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Higher Level Questions for Reading

Instructor: Marquis Grant
This lesson will highlight some higher-level questions that can be used for reading comprehension. Higher-level questions require students to think critically about the story or text that they are reading. A short quiz will follow to test your knowledge.

Higher-Level Thinking Questions

Reading is a critical skill that your students need in order to be successful in the classroom. Many children are able to read the words in a book but cannot understand what they are reading. They may be able to answer basic who, what, when, where and how questions, but answering higher-level thinking questions is just not that easy.

Higher-level thinking questions make the reader look beyond the surface and use critical thinking skills to analyze, explain or interpret literary works. For example, instead of asking your students Who are the main characters in this story? you may ask How are the main characters' actions important to the plot, theme and conflict of the story? The second question will require your students to not only be able to identify the main characters but also to know something about theme, plot and conflict.

Your readers should engage in questioning before, during and after reading. If students are to improve their ability to understand the text, they must first be able to engage in higher levels of thinking.

Before Reading

It may be a good idea for you, as the teacher, to spend some time warming up your students' brains before you actually start to read. Building background knowledge gives your students information about the reading beforehand so that they will be able to follow along during the reading without getting lost. Here are a few before-reading questions that you can use to get things started:

  • How might the title and artwork (if applicable) in the story be used as clues that will give us ideas about the characters and plot?
  • Analyze each word in the title. Are there any implied (hinted) or explicit (fully stated) meanings that could help us understand what the story is going to be about?
  • What personal knowledge will you bring to the reading of this story that will help you better understand the author's purpose?
  • How might the author's biases or points of view effect the telling of this story?
  • How might culture influence the way that a person understands the content of a story?

During Reading

As your students are reading, they should continue to ask questions in order to actively engage in the text. You, as the teacher, may need to model the kinds of questioning skills that your students should use to develop their ability to comprehend. Such questions may include:

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