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Comprehension in Year 5 (age 9–10)

Comprehension is the ability to read a text and understand its meaning. In Year 5, your child will continue to develop their comprehension skills and build the habits that make a confident and enthusiastic reader.

Read on to discover the National Curriculum expectations for comprehension in Year 5, and to find out how you can support your child at home.

What your child will learn

Take a look at the National Curriculum expectations for comprehension in Year 5 (age 9–10):

Read and talk about a wide range of fiction, poetry, plays, and non-fiction

During Year 5, your child will read and listen to a wide range of books, poems, and stories at school. This will help them develop a feel for the types of things that they like to read. By reading widely, they will get to know many different types of language and writing.

Your child will also become more familiar with using reference books such as dictionaries and encyclopedias.

Recommend books to friends

A key part of becoming a reader is being able to talk about the books you like and why you enjoyed them. In Year 5, your child will be encouraged to do this by making recommendations to their friends.

Talk about and compare themes in books

By Year 5, your child will have read a large and growing number of books. This means that they can begin to compare the books they read, thinking about similarities and differences.

At school, they will learn to think about themes in different books and make links between them. For example, they could compare two main characters, or talk about how two different authors approach a similar scene in different ways.

Learn a range of poetry by heart and read poems and playscripts aloud

Your child will study poems or play scripts in Year 4, and will have the chance to perform them to an audience. This helps them learn to read aloud with expression and shows the teacher that they understand the text.

Your child will also be expected to read aloud from their reading books, and will also learn some poems by heart so they can recite them aloud.

Check that the text makes sense to them

As an independent reader in Year 5, your child will be encouraged to check whether what they are reading makes sense to them. If it doesn’t make sense, it’s important they don’t just read on to try and finish the book.

They will be taught to re-read and to think about or look up the meaning of a word. Your child will also be encouraged to use the other words and phrases to work out the meaning.

Read between the lines and use evidence from the text to justify thinking

Sometimes the information in a text is very clear (for example, ‘It was raining’) and easy to understood. However, texts are often a bit more complicated and may require inference to properly understand.

Inference is where some information is left for the reader to read between the lines. They need to make sense of details that are not stated clearly. For example:

Instead of ‘It was raining’, the text might say, ‘Ally shook the water from her umbrella and carefully balanced her soaking coat on the radiator’.

Being able to make inferences is a key skill for comprehension so this is a focus for reading in Year 5.

Predict what might happen next

In Year 5, your child will continue to make predictions about the texts they read. This could mean predicting what might happen next in the story or what a character might say or do. These predictions are a good way to check understanding.

Identify how the language, structure, and presentation of a text adds to its meaning

As children reach the end of primary school, the focus on reading moves towards not just being able to read, but also to thinking about the choices a writer has made.

Your child will read a wide range of texts and will discuss how the words a writer has chosen, the way the text is organised, and how the words are presented all create a particular effect. This might be how an author makes a particular scene funny or how another author shares information clearly.

Talk about how authors use language

‘Figurative language’ describes figures of speech such as metaphors and similes, that go beyond the literal meanings of words. For example:

‘The hills were smothered in a cloak of white’ rather than ‘the hills were covered in snow’.

Figurative language might add some sparkle to a piece of writing or help the reader to think differently about an idea. In Year 5, your child will learn about figurative language and the effect it can have on a reader.

Tell the difference between fact and opinion

In Year 5, your child will read a range of types of non-fiction writing, including books, letters, adverts, newspapers, and so on. They will learn to find and use the information in non-fiction writing.

As part of this, they will learn that some information is the writer’s opinion, while other elements are facts, and they will be able to tell the difference between the two.

Talk about books, building on their own ideas and other people’s

Reading lessons in Year 5 will give your child the chance to talk about the books that they read. They will show their understanding and learn that different people hold different opinions about the things that they read.

Talk about what they have read in presentations and debates

As well as discussing what they read in groups and as a class, children in Year 5 will learn to present information in presentations and debates. They might be encouraged to use notes to help them.

How to help at home

There are lots of ways you can help your Year 5 child with comprehension. Here are our top ideas.

1. Keep reading to your child as long as possible

By the time your child reaches Year 5 and can read independently, it is tempting to leave them to get on with reading on their own. But hearing a story read to them is still very important for developing their comprehension. There are a few reasons why:

  • Hearing a story read out loud means that your child can have access to books that may as yet be too challenging to read alone. These challenging texts will help to develop their comprehension skills.
  • Left to their own devices, your child might tend to pick lots of similar texts to read (for example, books from a favourite author or magazine). Reading aloud to your child gives you the opportunity to introduce them to books that they might not choose to pick up themselves, exposing them to a wider range of stories and types of text.
  • Listening to an adult read gives a model for fluent reading. It allows your child to hear how a skilled reader uses expression, bringing the words on the page to life.
  • Reading together gives your child time to discuss ideas and share opinions about what you’re reading. This is great, as it helps children to think deeply about a text and practise explaining their opinions.

2. Listen to your child read

Even though your child is likely to be an independent reader by Year 5, it’s still helpful to listen to them read. It means you can help them with unfamiliar words and talk together to make sure that they understand the book.

Our free eBook library has lots of books perfect for older readers.

3. Read for a purpose

As well as reading for pure pleasure, in Year 5 your child is likely to need to read for particular purposes too. They read to find information, to learn about something, or to answer questions. Practising this can be useful for success at school.

Your child may be asked to investigate a topic or find answers to questions set in class. You can help them with their research skills by talking about where to look to find the answers, although you may need to remind them to look in books and use the library as well as the internet. Children can struggle with information overload so they need your help to ‘search and sift’ both sites and information to make decisions.

4. Don’t give up!

As your child reads read more difficult books, there might be times when they struggle and may be reluctant to continue. You can help them through those patches by reading a bit with them to get them started or hooked into the next chapter. Always balance this with sensitivity and valuing their choice – it’s got to be fun!

Copyright Oxford University Press 2020