Resource Review: Nelson Comprehension

Nelson Comprehension

Comprehension is an active process that involves a variety of strategies and behaviours that place great demands on primary pupils.

When learners comprehend, they interpret, integrate, critique, infer, analyse, connect and evaluate ideas in texts. It is a complex higher level skill.

Effective learners use a variety of comprehension strategies simultaneously and they know how to deliberately apply specific strategies to aid their comprehension.

You can help pupils develop their comprehension skills using various resources and it is always worth having plenty in the arsenal at the ready.

One resource that I have used and re-used countless times over the years is Nelson Skills. It’s one of those resources that was so well written that I kept on going back to it and finding it indispensable for all sorts of classes and needs.

From its 1990s starting point of a modest but highly effective pupil and teacher book, Nelson Skills is now a sophisticated resource that acts like a Swiss army-knife for the literacy classroom. As part of the Skills collection of resources, Nelson Comprehension has been given a massive overhaul to meet the higher standards of the current National Curriculum and includes pupil books, teaching support, resources and assessment books and revision books too.

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Each Pupil Book contains ten units. At Key Stage 1, each unit is made up of two sets of texts and questions; at Key Stage 2 there are three sets of texts and questions.

Units cover all types of texts including fiction, poetry, playscripts, instructions and biography, all with plenty of practice, repetition and assessment built-in. Nelson Comprehension has been designed to help children unpick text starting with the simple and moving onto more complex HOT skills or higher order thinking skills.

The questions are cleverly colour coded which makes pinpointing specific comprehension skills more strategic and far more dynamic as a teaching tool. Understanding the text at a literal level is coloured orange up to green questions which demand inferential comprehension, prediction and personal experience.

The beauty of colour-coding in this way means you can select which questions you want children to tackle according to their skill-set. The colour coded questions, resource sheets and assessment materials help ensure that all children are on track.

Nelson Comprehension has been written so that any set of text and questions in these books can be used for whole-class teaching, group work or individual work by following an approach called ‘Teach Talk Write’.

The first text is taught, questions are worked through together and comprehension skills are modelled, the second text is talk focussed with groups answering questions, and the third text is devoted to written responses where children answer individually.

The Pupil Books are certainly well structured and furnished with well-chosen texts from top authors and colourful illustrations and photographs. The colour-coding also helps children see what skills they are practising and supports their understanding that comprehension operates on many different levels.

There is a one-page ‘How to Use This Book’ guide at the end of each book which would probably better placed at the beginning with some modelled answers.

Overall though, the books meet the higher standards expected of children and so expect a welcome degree of challenge. There is more than enough here to help children improve their analytical, creative and practical intelligence especially  when reading for deep understanding.

The Teacher’s Book is a guide book par excellence and provides a quick-reference spread from the Pupil Book and thought-provoking notes and pointers for following the Teach Talk Write approach.

Here you will also find resources and assessment book links, answers and ideas for going deeper and extending understanding. The unit notes are pithy, intelligent, creative and above all accessible for busy teachers.

The Resources and Assessment Books provide differentiated photocopiable resource sheets for every text in the Pupil Books, one support sheet for more literal comprehension practice and one extension sheet for more higher order thinking.

These sheets are admirably fit for purpose with opportunities for short and longer writing tasks but light on pictures and illustrations. End of year tests are provided which every teacher will find invaluable as these have been written to a very high standard.

Perhaps more guidance on using this book would have been helpful. There is also a rather useful Revision Book which contains three end of Key Stage example test papers enabling you to support children for their Yea 6 reading test.

Nelson Comprehension is an easy-to-use, meticulous programme with clear progression and curriculum-proof for children aged 5-11 years that covers impressive ground. It makes planning straightforward and when followed regularly and with intent will enhance children’s key comprehension skills, especially their HOT skills. My only wish was that the materials were available on a DVD ROM or better still digitally accessible.

If I were the literacy coordinator, I’d be making my order now, especially as the prices of the resources are well within the reach of any school budget.

Nelson Comprehension is an ambitious programme that looks like being a Velcro resource that you’ll stick with years so you can help  furnish the brain attics of children with truly Sherlockian powers of reasoning and deduction.

I am so gruntled to have found this resource.

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