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Modeling Questioning – Building Understanding

“Without questions, there is no learning.” – W. Edwards Deming

Strolling through a book store examining the covers of picture books gives me great pleasure.  As a visual learner – the pictures do paint thousands of words – and they also spark a little self-talk.  Would this be a good fit book for my kindergartners?  Can I use it to make connections with the topic I am teaching?  Is there interesting literary language that we can explore?  Successful readers ask questions because reading is so much more than the mechanical process of simply decoding a text.  It is a complex system of inquiry that leads to the development of meaning.  Skilled readers use a variety of comprehension strategies and one is to ask questions before, during, and after reading.

Teaching our young readers to question is a great tool to boost meaning.  Modeling this strategy opens the door to the technique for our students.  Before sharing a great read aloud, set the stage by “thinking aloud”:

Before Reading:

  • What do I know just by looking at the cover?
  • What do I think this book will be about?
  • Who could this be about?
  • Does this look like fiction or nonfiction?
  • What might be a problem in the story?

During Reading:

  • Where does this take place?
  • Who are the characters and what part do they play in the story?
  • Does what I just read make sense?
  • Do I need to reread for better understanding?
  • What is the problem in the story?
  • What connections can I make?
  • Is the author trying to persuade, inform, or entertain me?
  • Can I visualize what is going on in the story?
  • What’s the main idea?
  • What does the author want me to know?

After Reading:

  • How did this story make me feel?
  • What do I know about the characters now?
  • Did any of the characters change during the story?
  • What was the most important part?
  • What new things did I learn?
  • Can I retell the story?  (characters, setting, beginning, middle, and end)
  • Can I connect this story to another book or something that has happened in my life?

Reading, questioning, and learning belong together.  Our students are naturally filled with questions and we can refine this innate skill during read aloud times by modeling effective questioning techniques.  One strategic question can go a long way in building deeper understanding. Teaching our students to ask meaningful questions is time well spent.  The ability to ask quality questions leads to discovery and this is an indispensable tool in the reader’s toolbox.

Read aloud times build essential skills and allow us to model what successful readers do to construct meaning.  These are also times to simply nurture the love of good books and the joy that comes from reading!  Check out Rebecca Bellingham’s TedTalk about why we should be reading aloud to children:

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