Reading Strategies: Questions

This lesson aims to teach students a strategy for reading better by constantly formulating questions as they read in order to keep their minds focused on the meaning of the text and to keep motivation up.

Objectives

  • To teach students a technique they can use to read more effectively
  • To help students understand texts better
  • To make students more autonomous

Materials

  • A newspaper article or useĀ  this fake article
  • A short text, preferably one page or so.
  • Post-It Notes
  • Another text, one that they need to read for class anyway.

Warm-Up

Ask students to discuss in pairs or small groups what strategies they use to read. If your students are like mine, they will probably not have a lot to say. You might need to prompt them by asking what they find difficult about reading and how they try to overcome those obstacles.

Come back as a class and put any strategies up on the board. Focus on any that are close to the one we will be discussing, “Asking yourself questions as you read the text to focus your brain.” If no one has said anything remotely like that, introduce the idea. Ask students whether it might help or not.

I often do a little demonstration to show that we are normally making questions when we read. And that in fact we often read to answer a question. So I might pick up a class schedule or a reference book and look something up, to demonstrate that I had a question and I looked for the answer (Similar to scanning). Or I might have a newspaper article ready (like this silly fake one) and read the first line, then ask myself a question and read til I see the answer to my question, then formulate a new question and find the answer. And so on.

Making Questions

After students have the idea, give them a serious text to work with. One-page texts work well because they are short enough to read in one period, but they have enough meat for students to answer and ask a few questions.

Have students look at the title or any pictures or subtitles and form a question, something that they want to know about the subject. If the title is opaque, you might tell them the subject and then have them make a question about that. One way to make a good question is to tell students to write a sentence like, “I want to know _____________________ about this topic.” and fill in the blank.

Give students a Post-It note and have them attach it to the side of the reading. Then ask them to write their question on the Post-It note.

Now have students read the introduction or first section. This can be done in groups so they can help each other to understand. When they have read, ask them if anyone found the answer to his/her question. The answer may be Yes or No or Maybe.

If anyone says Yes or Maybe/Sort Of, ask what their question was and what answer they found. Ask other students if they agree with the answer. This reinforces that the strategy works by giving them a way to understand the text through their own questions and interests.

Now ask if students have a new question based on what they read. This is a good time to also check comprehension based on their new questions. Have them write new questions down.

Now let them read the next section/paragraph of the text. Again ask if anyone found an answer to one of their questions, discuss the answers and ask them to make a new question. Let them continue reading in this way until they have finished the text.

At the end, check comprehension of the text through some questions or by discussing the main ideas. Make sure the students are on the same page. Then ask students to reflect on the strategy. Did it help them understand better? Was it easy to come up with questions? Did they have a lot of unanswered questions? How does having a question in mind help? Does it feel natural?

Follow-up

You can collect any unanswered questions and use them to plan your next lesson.

You can also ask them what difficulties they had reading and plan another strategy-based lesson to answer their individual problems.

 

Hope that was helpful. As always, comment away on good points, bad points, your favorite color or which brand of rum you prefer in your Mojitos.

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