Comprehension means understanding or mentally grasping the meaning of something. The answer to a comprehension question usually is something you can point to in a paragraph or passage or infer from the meaning inherent in the passage. Understanding a reading text is not automatic but involves diligence and intense concentration. Other factors include the intelligence of the reader. language competence and experience relevant to the subject matter.
Reading comprehension is the ability to easily and efficiently read text for meaning. When readers engage in the reading process or view a passage, they can understand it on different levels.
To be able to understand and interpret a given passage, a reader must attain some levels of reading comprehension while deep comprehension occurs when all levels have been considered.
Levels of Comprehension
Lexical Comprehension: This is when the reader understands the key vocabulary in the text. There must be a preview of vocabulary before reading a text and new vocabulary must be reviewed during or after the text.
Literal Ccomprehension: It occurs at the surface level when a reader acknowledges what he can see and hear. The details are stated and clear for anyone to identify. A reader is expected to look into the text and find answers. It is the simplest form of comprehension which answers who, what, when and where questions. Questions are asked from the beginning, middle and end of the text. Literal comprehension is often referred to as “on the page” or “right there” comprehension.
Interpretive Comprehension: A reader is expected to understand facts that are not explicitly stated in the text. Illustrations may help to infer meaning.
Applied / Inferential Comprehension: This involves taking the background knowledge and merging it with clues in the text to come up with ideas and information that are not explicitly stated. It requires the readers to draw on their prior knowledge of a topic and identify relevant text clues (words, images, sounds) to make an inference.
Inferential comprehension is often referred to as “between the lines” or “think and search” comprehension. This level of comprehension requires more skill because it helps readers to figure out unfamiliar words, draw conclusions, develop interpretations, make predictions, surface themes and even create mental images.
Affective Comprehension: This level understands social and emotional aspect in getting meaning out of a text. A preview of the social text/scripts to ensure understanding and then connect motive to plot development.
Evaluative Comprehension: It requires the reader to move beyond the text to consider what they think and believe in relation to the message in text. It is at this point that readers are required to justify their opinions, argue for a particular viewpoint, critically analyse the content and determine the position of the author. Evaluative comprehension is referred to as “beyond the text”. Here, there is no right or wrong answer but rather justification for thinking in a particular way.
Identifying the Main Ideas a Given Passage
The main idea is the central, or most important idea in a paragraph or passage. It states the purpose and sets the direction of the paragraph or passage. The main idea may be stated or implied. It is also the primary point or concept that the author wants to communicate to the readers about the topic. If the main idea is stated, it is directly expressed in what is called the topic sentence.
It therefore states the overarching idea of what a paragraph is all about and is supported by subsequential sentences in the paragraph. In a multi-paragraph article, the main idea is expressed in the thesis statement which is supported by smaller points.
Finding the main idea of a paragraph is one of the most important reading skills to master, along with concepts like making an inference, finding the author’s purpose, or understanding vocabulary words in the context.
It is in essence critical to understanding what is being read. It helps the details make sense and have relevance, and provides a framework for remembering the content.
The following steps enhance easy identification of main ideas in a passage:
i. Identify the Topic: Read the passage through then try to identify the topic. It deals with who or what the paragraph is about.
ii. Summarize the Passage: After reading the passage thoroughly, summarize it in your own words in a sentence.
iii. Look at the First and Last Sentences of the Passage or Paragraph: The main idea most times is put in the first or last sentence of a paragraph or passage so, remove those sentences to see if they make sense with the theme of the passage. The author may sometimes use transitional devices like however, in contrast, nevertheless e.t.c. which indicate that the main idea is in the media position i.e the second sentence. So, any word used by the author that negates or qualifies the first sentence indicates the main idea is in the second sentence.
iv. Look for Repetition of Ideas: If you read through a paragraph and you have no idea on how to summarize it because of so much information, look out for repeated words, phrases or related ideas.
Also note that the main idea in a paragraph will only state what the paragraph is all about and not illustrate, use specific examples, use anecdote, facts and statistics and sensory details; only the supporting details use these to clarify the main idea in a given paragraph.