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 students do not recognize the author, they are likely to want more information about the book before they decide 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.

You May Also Like: What Effective Readers Do When Reading (Part 1) and What Effective Readers Do (Part 2)

How Public Domain Literature Can Benefit Classroom Reading

What Has Changed?

Public Domain Literature can be a big benefit to classroom teachers if you know how to find great reads.

So what has changed in the world of Public Domain Literature? After a 20 year hold, 50,000 literary titles from 1923 were released to the public in 2020.

These volumes will now enter public domain use for the first time. This is great news for teachers looking for literary materials to use with their students.

Be sure to check out these great resources and see how you can use them in your own classroom.

What is the History Behind Public Domain Literature?

In the past, copyrighted works were held for a 75-year copyright protection term.

In 1998, Congress extended the copyright term for 20 years to works written between 1923 and 1977. This hold prevented specific titles from being released as public domain literature.

Congress placed this hold on these titles based on pressure from Disney. Disney wanted to keep their Mickey Mouse Steamboat Willy cartoon out of the public domain. This gave these works, a 95-year copyright protection term.

Disney faces the imminent release of the first Micky Mouse cartoon in 2024 – that is – unless another extension is granted to Disney to protect their copyright.

Since 1978, copyrighted works are protected for the term of the author’s life plus an additional 70 years. Time will tell what happens to public domain releases after 2024.

Stack of books with student hiding behind the books.
Teachers now have access to over 50,000 works that can now be used in the classroom.

What Newly Released Public Domain Literature Means for Teachers

This is great news for teachers!

As of this release, these newly released materials are now available to be read, adapted, and publicly performed in schools across the United States.

Teachers do not have to worry about royalties or copyright infringement when they use these resources with their students. As of this release, these materials are now available to be read, adapted, and publicly performed in schools across the U.S.

This includes books like Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan and the Golden Lion; Agatha Christie’s The Murder on the Links and D.H. Lawrence’s Kangaroo.

This new release also includes great works from authors and poets including Robert Frost, Kahlil Gibran, Carl Sandburg and many other great artists.

This is a treasure trove of material. What ELA teacher wouldn’t love to use some of these works in the classroom?

Be sure to check this collection to see what might be interesting for your students.

In addition to written works, there are also musical works in this release. Artists such as Louis Armstrong, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, John Phillip Sousa, and many others are also now available for public domain use.

Music teachers may also want to take advantage of these newly released materials. You can find them on the Project Gutenberg website.

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Teaching Listening Skills

Audience and Point of View in Student Writing

Preparing Students for College and Career

One of the key skills that graduating students need for success in college and career is the ability to understand how to determine an appropriate point of view that should be used when communicating with different audiences. 

Despite the importance of literacy for job success, 4 out of 5 employers say that recent high school graduates have gaps in their career preparation. 

College professors and employers alike complain that students are not prepared to meet the reading and writing demands of either college or the workplace. 

Employers and colleges say that not only do students need to master challenging academic content, they also need to develop strong communication skills. These include speaking, writing, and making presentations to diverse audiences.

Not only are students not fully prepared in reading and writing,  but they also lack critical thinking skills.  Pisa results find that 1 in 6 students are not able to solve problems that require thinking ahead or applying content knowledge to an unfamiliar setting.

In addition to critical thinking and problem-solving, understanding how to write to a specific audience is essential.   Knowing how to engage that audience with a targeted point of view is also a necessary skill that students must have.

Reading Skills Students Need for College and Career

To ensure that students are ready to move on, it is important for classroom teachers to have a clear vision of what is important for them to know and be able to do when they leave school. 

College professors want students who can think and see issues from multiple perspectives.

On the job, employees must create presentations and written materials appropriate for a range of audiences from customers to colleagues to Board members. 

Employers find that new high school graduates are not prepared to make those shifts. New employees have difficulty taking the same information and crafting it to fit the needs of different audiences.

Employers want new hires who can analyze their intended audiences, organize information, and create information specifically tailored to each audience.

Girl sitting on the floor between two book-filled shelves reading a book.

Teaching Audience Point of View

Students must understand that everything we read, write, or hear has a point of view and an audience who will receive the message.   Ask students to craft and re-craft various messages to meet different audiences.

A good way to do this is by using familiar fairy tales. Students choose a character who is not the main character and then write writing it from various perspectives. This is always a fun and easy way to teach point of view.

For example: in Little Red Riding Hood, students might tell the story from the point of view of the wolf or from the Grandmother. They could re-write the Three Little Pigs from the perspective of the wolf or from the perspective of one particular pig.

A great book to use as a model for point of view is: The Stinky Cheeseman and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka. 

Students young and old will love Scieszka’s funny interpretations of these classic tales. They will have a lot of fun creating their own “fractured fairy tale” versions of stories they know and love.

To help students understand the concept of audience in their writing, give students a  simple prewritten paragraph. Ask them to identify how this message might change if it is a text to a friend. Then a message to someone they just met.

Learning about how to write for various audiences is also important. You can ask students to create a position paper on a topic of importance.

Then ask students to identify how the message would change if it were a letter to one of their parents. How would it change if it were a petition to the principal?

How might a message on the benefits of attending your school change if it were sent to a friend?  What about a potential parent? What about a teacher candidate who might be interested in working at the school?  

When students need to think about how a message should change to meet the needs of various audience groups. This improves their communication by targeting their message appropriately.