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Archive for the ‘Reading Comprehension Strategies’ Category

How to Ask Questions to Increase Reading Comprehension

Snakes (M. C. Escher)

Image via Wikipedia

Why? Why? Why? Why? I watch a 4 year old in the afternoons and this is his absolute favorite question.  This isn’t the kind of question that I am referring to when asking questions to increase reading comprehension.

At the end of a story we are asked to answer some questions about what we just read.  But what if, instead of waiting till to end to find out if we understood what we read we used a self monitoring technique that helped us understand what we just read.

Yesterday, an amazing teacher with impeccable technology skills, Ms. Irene Kistler in San Antonio, Texas invited me into her classroom to enhance the students knowledge about snakes and incorporate the skill of asking questions when reading.  Her class was very knowledgeable about snakes and overall we all had a blast.

When teaching the strategy of asking questions, I always start with the first bit of information that I am given.  That is, the title.  The title is the best place to ask a question when I am reading non-fiction text.  Why you may ask?  Well, the whole book is about it so it gets us thinking about what might learn.  The title of our book yeasterday was Snakes, Long, Longer, Longest by Jerry Pallotta.  So I modeled  asking questions and came up with

  1. Which snake is the shortest?
  2. Which snake is the longest?

From that question the students made a prediction.  They were not sure about the shortest snake, but they thought possibly anacondas or the reticular pythons might be the longest.  The students that answered reticular pythons were correct.  Anacondas, by the way, are the fattest.  So our student that answered anacondas was not too far off.

As you continue reading your brain may automatically think of questions.  If this is you, then you are on your way to understanding what you are reading.  However, this may not be the case for you and you may need some guidance.  Before you begin reading check to see if your book has three pieces of information.

  1. Table of contents
  2. Glossary
  3. Index

These are the most natural places to build additional questions.  Turn each chapter in the table of contents into a question and write it down.  Next flip to the index and see the topics that will be taught in the book and turn some of these into questions.  Lastly, find the words in the glossary that you have never heard of before and turn that into a question.  What does ______ mean?  This will guide you as you are reading and make sure that you tune into the things that you do not know the answer to.  If you think you do know the answer, then when you are reading you get the joy of confirming whether what you thought you was correct is actually or learning new information that helps you understand something a little deeper.

It is amazing how many students I run into in the tutoring business that do not have enough exposure to non-fiction text.  I often hear that my child seems to read just fine, but has difficulty with reading comprehension.  The parents do not understand what to do.  Many times a student is reading on grade level with fiction text, but that is not the case with non-fiction text.  By teaching some of these simple strategies and putting them into action, you will be able to increase a student’s non-fiction reading comprehension level.  He/she needs to be taught how to think in a new way to retain the information that he/she is learning.

Thank you to Ms. Irene Kistler and her students in San Antonio, Texas for allowing me to come visit them in their classroom and do some learning with them.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time.

All I Want for Christmas are my Two Front Teeth and Non-fiction Books

Cover of "Going to the Dentist (First Exp...

Cover via Amazon

If you can tell me what is cuter than a student who is missing their two front teeth singing, “All I want for Christmas are my two front teeth,” then you win a prize.  I was reading a non-fiction book about going to the dentist with Christa Anderson’s 1st grade class in Montana and they surprised me with a fantastic song.  The song that this teacher chose was absolutely fitting since we had just talked about the dentist.

When most people think about reading books to kids, the first thing that comes to mind are our favorite fiction books.  That is fantastic.  Kids need to hear really good stories, but did you know that most boys typically enjoy non-fiction books.  If all of the books that we introduce students to are fiction, then we are doing our students a grave disservice.

Christa Anderson absolutely knows the importance of introducing her 1st graders to non-fiction text.  In fact, she even teaches them the different elements of non-fiction text.  See, we don’t actually read non-fiction text the same way as we read fiction text.  There are many features in non-fiction text which are never seen in fiction books.  The following features of non-fiction text make great mini lessons

  • Table of Contents
  • Headings
  • Bold Print
  • Captions
  • Tables
  • Graphs
  • Real Pictures
  • Labels
  • italics
  • Bullets
  • Zoom in pictures
  • Glossary
  • Index
  • Lists
  • Appendix
  • Sidebars
  • Preface
  • Subheadings
  • Diagram
  • Cross-section
  • Time line
  • Color Fonts

Students need to be taught about these features, since most homes in the early years are comprised of fiction text.  I often see that when struggling readers are reading, they will completely skip nonfiction features like bold headings and captions and go right to where the paragraphs are to read.  This deeply impacts their comprehension because these are details that add so much to the understanding of what we are reading.

Christa Anderson was a great teacher to work with because she totally valued the importance of non-fiction text.  In the book that I was sharing there was a list in a chart form and she wanted to make sure that her students saw the list and recognized it as a feature of non-fiction text rather than glancing over it.

I love having the opportunity to work with such amazing teachers and see the wonderful things that are going on in their classrooms.  Take a look at part of our experience together.

Feeling a Little Sleepy Today

Well, I am feeling a little sleepy today, it must be because I was in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota with a wonderful 4th grade class. When I was first in communication with the teacher of this classroom I noticed this neat name and she began explaining that the name of her town was because of the Chief Indian Sleepy Eye. I thought wow, that is really cool. When I got into the classroom today, a wonderful student let me know the same piece of information.

After chit-chatting with the students in Sleepy Eye, we had the wonderful opportunity to do a lesson the reading strategy visualization. This is an important tool that we utilize when reading. I always compare it to making a movie inside of our heads. I had the students draw pictures of what I was reading and through the following video we were able to compare the authors pictures with the students pictures.

Check it out!


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