Asking Questions: The 7th Habit of Highly Effective Readers

Asking Questions: The 7th Habit of Highly Effective Readers

Well, it is that time of year again. My kids are off to school, and I am excited to begin writing a brand new book. I will be creating the book through this blog, and you will have free access to all of it’s content here. This book/blog series is called 7 Habits of Highly Effective Readers and will give you information on what you can do to create an avid reader.

Kids ask a lot of questions on a daily basis, right? Well, highly effective readers particularly ask questions when they are reading. When they learn knew things that don't seem to connect with their prior knowledge, this spawns a question. When they are stuck or confused, then they know how to ask for help. And when they are done reading, they have questions that never got answered from what they read, and they are left with more questions.

Not all readers do this. In fact, many kids don't even know how to state a question. When you ask them to think of a question based off of the title and the front cover, some kids will give a statement. So, to help these kids out let's take a look at some strategies that can help them with coming up with questions, even if they don't know what a question is.

First you need to let the reader know and understand that a question begins with who, what, when, where, why, and how. Don't try to explain that you can use any word as the first word, because this will confuse them. Also, questions that begin with other words, such as are, can lead to short yes and no question verses higher level questions. For example, are monkey's found in the Gombe Forest? The only answer we can get from this is, yes.  We want to get our readers to think beyond yes and no questions.

Readers questions can be separated into three different categories.
1. Questions that clarify
2. Questions asked before, during, and after reading

3.  Distracting questions

There is a difference between these types of questions. The first kind of question is the question that a reader asks when she has never heard of a specific word before or she doesn't know how to pronounce a word. These questions fall under the monitoring for meaning section mentioned in an earlier post.

The second kind of questions are those questions that a reader asks before, during and after reading. A helpful tool that can get kids thinking before, during, and after reading is a question chart like the one posted below.

Image 11-5-13 at 4.51 PM


When a reader is asking questions before reading a passage, it is not necessary to fill out this entire chart.  This chart is only a guide to get the juices flowing.  Have the child focus on 2 to 3 questions based off of the title or front cover.

While the child is reading, she can write down the answers to her questions on a separate sheet.  This will help guide her with remembering more information while she is reading.

After she is done reading she can ask any other questions that she is wondering about and do research for any of the questions that have not been answered.  In many classrooms around the country kids ask these questions, but teachers don't make them write down the answers to them.  If a child's questions are just left hanging without being answered, then they will view this as a useless task and will not rely on this strategy when they are reading independently.

So why should a reader ask questions when she is reading.  Well, it allows the reader to engage with the text.  A reader that is asking questions is more likely to remember what she is reading than a reader that just reads all of the words.

However, there are times when asking questions is not a good thing.  When the questions the child reads are distractors, then they will actually hinder the reading experience vs. enhance it.  Today one of my students read the word chimpanzees as cousins, and then he started asking about where his cousins moved to.  This has nothing to do with what he is reading.  When this happens it is important to point out to the reader that this is a distractor and that it will not help her to understand what she is reading.  Another way to help the child see the difference between a question and a distractor is to ask whether this question will help the reader understand more about her reading or distract her from her reading.  Once she begins to label it as a distractor she is more likely to begin recognizing these kinds of questions when she is reading on her own.

Do you find yourself asking questions when you are reading?


  1. Thanks for an insightful post…
    saw you at UBC
    Jean Smith recently posted..Fall Flavors: Some of my families favorite fall recipesMy Profile

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