Tips in Understanding Literary Pieces for Students

Literature Home Tuition in Singapore

Literature is one of those subjects where you are like weaving cloth of our own – someone shows you how to do it and it looks pretty simple. But once you do it on your own, you get entangled in a vast web of fibers and knots you can’t break free of. If you had trouble piecing together what that passage meant, then fear not, for you are not alone. A lot of individuals have a hard time understanding and piecing together what authors in literature actually mean. And pair it up with a world where books are almost forgotten or neglected due to technological advancements, then you will have yourself one big predicament about literature.

Literature and its beauty

Literature is an expression of ideas and thought presented beautifully by the authors through the use of well-constructed and intricate sentences. They often use techniques to fully draw out the emotions of the readers when reading their writings which are completely different from what is commonly used.

Literature allows you to be transported into the worlds of the author’s imagination and feel the emotions and ideas he tries to convey all while sitting in your room without having to move a single step. All it takes are the author’s words for you to be immediately taken away into the literary world and be lost in it up until you hit a stop to reading it. 

Why is literature hard to understand?

You may enjoy reading the first few pages of the literary masterpiece recommended by your teacher, but you will eventually stumble into a pothole and need to stop dead in your tracks. These potholes are what make literature hard to understand for a lot of us.

Aside from the overly complicated plot the literary piece you are reading might have, there are a lot of other factors that may come into play which could make understanding literature even harder for most individuals.

• Unfamiliar words

Most authors purposefully create unique names to characters, places, and objects within their writings to make it distinct from other writings. And it is no surprise for a reader not to understand those words directly because those are made-up words. However, there are times when the author just uses a word which is not commonly used and is hard for the reader to understand. These unfamiliar words are one of the things that can make understanding literature quite difficult.

• Complex sentences

The use of complex sentences is nothing new for authors of literary pieces. After all, they have to present their thoughts beautifully else the reader would just get bored. These complex sentences are what make it really hard for most individuals to understand literature as not everyone can process and piece together what those complex sentences mean. And complex sentences paired with unfamiliar words are one heck of a nightmare to deal with and decipher.

• Idiomatic expressions

Idiomatic expressions are phrases or sentences whose meanings do not directly translate to the individual meanings of the words used in the phrase. These phrases can either be the commonly used “hitting two birds with one stone” to the rarely used ones like “two peas in a pod”.

 What makes these idiomatic expressions especially hard to decipher is due to the fact that the words used in these phrases often make zero literal sense, yet it is still widely accepted by everyone as correct. And you will have difficulties figuring out what these idiomatic expressions mean unless there is context given or that someone else tells you what it means.

• Figures of speech

Another pain to deal with which makes it hard for individuals to understand literature are the different figures of speech. There are more figures of speech than there are fingers on your hands, and some can be easy to understand like similes and metaphors, while others are really hard to figure out like irony (this is only difficult to deal with when there is no context about a character’s personality).

How to understand literature better

Now that we know what makes understanding literature better, we can now list ways to counter them so that we can better understand the literary pieces we are reading. These are just suggestions however and you can always make your own regimen to suit your individual preference.

1. Comprehend what you read

The first step to start understanding literature is to comprehend what you are reading and understanding what the author meant. This can be quite hard at first because of the various reasons we have discussed earlier, but it is important to understand what you can at fist. Comprehend what you have read and go over it a few times until you have fully understood what the author is trying to say.

Comprehension is a skill taught to children at an early age and is one of the basic skills with regards to reading. Try to sharpen your comprehensions skills a little and it will do you so much good just by doing so. Plus, comprehension allows you to remember the character’s names and roles so that you will not get confused midway into what you are reading.

2. Expand your vocabulary

One of the best ways you can do to avoid pausing every now and then because you have encountered an unfamiliar word is to work on your vocabulary. The more words you know and understand, the less you have to constantly open a dictionary when reading a literary piece. You will also gain a better understanding of what the author is trying to imply based on the words he/she used.

Vocabulary is not just limited to real world words, but can also include terms inside the writing you are reading. This is especially true when trying to read a fictional series where a lot of words unique to the series keep on popping up over and over again. it will do you good to learn these words as well and add them to your vocabulary as you may never know when a teacher might call your name to give a brief summary of what you read.

3. Brush up the basics

Going back to the basics literally means to revisit previous lessons about reading and literature. Yes, it may seem like putting too much effort into just understanding a literary piece or two, but it can save you the hassle in the long run. By brushing up on the basics, you gain knowledge on how to understand a literary piece in a fundamental level and not in an intricate and sophisticated way which could make understanding that writing easier.

If you want to brush up on the basics but have no time to look for where to start, then why not hire a tutor to teach you the basics instead? And we have just the right place for you: FamilyTutor, Singapore’s number one home tuition agency has thousands of highly skilled and professional home tutors ready to teach you the basics of English, along with other subjects such as Math and Science. We also cover everyone from pre-school up to university level to make sure everyone in the education system gets quality tutoring services to help them advance academically.

4. Get used to figures of speech

One of the main culprits as to why individuals have a hard time understanding literary pieces is figures of speech, and to avid this, you must get familiar with it. Become familiar with the basics of the figures of speech such as similes, metaphors, hyperboles, and personification, and then work your way into the tough ones to crack such as irony, allusion, and many more.

Whether you want to get familiar with them or not is completely out of the question as you will eventually encounter them outside of literary pieces as well, so it’s better to just be prepared for them and be familiar with figures of speech. Plus, once you get used to them, you can find yourself using them often which can add bonus points to the complexity of the pieces you will work on.

5. Reread when having difficulties

When you are in a real bind and are really having difficulties with the literary piece you are reading, then you can always take a step back (figuratively), and reread the piece from where you first had difficulty understanding it. Rereading can often open your eyes to a few words you might have missed or make you aware of the incorrect assumption you had which made it difficult to understand the part you are having difficulties with

Rereading also makes you comprehend the literary piece you are reading better which makes it even easier to understand the piece. It also helps make you remember the characters and events better and more clearly as repeatedly reading a literary piece can often lead to better retention of the events that took place in the piece.

6. Read aloud

Another way to understand the literary piece you are reading better is to read it out loud as if you were telling a story to someone. Reading aloud allows you to better comprehend the literary piece you are reading and also makes it easier for you to remember previous events that occurred in the story. This may not work for some people, but most of the times, this has proven to be effective in understanding the literary piece better.

7. Start off easy

A reason why you might be having difficulties with understanding the literary piece might be because what you are reading is too difficult for beginners. Choose to read easy and beginner friendly pieces first so that you can understand the basics first. Try to read up on some fairy tales at first, and then work your way into well-known beginner friendly series like the Goosebumps Series.

After you feel like beginner friendly literary pieces are a piece of cake to decipher, then you can move on to more difficult ones like Shakespeare or Dante’s works. That is where the real deciphering occurs and the headaches begin, but this is also the time when you get transported to another world and become part of the literary work you are reading.



Carelle is a teacher who has been through the ups and downs of the teacher and learner life. She wishes for every learner to gain educational satisfaction that will help embody the people they want to be in the future.

Tell Carelle Below What You Think About Her Post!

About FamilyTutor!

FamilyTutor is an established home tuition agency in Singapore! We match suitable home tutors for our clients not just to improve the students' academic grades, but also to build a strong rapport and meaningful relationship with the students and even the their whole family. FamilyTutor put every student in good hands!

If you need an excellent home tutor, feel free to call/WhatsApp us at +65 8777-2168! Our matching service is free!

Related Posts!

Follow Us On Facebook!

Our Service!