Your Reading Comprehension Toolkit: Asking Questions

By Amy Mackenzie | Reading Comprehension

Young minds love to question everything. Why is the sky blue? Why don’t fish have feet? What would happen if every person in the world jumped at the same time?

So why not tap into students’ natural curiosity to get them asking questions about the books they read?

It’s easy to focus on asking questions during every part of a reading comprehension lesson. Here are some suggestions:

  • Choose Your Own Adventure - Start by previewing the title, cover art, and blurb on the back cover. Then have students make a list of questions the book might answer and what they will look for as they read. What are they curious about? What do they hope to learn?
  • Pause and Ponder - As you read, challenge students to find answers to their questions. Also encourage them to stop and ask new questions, especially if something is confusing. Questions during reading are a great way to figure out who’s following along and understanding the text.
  • Tie It All Up - Asking and answering questions after reading will help you decide whether or not your students understood the book. And of course, it’s the natural time to go back and answer any questions students had before reading.

To help your students become expert questioners, The BookPagez team has put together some great materials to help students ask questions while reading popular children’s stories like these:

In addition to these materials, we have some fun tips to help you take the art of asking questions to the next level.

#1: Keep Students Engaged with a Question Scavenger Hunt

For this activity, read the story twice. First, read the whole story as a class. Then give each student a question card that has a specific question about the story. (You could come up with the questions yourself, or they could be questions the class had before reading.) Then re-read the story a second time. Have students raise their hand when they hear the answer to their question. This is a great way to keep every student engaged and attentive.

#2: Plan Ahead - Mark the Places to Stop

During a read-aloud, it’s easy to get lost in the story. So before the lesson, make a list of stopping points where you will stop to answer or ask questions. Then mark those different parts of the book with small sticky notes as reminders. If you want to turn this into more of a challenge, make fun markers (such as little Thinker statues or thought bubbles). Place them throughout the read-aloud book. Then challenge students to spot the question markers, and figure out what question was just answered in each place.

#3: Make a Giant Question Chart

No two readers will ask the same question for the same reason. And chances are, any time you let students practice asking questions, you'll end up with more questions than you you can answer. So to keep track of them, try using a chart to record the class’s questions. Not only will this help you keep track of everything your students want to know, it also gives you a chance to model and talk about the difference between asking meaningful questions and questions that aren't as helpful to deepening comprehension.

#4: Use Question Cards

Sometimes students need a little prompting to come up with a question. Try using laminated question cards with common question words if students need prompting (e.g., Who…What…When…Which one…Why…Where…How many…How much…).

If you'd like a more challenging set of questions to use, check out the Asking Questions Task Cards that are available in the Teacher Tools.

#5: Bring in a Guest Speaker

Invite a parent or community member into your classroom to talk about a topic they know well. Before the guest speakers come, have the class brainstorm different questions they want to ask. After the guest leaves, see how many of the questions were answered. This is one of the best ways for students to practice asking questions outside of the pages of a book. Plus, students will love having special guests in their classroom!

Want More Ideas Like These?

This post is part of a 10-part series. In each post, we share ideas for making comprehension strategy practice more engaging.

Click here to see tips and activity ideas for the other reading comprehension strategies.