Simple Questions That Boost Comprehension

It can be tricky to know whether or not your child understands what she reads. A student can read a book chapter or article and not have a good grasp of what they just read. That can make it difficult when the ideas they're reading are foundational to what comes next in their studies, like with a chapter in a biology textbook.


I came across a fantastic Edutopia article that outlines questions we can ask students to determine if they have comprehended what they read. As children get older, they can ask themselves these questions to determine their understanding.


Co-authors Nancy Frey and Douglas Fisher point to four overarching questions:


  • What does the text say?
  • How does the text work?
  • What does the text mean?
  • What does the text inspire you to do?


The first question asks students to find the overall theme or idea. Here, you make sure students understand the basics of character, plot, and settings.


The next question asks students to identify the author's style and look for figurative language like similes and metaphors. 


The third question moves into inferences. This is the level in which students form opinions about the text and what the author was trying to accomplish by writing it. As the authors of the article point out, this level of questioning will be difficult for students if they haven't understood the text on the previous two levels.


Finally, you can ask how the text has affected them. What action might they want to take after reading it?


For a deeper dive into these ideas, you can read the article (although, be aware it was written for teachers and gets a bit pedagogical).