Strong readers practice active reading, meaning, the reader uses strategies to make himself think and naturally decodes written words. Active reading strategies make it more likely that a student will understand a text.
There are six strategies commonly associated with active reading:
Questioning is a strategy that readers use to engage with the text. Questioning techniques help the reader to clarify and comprehend what he is reading.
Struggling readers tend not to ask questions of themselves or the text as they read. Teachers who model how to ask questions while reading help children to learn how to build interest with the text and become stronger readers.
Even children who are strong readers don’t know instinctively that good readers ask questions as they read. Teaching questioning techniques can make strong readers even more advanced. When readers ask questions as they read, they are not only interacting with the text to make meaning of it, but they are also monitoring their own comprehension of what they are reading.
The simple fact that a reader is asking questions as he reads is evidence that the child has a purpose in reading. Reading with a purpose increases reading comprehension because the reader is making a personal connection with the text. Questioning facilitates this personal connection.
Effective questioning should be practiced before, during, and after reading. When readers ask questions before they read a text, they are activating prior knowledge and making predictions. Both of these activities engage the child’s interest and increase the likelihood that he will connect with the text and comprehend it. Questioning during reading can take the form of self-questioning, questioning the text, or questioning the author. It creates a dialogue in the child’s mind as he reads. Asking questions after reading the text can stimulate critical analysis and further research on the topic.
Reading teachers (and subject area teachers) can use questioning to help build children’s vocabulary. Encouraging students to skim the text and place question marks in the margins or on sticky notes is an instructional strategy that can yield information for a Word Wall, for students to develop their own reading glossaries, and for class discussion of words that are flagged by several students in the class as unfamiliar.
Thick and thin questions can help children remain engaged with text that may be unfamiliar or difficult to understand. Effective teachers show readers how to consider what they are reading and how to turn the information into questions. This activity encourages children to reflect on what they have read and helps them better comprehend it.
Thin questions are answered with factual information that can be found in the text and answered with a few words or brief sentences. Thick questions require inferential responses that require the reader to think and offer his opinion and ideas. Answers to thick questions can be subject to argument and interpretation. Strong answers rely on evidence from the text, but they are not simplistic statements of fact.
Effective reading teachers understand the value of questioning as an active reading strategy. They take measures to ensure that all their students know how to ask questions in order to better comprehend what they read.