Questions encourage reading. Questions guide and improve comprehension. I don’t mean the questions written by textbook authors or asked by teachers and discussion leaders. I mean the questions readers ask themselves – before, during, and after reading. As a good reader, you already use questioning as a tool for reading.
Readers who intentionally ask questions before they read establish purposes for reading. In other words, by asking questions these readers connect the text with their personal knowledge (second-hand information, such as things they’ve read, watched, or seen) and personal experience (things they’ve experienced first-hand). These questions engage these readers with the text, providing motivation for and focus on the content of the text.
Questions during reading are equally important but serve different purposes. By asking who, what, why, when, how, and where questions during reading, readers self-diagnosis their comprehension problems. Starting questions with “I wonder” helps these readers focus on and figure out confusing parts and then fill in missing information.
Good readers, once they understand the literal meaning of the text, then move beyond the literal meaning to infer new meanings. Inferences, ideas not stated directly in texts, are derived from combining readers’ knowledge and experiences with ideas and conceptual thoughts planted by authors. The process of and products from inferential thinking lead to new meanings or possibilities, helping good readers make deeper connections between the content and their lives.
Question asking doesn’t stop when the texts end. Well-written, thought-provoking texts leave readers thinking about and connecting with worlds outside of the texts, creating deeper analyses of texts and exploring new meanings and ideas. The end questions, therefore, are really just the beginning questions along a spectrum of ideas.
You see, readers are in charge of what they take away from and give to the texts they read. Questions drive readers’ results. Readers determine their level of engagement with texts by the questions they ask – before, during, and after reading. Questions help good readers in many ways, such as to set purposes, focus thoughts, clarify misunderstandings, infer meanings, and explore new ideas.
When good readers engage with text, they automatically ask questions, without thinking. Poor readers however don’t know about this simple, yet rather complicated technique. Poor readers need our assistance in developing questions as a tool for guiding and improving their comprehension. What are you doing to help your learner develop questioning as a tool for comprehending text?