Multiple Ways of Checking Comprehension
Willy A Renandya
28 June 2022
It has become a standard practice for teachers to end their reading/listening lesson by asking students to answer a set of questions. When asked about the reason for doing this, they often offer the following responses:
- It is a nice way to end the lesson.
- We want to assess students’ comprehension of the reading or listening text.
- We want to find out the kinds of problems that students might have (e.g., language-related problems, low level or high level comprehension problems etc.) so that we can help students deal with these problems in our next lesson.
- We want to prepare students for the exams which usually require students to respond to comprehension questions.
The comprehension questions teachers ask can be quite literal (aka lower-order thinking questions) or inferential (higher-order thinking questions), or a mixture of both depending on the objectives of the lesson. The answers expected of the students are typically written verbal responses, though some teachers might occasionally ask students to respond orally.
There is nothing wrong to assess students’ comprehension in this way. But this should not be the only way and is not necessarily the best way of doing it.
If we believe that students learn best when they are given choices and when they are allowed to demonstrate their thinking and comprehension in different ways, we should consider using different ways of assessing comprehension.
Here are some examples, some of which require verbal responses, while others non-verbal responses.
- Students pick the most exciting part of the reading/listening passage and draw a picture of it.
- Students use graphic organizers to showcase their comprehension
- Students come up with a set of questions for their classmates to answer
- Students create a poster to capture their understanding of the main theme of the text
- Students write a short, 5 line poem to demonstrate their understanding of an important part of the text
- Students write a short different ending to the story
- Students rewrite the story by changing some of the key features of the story (e.g., switch the gender, change the location, etc).
- Students create a digital story that reflects their understanding of the text
- Students create a collage that captures their comprehension of the text
- Students find related texts on the Internet and share these with their classmates.
Checking or assessing students’ comprehension can be done in many different ways. The key thing to remember is that we need to find post-reading/listening tasks that not only help us assess students’ comprehension, but also spark students’ interest in making more interesting and meaningful connections with the texts.
When this happens, students are more likely to develop a more positive attitude towards the reading or listening lessons and to gradually develop a healthy and lasting reading/listening habit outside the classroom.