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February 18, 2019

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A Teacher’s View:

Improve comprehension with simple questioning techniques

As an elementary teacher, I'm often pleased to hear how so many parents get involved in their children's education simply by reading with them on a regular basis. The academic benefit that our students gain from having parents that listen to them read and read aloud to them is obvious.

However, many parents have shared with me their concern about their children's lack of comprehension. A comment I often hear is, "My child reads beautifully, but when I ask him/her to tell me about what they read, they have no idea."

Simply asking your child to tell you about what they read may be too general. A few questioning strategies many help improve this situation.

Many Clark County teachers are familiar with a technique called "Leveling Questions." After reading a selection with your children, engage them in different levels of questions about the text.

  • "Right There" questions are on a literal level and have answers that can be found in a specific place in the text.
  • "Think and Search" questions are on an inferential level and have answers that relate to information found in the text.
  • "Author and Me" questions have answers that are not stated in the text. It requires the students to combine previous knowledge with evidence from the text.

These levels of questions are on an increasing level of difficulty, and it requires practice to develop these critical thinking skills.

For example, a "Right There" question could have the young readers naming the major characters and locations in a story. They could sequence the events in the story and tell you how characters react to the events.

In "Think and Search" questions, the student could explain character traits and personalities. They could justify, from the character's point of view, why they reacted the way they did to the events in the story.

In "Author and Me" questions, the students could analyze a character's traits and personalities. They could compare how a character's actions are alike and different from a similar character in another story.

Good reading comprehension is critical to school success and involves so much more than just rote memorization of information. It is always evident when we have a student whose parents take an active role in their education.

When parents and teachers present students with the same strategies to help them, it makes learning that much easier. So I encourage parents to talk with their child's teacher to come up with a plan that can be used both at school and at home to improve reading comprehension.

Cathy Estes is a fourth and fifth grade teacher at Vanderburg Elementary School. She can be reached c/o the Home News, 2360 Corporate Circle, Third Floor, Henderson, NV 89074 or [email protected].

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