Teaching Tip 7 — Comprehension

Language is one of our greatest gifts, showering us with a richness of communication, of thoughts and ideas, of new horizons and ancient peoples, of beauty and tragedy, of redemption and deliverance. How shallow life would be if we were limited to mere grunts and gestures! Can you imagine?

How would you convey your appreciation of a spectacular sunset—much less your deepest thoughts on the meaning of life—if there were no words available?

Spoken Words

When we speak words, we communicate with our tone, with our hands and posture, with our loud enthusiasm and our quiet musings. When you listen to someone speak, you find cues to the meaning of the sentences, and you can often ask the speaker to clarify anything that you did not understand.

You can close your eyes to concentrate, or jot down notes, or draw a mind map when words are spoken. (Note: For some students, hearing the words aloud gives more sense and meaning to what is being communicated.)

Written Words

Written language is different, isn’t it? We may be reading words written centuries ago, words written in another language and translated, words from a culture that is so foreign to us that we misunderstand the heart behind it. And yet, written words open a doorway to places, people, events, discoveries, and ideas that lie far beyond our day-to-day lives.

You can imagine the story unfolding in your mind as you read words, your can savor again and again details that might have been missed by simply hearing something once. (Note: For some students, reading the written words gives more sense and meaning to what is being communicated.)

Language in written form is a priceless gift, one that we seek earnestly to pass on to the next generation.

And that is where today’s teaching tip begins. Being able to read and understand what has been read is worth the time to develop.


To comprehend what we read is far more than merely being able to identify each word. There are meanings in words, concepts in sentences, significance in paragraphs, over-arching implications in books, essays, and poetry. Authors, whether living or dead, meant something by what they wrote.

Do our kids “get it”?

  • Are they able to comprehend what was written? 
  • Are they going beyond the superficial reading to a deeper understanding?
  • Are they able to think deeply enough to be able to argue against it, be inspired by it, have their lives changed by it?
  • Are they making connections as they read to other things they know?

That level of comprehension is a skill that takes time and effort to learn. It encourages critical and creative thinking skills. And, it prepares your children for university and careers.

Teaching Comprehension

If you are using my History Revealed curriculum, when it is time to read the introductory article, be with your student. In order for them to comprehend the meaning of what was written, it may be best if one of you reads it aloud. That allows opportunity for words to be explained, concepts to be discussed, questions to be tossed back and forth during the reading. For high-school students, they may prefer to read it to themselves, and then dialogue with you regarding the issues and questions that were raised. As stated earlier, the skill of comprehension is worth the work involved because your students will begin to think deeply about everything they read.

Here is a brief example from Romans, Reformers, Revolutionaries, Unit One.

The Rise of the Church & the Fall of Rome:

In the distant Roman province of Judea, the Roman procurator authorized the execution of a man whom local rulers had accused of treason, saying that He called Himself “King”—against the authority of the Emperor, Tiberius Caesar. Rebellions in the Roman Empire were swiftly put down, as indeed they needed to be, if the far-flung empire was to function as the controlling government. Thus, the execution of one man was, to the Romans, both the accepted fate of a rebel and far more efficent than the destruction of an entire nation—which might have been necessary had He not been silenced.

It caused no stir in the center of the empire—at least, not in the very beginning. The small band of disciples in Judea was a mere drop of water in the vast Roman ocean, and they were now leaderless. All their hopes for a restored and mighty Kingdom of Israel were as ashes; all their courage had fled with the arrival of the mob. They had believed Jesus was the Messiah, the long-awaited One who would right all wrongs. To their horror, He had been killed—mocked by the crowd and crucified as a common criminal. It was hardly the future they had envisioned while following Him down the dusty road toward Jerusalem. All that remained for them was to wearily and mournfully go back to their old lives.

If we could step back into that moment, not knowing anyting of the next two thousand years, we would be as bereft as were the disciples. The might of Rome was in place to serve, not the needs of conquered people, but the interests of Rome, especially those of the emperor. Power, fame, and the accumulation of great wealth were as motivating to people of the Roman Empire as they are to people of today. They served various gods through assorted religious rituals, hoping that they might incur the favor of those gods and deflect their anger, much as people do today. Poverty, hunger, disease, and oppression were rampant among the majority of people, without any hope of change. Life was bleak. And for the few who had heard and believed Jesus, hope for something new had died with Him on the cross. Do you see it? Do you grasp the utter hopelessness and despair? It lasted for three agonizingly long days.

Suddenly, in a moment, an event rocked the cosmos. It turned the disciples’ utter mourning into rejoicing and set their hearts on fire. . .