer to a question to be given. Reduce. check over the points that have been selected. and the 5Rs for Read selectively. 8. that will enable him/her to get at the meaning of the passage in the minimum time.Record. link with other points made and grammatical constructions in which they are expressed. Review Before writing the answers. in this case for Comprehension. Tips on answering comprehension passages Since in the examination hall there is limited time at the disposal of the student and in recognition of the volume of work that has to be done. may involve comparison and contrast with personal experience. Reflect and Review. Q for Question.
Write down these details in your own words. It is important to note the following strategies and their applications: Background Information 1. Work on the meanings of strange or difficult words. how? 3. Paraphrase your points. Reflect on them. What is the title of the passage? What does it tell you about the subject? What do you already know about the subject? What do you expect the essay to say about I? 2. as well as important sub-points. When was the essay written? Do you know anything about the historical circumstances surrounding the writing of the passage? Does the passage reflect that historical condition? If so. Scan the passage to get a closer picture of what it is saying and its specific details.The following tips could be helpful: Skim the passage to get the general idea. How to read a comprehension passage This discussion makes an attempt at providing some useful guides to the student when reading a comprehension passage. Do not copy information directly from the passage. review and revise them before putting down the final answer on the answer sheet. Focus on understanding the passage. Locate the main ideas. Who wrote it? Are you familiar with the author’s other works? Is there any relationship between the passage and these other works? How does this help you understand the passage? Factual Information .
1. What exactly is the subject? How does it correspond to or educate/explain the title? What are the main points in the passage? What is the evidence that the author gives to sustain the main points or theses of the passage? . Read the passage. marking the information that is given to you.
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