Many students think that comprehension is about answering questions.
Why? Because often “teaching” comprehension often involves students reading a text and answering a set of questions about it.
In actual fact, proficient readers ask questions. They constantly question the content, the author, the events, the issues, and the ideas in a text.
When students regularly ask questions, they are encouraged to:
- engage with the text
- think critically
- look for answers in the text
- discuss the text with others, and generate ‘high quality talk’
Asking questions is a comprehension strategy that helps students clarify and comprehend what they are reading.
Here are some ways to teach questioning.
How to teach questioning during reading
1. Encourage students to ask questions before, during, and after reading. This engages their interest, promotes comprehension, and gives them a reason to read.
- Asking questions before reading encourages students to skim and scan the text, including the cover and contents page, to activate prior knowledge and make predictions about the text
- Asking questions during reading often takes the form of questioning the content, the author, the events, the issues, and the ideas.
- Asking questions after reading can stimulate critical analysis and further research on the topic. Students can be encouraged to ‘look behind the text’ for the author’s perspectives, purpose and voice.
2. Model to students how to ask high-level questions that invite thoughtful answers, that require students to ‘draw inferences and think beyond the text’. High-level questions don’t have simple yes/no answers, they are open-ended to encourage answers with more depth. Simply adding a “why/why not?” can be helpful for this. Support your students to practice asking open-ended questions.
3. As you read, it is productive to have questions asked and answered, not just by you, but by and with your students, too. Their peer-to-peer discussions will reveal insights as to their understanding of the text.
4. The questions your students ask may be different depending on their individual background/world knowledge. Take note of these questions, and use them to foster further discussion and interaction with the text.
5. After reading, identify any questions that weren’t answered before or during reading, or ask students to form new questions about things that sparked their interest. These questions can inspire follow-on reading or research. Ask students to brainstorm sources where they could find answers to their questions.
6. Download our free asking questions lesson plan and anchor chart to introduce this reading strategy to your students.
Want a comprehension strategies resource for your whole class?
Try CSI Literacy Kits and CSI Chapters for mainstream classes, or Enhance Literacy for targeted teaching and intervention classes. These resources are complete with texts, lesson plans, collaborative learning, graphic organisers, and digital resources. Download sample texts from our resources.