Being able to form a question that addresses exactly what a person is trying to accomplish is a vital life skill. Questions allow us to seek information we need and answering questions is not only about learning but about communication.

Good questions make us think and need us to take knowledge we already know and apply it, think about it (logically and emotionally) to ultimately understand and answer. It demands more of us than a yes or no answer.

It is hard enough as parents and teachers to come up with meaningful open-ended questions but we must teach children the value of questioning and model what good questions look like. When kids are curious – they generate better questions. Read about how you can encourage curiosity.

We all know that there is a vulnerability to question things. What if we upset someone with our questions or worse yet… what if we LOOK STUPID?!? That is why it is important to create a safe environment where students will feel empowered to speak up and question.

The following are activities that you can use to help students learn to question. I present to you three activities that help students improve their questioning skills and the final strategy presented will show you how to incorporate questioning skills to improve reading comprehension.

Jeopardy Style

An activity you can do to get kids to think about questions is to give a subject or phrase, such as WALT DISNEY or POLLUTION IS BAD. Students will then generate questions.

You can record as your students brainstorm questions or you can pass out index cards and have students write their questions down. You can read each question and talk about what makes it a good question or how to it can be improved.

Build on My Question

Someone will start with an open-ended question about anything. The next person must ask an open-ended question that builds on that question. Keep going until you have nothing more to add.

Improve My Question

Give the students a question. Have students generate questions that are BETTER and explain what makes it a better question.

It is incredibly important that students practice asking questions regularly. The more they question, the more they learn. When students feel safe to speak up and ask questions you will notice the energy in the room goes up. Asking questions is a fundamental and foundation critical thinking skill. When students are comfortable getting curious and asking questions – introduce them to the next strategy which is going to help them understand what they are reading ten fold.

Question the Author Strategy

If you want your students to have better comprehension, I am going to stress to you that they need to be good questioners of the text they are reading. A person who is more curious and asks questions will comprehend better and will be more engaged with what they are reading thus they will remember more. The Question the Author Strategy is what good readers do anyway – so helping students to apply what they learned about curiosity and questioning to their text is important.

STRATEGY DEVELOPED BY:
L. Beck, M. G. McKeown, R. L. Hamilton, and L. Kucan, Questioning the Author: An Approach for Enhancing Student Engagement with Text (Newark, Delaware: International Reading Association, 1997).
  • 1. Select the text that will be read.

  • 2. Identify stopping points where students may need to stop and regroup their thoughts for deeper meaning and learning.

  • 3. Create questions to encourage higher-order thinking, such as What is the author trying to say? Why do you think the author chose this wording in this particular spot? How does this connect to what the author said earlier? How does the author let you know that something has changed?

  • 4. Present the passage to students along with one or two questions the teacher has already created.

  • 5. Use “think-alouds” to model for students how to think through the questions.

  • 6. Ask students to read the passage and work through the questions that the teacher has prepared for them, using the questioning style that the teacher modeled for them.

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When students stop and think about the author’s purpose, message and analyze meaning instead of rushing through to finish the text, they actively engage in the text. I think that is the missing link between a good reader and one that is not is that a good reader understands that they need to wrestle with a text. It is not about rushing through and reading the words. Question the author teaches the student to stop and think about what they are reading.

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