Comprehension can be a tricky thing. Your child may be reading every word correctly and it seems that comprehension is happening, but sometimes it may not be. Asking questions to readers about what they’re reading is a great way to check for comprehension.
Here are just a few thoughts in regards to asking and modeling effective questions:
1. Questions don’t have to be saved until the very end.
- If a reader seems a bit confused over a particular passage, stop right then and ask, “Did that makes sense to you?” or “What was the author saying right there? Can you put it in your own words?”
- Students who struggle with attention span many times do better if asked questions while reading versus saving all of them until the very end.
- Asking questions is also an effective comprehension strategy good readers use throughout reading, not just at the end.
2. Questions that start with “how” or “why” tend to delve deeper into comprehension.
- Too many times teachers and mamas alike ask basic level questions that don’t require much thinking. Some examples: “What was the main character’s name?” or “When did the boy go to the store?”
- “Why do you think the main character did that?” or “How do you think she is going to solve this problem?” These questions require young readers to “read between the lines”. They must take what they know (their schema) and add it to what the author is telling them to create an answer.
- Answering the deeper questions requires your child to know the basic answers. For example, if you ask your young reader, “Why do you think the main character did that?”, listen for him to use the main character’s name while answering.
3. Questions can lead to more questions.
- Instead of simply being satisfied with the answer your child gives, you can follow up with another great question: “What makes you think that?”
- Asking how your child got the answer requires her to think about the strategies she used to get the answer.
- Be explicit about identifying the strategy she used to help her think about her thinking (metacognition).
An example of this:
Mama: “Alexis, how do you think that the main character feels right now?”
Alexis: “Left out and maybe a little lonely.”
Mama: “What makes you think that?”
Alexis: “Because her friends left her and didn’t want to play with her. That happened to me just the other day at playgroup.”
Mama: “So, you’re thinking about a time when something like that has happened to you. And doing that helped you figure out how the character feels. Alexis, when you do this, you’re making a text-to-self connection. That’s a great strategy good readers use to help them understand what they’ve read.”
4. Questions Don’t Have to Have ONE Right Answer
While some questions only have one right answer, I cherish the questions that don’t for two reasons.
1-They lead to great conversations and discussions between you and the child.
2-They put the child at ease. When children struggle with comprehension, the last thing they need is the added pressure of trying to figure out the one answer you want them to give (on top of simply coming up with an answer). Try adding, “In your opinion…” or “Why do YOU THINK…” to the beginning of questions to indicate to the child that their opinion and thinking matters more than getting the “right” answer.
Included in the comprehension section of my ebook, How to Choose “Just Right” Books, you will find a large list of comprehension questions for fiction and non-fiction.
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