How to Ask Questions to Increase Reading Comprehension

Snakes (M. C. Escher)

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Why? Why? Why? Why? I watch a 4 year old in the afternoons and this is his absolute favorite question.  This isn’t the kind of question that I am referring to when asking questions to increase reading comprehension.

At the end of a story we are asked to answer some questions about what we just read.  But what if, instead of waiting till to end to find out if we understood what we read we used a self monitoring technique that helped us understand what we just read.

Yesterday, an amazing teacher with impeccable technology skills, Ms. Irene Kistler in San Antonio, Texas invited me into her classroom to enhance the students knowledge about snakes and incorporate the skill of asking questions when reading.  Her class was very knowledgeable about snakes and overall we all had a blast.

When teaching the strategy of asking questions, I always start with the first bit of information that I am given.  That is, the title.  The title is the best place to ask a question when I am reading non-fiction text.  Why you may ask?  Well, the whole book is about it so it gets us thinking about what might learn.  The title of our book yeasterday was Snakes, Long, Longer, Longest by Jerry Pallotta.  So I modeled  asking questions and came up with

  1. Which snake is the shortest?
  2. Which snake is the longest?

From that question the students made a prediction.  They were not sure about the shortest snake, but they thought possibly anacondas or the reticular pythons might be the longest.  The students that answered reticular pythons were correct.  Anacondas, by the way, are the fattest.  So our student that answered anacondas was not too far off.

As you continue reading your brain may automatically think of questions.  If this is you, then you are on your way to understanding what you are reading.  However, this may not be the case for you and you may need some guidance.  Before you begin reading check to see if your book has three pieces of information.

  1. Table of contents
  2. Glossary
  3. Index

These are the most natural places to build additional questions.  Turn each chapter in the table of contents into a question and write it down.  Next flip to the index and see the topics that will be taught in the book and turn some of these into questions.  Lastly, find the words in the glossary that you have never heard of before and turn that into a question.  What does ______ mean?  This will guide you as you are reading and make sure that you tune into the things that you do not know the answer to.  If you think you do know the answer, then when you are reading you get the joy of confirming whether what you thought you was correct is actually or learning new information that helps you understand something a little deeper.

It is amazing how many students I run into in the tutoring business that do not have enough exposure to non-fiction text.  I often hear that my child seems to read just fine, but has difficulty with reading comprehension.  The parents do not understand what to do.  Many times a student is reading on grade level with fiction text, but that is not the case with non-fiction text.  By teaching some of these simple strategies and putting them into action, you will be able to increase a student’s non-fiction reading comprehension level.  He/she needs to be taught how to think in a new way to retain the information that he/she is learning.

Thank you to Ms. Irene Kistler and her students in San Antonio, Texas for allowing me to come visit them in their classroom and do some learning with them.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time.

Comments

  1. Some wonderful ideas there for improving student comprehension. Did they know all about our Australian snakes over there in Texas?
    Thanks for sharing your post Joanne.
    Verona Gridley

  2. Loved this article and have sent it to some of the parents whose children I tutor. I think it will benefit them a great deal! Thank you,

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