How to Improve Comprehension with Self-Questioning

Increasing Comprehension with Self-Questioning Before Reading a Text

Good readers use self-questioning before, during, and after reading to improve reading comprehension. Using self-questioning before reading helps readers predict what a text might be about. This helps them decide whether the content is something they want to read.

Getting an idea of the text content helps readers determine if the text will be useful or interesting to them. To preview the content, readers check the cover title and the author.

Girl reading a book to get better comprehension with self-questioning.
Reading and Self-Questioning Go Together

Then they think about whether or not they have read any books by this author. If they have liked the books from this author in the past, they may be more inclined to want to read the new book by the same author. If they do not recognize the author, they are likely to want more information about the book before they choose to read it.

Next, readers look over the information on the book jacket. This helps them consider if the book will be interesting or useful. This self-questioning process increases the likelihood that the readers will select a book that matches their interests.

Poor readers, on the other hand, may look only at the title or cover picture and not delve much deeper than the surface level. If the title and picture cover does not catch their eye, they may immediately put the book down.

Other weak readers may select a book based on the thickness or number of pictures in the book. Helping students use questioning to match a book to their own interests, can help students choose books that match both their interests and the reading purpose.

Increasing Comprehension with Self-Questioning During Reading

Skilled readers use self-questioning and are actively involved in understanding the content as they read. They use self-questioning to make judgements about the information.

Proficient readers question the information as it is read and ask questions like: “I wonder why the author said that?”; “What did the author mean here?”; “Do I agree with this?”; or “Why character X did that.”; or “How can I use this information?” and similar self-questions.

Self-questioning helps the reader to look for text clues that help them wonder about what they read. They can make connections to their own background knowledge or similar texts. This strategy also helps them keep reading to find answers to their own questions.

Since each person’s background knowledge is different, readers will wonder about different parts of the text. Readers will make different connections and will take away different things from their reading.

Girl hodling out a book.

Increasing Comprehension with Self-Questioning After Reading a Text

When effective readers like a book, they often try to find more books on the topic or by the same author. Poor readers do not always make connections based on the author or the topic. This is a helpful skill for less effective readers so they develop better comprehension while reading.

After reading, effective readers can retell the gist of the story or informational content in their own words. By helping our less capable readers retell the story or key ideas, we improve their self-questioning. Therefore, questioning also helps them connect to what they have learned.

Encourage less effective readers to ask questions like: “What did the author want you to think about in this book?”; “How did the author want you to view Topic X?”; “What are the most important things that happened in the book?”; “Can you list the most important things to remember from what we have read?” 

When readers use self-questioning better comprehension is the result.

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