Bring on the Questions

Questioning is an essential reading strategy. Studies show that when students learn to monitor their thinking and generate questions as they read, enhanced comprehension results. Creating questions as they read helps students to become active and thoughtful readers.

Two Kinds of Questions

When I teach the strategy of questioning, I discuss two kinds of questions with students. I’ve named them “Red Flag Questions” and “What Do I Wonder” questions.

Red Flag Questions

Red Flag Questions are those questions that pop up while reading and indicate confusion. As an adult, I’m sure you are familiar with reading a book that introduces lots of characters at the beginning and then allows many of them to disappear for pages. When a character introduced early in the text appears in a later chapter, you may be thinking, Who is that character?  What is his relationship to…”? Smart readers will recognize confusion and take steps to correct it. Most likely, you’ll thumb back to the part where the character first appeared, clear up the confusion and move on.

Oftentimes, Red Flag Questions pop up even more frequently when reading informational text. When students recognize confusion, clarify their question and immediately try to untangle the problem, reading can continue with a high-level of comprehension. Urge youngsters to pay attention to these Red Flag Questions that occur as they read. Assure them that this is what good readers do and that this strategy will have a big payoff in terms of comprehension.

What Do I Wonder Questions

On the other hand, What Do I Wonder Questions, help a reader to go deeper into the text. By actively reading and attending to the “wonderings” that occur, a reader becomes more immersed in the text and attains a deeper level of interest and understanding. Using this strategy allows the reader to truly have a conversation with the author. It helps them to not only read the text, but to “read between the lines and read beyond the lines”, bringing their own interest and background knowledge to bear on the topic.

Try It At Home

It’s fun to teach kids to pay attention to their Red Flag Questions. First be sure the child knows that a red flag indicates danger. Then explain that when you ignore Red Flag Questions as you read, you are endangering your comprehension. Choose a challenging text, have your child read it and see if he comes up with any red flag questions. Have him read further, holding the question in his head to see if it is answered as he goes on. If not, he may have to go back in the text or simply look it up or ask someone for help. No matter how he gets himself untangled, this definitely encourages active reading.

An enjoyable way to approach What Do I Wonder Questions is to both read the same text, jotting down your wonderings as you proceed. Share and discuss when you finish reading.

Strategies like this can empower young readers and provide concrete way for them to tackle text. Kids often think that questioning is a bad thing. They tend to equate questions with incompetence or failure. Youngsters will not only increase comprehension, they will also gain confidence when they see how their questions can actually help them better understand what they read.











About Rita K.

Educator and Certified Reading specialist
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