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How to Improve Reading Comprehension with Self-Questioning

Everyone knows that to get the right answers you need to ask the right questions. Asking questions about the text as you read significantly improves reading comprehension. “Talking to the text” improves concentration and helps the reader interact with the author. Reading becomes a two-way active process, not a one-way passive activity.

But, what questions will produce the best understanding of the text? Try these eight questions to boost your reading comprehension and retention.

  1. What’s the big picture here? Constantly ask how each reading section relates to the main idea(s) of the chapter.
  2. What’s the author going to say next? Stay one step ahead of the author by anticipating what will be said next.  Prediction significantly boosts reading comprehension. Check the outcomes of your predictions as you read.
  3. Think about the “expert questions” that fit the subject about which you are reading. For example: History is big on compare and contrast, cause-effect and sequence related questions.  Science can ask classification, chemical and physical properties and literature might focus on theme, genre, character, and plot.
  4. What questions does this information raise for me? Your questions may and should differ from the expert question as they are related to your own background knowledge and your interests.  Remember that some very good questions have more than one answer!
  5. What information is important here? As you read, decide which information is important enough to include in your notes.
  6. How can I paraphrase and summarize this information? Translate the author’s important words into your own.  Use as few words as possible without changing the meaning.  Do this at the end of each subtitle section in a textbook or at the end of the chapter in a novel.
  7. How does this information fit with what I already know? Think about the “big picture” and how pieces of information fit together to improve reading comprehension.
  8. Ask WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and WHY questions as you read. Note introduction and description of characters, major plot changes, setting descriptions and changes, and reasons given to explain important ideas.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly TRSincrease the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube (Check these fluency passages out!), 390 flashcards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

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