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)

Teaching Similarities and Differences

Why is This Skill Important?

Teaching similarities and differences are essential for students in grades 4-12. This skill is crucial because it helps students develop critical thinking and analytical skills necessary for academic success and lifelong learning. If you have read Marzano’s research in his book, Classrooms That Work, you know that helping students identify similarities and differences is considered a “high yield” strategy. It is an essential skill for teaching content and helping students improve academic performance in all content areas.

How to Teach Similarities and Differences with Graphic Organizers

One effective way to teach similarities and differences is by using graphic organizers. Graphic organizers are visual tools that help students organize and synthesize information. They provide a framework for students to compare and contrast different concepts and ideas. You use this technique with literature, for example, by asking students to write about how two stories connect. Students should describe all the ways the two stories are similar and how they are different. Provide a graphic organizer to help students organize their information before writing their papers.

Many graphic organizers can be used to teach similarities and differences. One common type is the Venn diagram. Venn diagrams are circles that overlap to show the similarities and differences between two or more items. They are an excellent tool for comparing and contrasting different concepts and ideas.

Another type of graphic organizer that can be used to teach similarities and differences is the T-chart. T-charts are charts with two columns, one for similarities and one for differences. They are a simple yet effective tool for organizing information and identifying similarities and differences between concepts or ideas.

Using Real World Examples to Deepen Thinking Skills

In addition to using graphic organizers, teachers can also use real-world examples to teach similarities and differences. For example, teachers can ask students to compare and contrast different types of food or different countries. This approach helps students understand the practical applications of similarities and differences and makes the topic more relatable and engaging.

Teaching Similarities and Differences Through Text

Another effective way to teach similarities and differences is with text. Teachers can use books and stories to teach students how to compare and contrast different characters, settings, and plot points.

In content areas, teachers can use two or more informational articles to help students understand how different authors might have different perspectives or viewpoints on a topic. This approach helps students develop critical thinking skills and helps them see the importance of reading to build knowledge.

Teachers can create activities that require students to compare and contrast different concepts and ideas. For example, teachers in younger grades might ask students to create a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting two different animals. Teachers in middle or high school might use this skill to complete a T-chart comparing two different types of technology, a scientific process or the perspectives of two or more versions of a historical event.

Another effective activity for teaching similarities and differences is a gallery walk. Gallery walks involve displaying different objects or images around the classroom and asking students to compare and contrast them. This activity encourages students to think critically and analyze information from different perspectives.

Using Similarities and Differences to Deepen Thinking Skills

Since teaching similarities and differences are essential for students in grades 4-8, including these strategies in your teaching is essential. A critical aspect of teaching similarities and differences is to provide students with opportunities to practice the skill. Understanding how to compare and contrast concepts helps students develop critical thinking and analytical skills. Both of these skills are essential for academic success and lifelong learning. By using graphic organizers, real-world examples, literature, and engaging activities, teachers can help students master this skill and become confident, competent learners.

If You liked this article, you might also like: Visualizing Text to Deepen Comprehension and Retention

Learn more great strategies for teaching reading in 4-12 with Literacy Strategies for Grades 4-12: Reinforcing the Threads of Reading.

Increasing Reading Comprehension

A good way to help students think about what they read and increase their comprehension of the text is to use a method called Questions into Paragraphs. Developed by McLaughlin (1987) the QuIP procedure helps students think about text both before they read as well as after reading. Students develop or are given 3 related questions on the topic. They then respond to each question using at least two sources of text using an appropriate graphic organizer. Once information for each question has been gathered, students then synthesize the information and write one coherent paragraph summarizing the information. Once students are used to gathering, synthesizing and summarizing information to questions that the teacher provides, they should then be encouraged to identify their own related questions and complete the research, synthesis and summarization processes on their own. This is a great higher order activity that promotes not only deep understanding but higher level thinking as well.