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Comprehension monitoring strategies

Comprehension monitoring means checking that a child has the ability to be aware of when they do not understand information or instructions given to them.

Once they are aware they need to realise that they need to ask for help to be able to understand. All children can benefit from being given or encouraged to use comprehension monitoring strategies in the classroom but it is particularly useful for children with identified difficulties with verbal comprehension.

Ways to develop a child’s awareness with comprehension monitoring strategies

Two people talking about a big colourful piece of paper

First, encourage the child to realise whether or not they understand. You may need to keep checking this by:

  • asking them to repeat back a question, task or instruction, such as “What do you have to do?”
  • asking probing questions such as “How are you going to sort the shapes?”

For longer instructions it is also useful to ask “What do you need to do first, what do you need to do next?”

A face looking confused with a question mark beside it

Encourage the child to ask for help when they do not understand. The following questions are useful to encourage the child to ask:

  • “What do I have to do?”
  • “Can you say it again?”
  • “Can you say it more slowly?”
  • “What does that word mean?”
  • “Can you show me?”
  • “Can you write it down?”

A piece of paper with a numbered list on, next to teacher pointing at a board

At first you may need to give the child the script, that is, model the question several times, “Remember to ask…”

Some children benefit from being given visual prompts such as symbols or checklists to help them self monitor whether or not they have understood. Symbols can be particularly useful for those with very poor verbal understanding.

A person filling in a numbered list

Help children to feel positive about recognising their difficulties with verbal understanding and that asking for help is a positive thing to do. Phrases such as:

  • “That was really good when you said you did not understand”
  • “That was really good when you asked for help”

Be sensitive about when to use these and to match the comment to the age, cognitive level and personality of the child.

Additional resources and information

Information for professionals on how to support children’s speaking and understanding: I CAN

Contact us

For more information please contact the Speech and Language Therapy Service at Flockton House on 0114 226 2333.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: SL41

Resource Type: Article

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