Building Bridges of Understanding

This year in St. Eithne’s GNS, we have implemented a whole-school approach to the teaching of comprehension. Below is some information on the approach:
Building Bridges of Understanding is a whole school approach to the
teaching of comprehension. The key comprehension strategies are
Prediction, Making Connections, Questioning, Visualising, Declunking,
Clarifying, Inferring, Determining Importance and Synthesis. If our
young readers in St. Eithne’s can do all of the above, they will be truly engaging
with the text and will be able to answer any related questions. The
building bridges programme is being rolled out in a structured way in
our school.

In order to help your child to effectively use these key strategies,
there are some helpful ideas below that you can use when listening to your child read at home:

Prediction: Listen to your child reading, after a page or
two ask your child what might happen next. Encourage
them to use the knowledge of what has been read to
predict something which might happen. After the next few
pages review the prediction (the focus is not on a correct
prediction, but rather on interacting with the text). Repeat the
above and continue to predict after every few pages as you move
forward through the book.

Making Connections: Children love this one! Here we are asked to
search for a personal connection to the story, and every child
loves to have their own story to tell. For example, if the story is
set on a farm, perhaps your child has a relative
who lives on a farm. Encourage your child to seek out some kind of
personal connection, in doing so, she is then going to be more
interested in the story and more alert to important

Questioning: Children should be encouraged to ask
themselves questions about the text as they go
along. You can also ask questions that will quickly
tell you if your child understands what is going on in the text. If
there is something that your child does not understand, then reread
the passage and try again to answer the question.
Questioning leads to clarity.

Visualising: This is usually described as seeing the story in your
head. If a child can see the story as it develops, then they are
very likely to understand what is happening. Encourage your child
to see the story by asking questions which encourage her to
visualise e.g. What does the main character look like? What season
do you think it is? These questions may not necessarily be relevant
to the story, but will help your child to set the scene in her

Declunking: A clunk is an obstacle to understanding. This is a
difficult word which the reader must decode. Decoding strategies
include re-reading the sentence to try to figure out the meaning
using the context and/or breaking down the word to
try and work out the meaning.

Clarifying: Readers need to clarify ideas and
messages in text in order to understand it properly.
Good readers clarify meaning by reading ahead to get
more information; re-reading or “back-tracking”; using their prior
knowledge; reflecting on the story so far; and considering the
author’s aim.

Inferring: A reader needs to be really alert to a text to pick up
on inference. This is where hidden messages are in the text but a
reader can easily miss them e.g. If the characters are described as
wearing coats, can we infer something about the weather or the
seasons? If a child has made an inference, she should be able
to justify their inference using information from the text.

Determining Importance: This is one of the more tricky strategies
for children to develop. A story typically contains lots of additional
information which is not key to the main plot, but how do we figure
out what is important? With simpler texts the best way to learn
this strategy is to practice summarising. Ask your child to retell the
main points of the story. Can she pick out some element of the
story which was not essential to the main plot? Perhaps you can
help her to identify something not quite essential which need
not be included in a summary. This skill is also very useful for
problem-solving in Maths particularly in senior classes. Very often,
problems are presented with additional information not related to
the Maths question. This can be very confusing for children, and an
ability to weed out unnecessary information is very helpful.

Synthesis: This is simply the skill of putting the above strategies
together and using them all at once to be really alert while
reading. Good readers will do this automatically. Those who
struggle to understand their reading will benefit from the direct
teaching of the above strategies.