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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.

Find other reading teaching strategies and resources, including fluency assessments and multi-level expository fluency passages on eight CDs, as well as many other reading assessments on two CDs, blending and syllabication activities, phonemic awareness and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, 390 flashcards, posters, games, and more to differentiate reading instruction in the comprehensive Teaching Reading Strategies.

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