What should content-area teachers know about comprehension instruction?
Page 13: Generating Questions
One way for students to increase their reading comprehension is by generating questions about the information they encounter in the text. This practice helps them to check their understanding and to remember important details. Students can generate questions before, during, and after reading a passage to:
- Make predictions about what they will read
- Identify key facts or concepts
- Anticipate the ways in which they might be asked to demonstrate or apply their learning
There are many ways to teach students how to generate questions. One option involves an adaptation of the question-answer relationships (QAR) model discussed on the previous page. This practice instructs students to generate three levels of questions to aid comprehension.
Teachers should directly teach and model for students how to use their textbooks and other materials to generate and answer a particular level of question. Next, they should provide opportunities for guided practice: encouraging students to explain their thinking, reminding them to use the steps, and having them check their work against the text. Students should practice one level at a time until they are able to generate questions from all three levels. When transitioning students to generate questions independently, it may be necessary to provide scaffolded instruction by:
- Breaking the text into smaller sections at first then gradually increasing the length
- Providing passages with some facts already underlined
- Offering a suggested number of questions to generate for each section
- Indicating what types of prior knowledge would be helpful in making a connection to the passage
- Regularly sharing students’ questions and providing feedback
A student log can be helpful for students to record their self-generated questions, their responses, and supporting documentation.
Click here or on the graphic for a pdf of a student log for self-generated questions.
In this video, students practice generating a Level 2 question. Notice that they are using cards as a scaffold to help them remember the steps for doing so (time: 3:11).
For Your Information
Even when students are able to generate all three levels of questions on their own, they still benefit from opportunities to share their questions with each other. Doing so fosters discussion about the concepts to which the questions pertain, as well as the quality of those questions. Moreover, it encourages students to return multiple times to their texts to look for the answers to questions written by their peers.